Open Thoughts

February 2013 archive

Software Licensing

February 6, 2013

One of the tricky decisions software authors have to make is "What license should I use for my software?" A recent article in PLoS Computational Biology discusses the different possible avenues open to authors. It gives a balanced view of software licensing, carefully describing the various dimensions authors of software should consider before coming to a decision.

It recommends the following guidelines:

  • For the widest possible distribution consider a permissive FOSS license such as the BSD/MIT, Apache, or ECL.
  • For assuring that derivatives also benefit FOSS, choose a copyleft FOSS license like the GPL, LGPL, or MPL.
  • To those on the fence, there are hybrid or multi-licensing which can achieve the benefits of both open source and proprietary software licenses.
  • For protecting the confidentiality of your code, there is the proprietary license.

Naturally being an open source venue, I strongly encourage people to consider the first two options. We also discuss the distinction between FOSS licences in our position paper from 2007.