Comparison of free and open-source software licenses

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This is a comparison of published free software licenses and open-source licenses. The comparison only covers software licenses with a linked article for details, approved by at least one expert group at the FSF, the OSI, the Debian project, or the Fedora project. For a list of licenses not specifically intended for software, see List of free content licenses.

FOSS licenses[edit]

FOSS stands for "Free and Open Source Software". There is no one universally agreed-upon definition of FOSS software and various groups maintain approved lists of licenses. The Open Source Initiative is one such organization keeping a list of open-source licenses.[1] The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of what it considers free.[2] FSF's free software and OSI's open-source licenses together are called FOSS licenses. Due to some seldom conflicting cornercases technically not synonymous, for all practical considerations they are identical and widely used interchangeably.[3]

The FSF's Free Software definition focuses on the user's unrestricted rights to use a program, to study and modify it, to copy it, and redistribute it for any purpose, which are considered by the FSF the four essential freedoms.[4][5] The OSI's open-source criteria focuses on the availability of the source code and the advantages of an unrestricted and community driven development model.[6] Yet, many FOSS licenses, like the Apache license, allow commercial use of FOSS components.[7]

General comparison[edit]

The following table compares various features of each license and is a general guide to the terms and conditions of each license. The table lists the permissions and limitations regarding the following subjects:

  • Linking - linking of the licensed code with code licensed under a different license (e.g. when the code is provided as a library)
  • Distribution - distribution of the code to third parties
  • Modification - modification of the code by a licensee
  • Patent grant - protection of licensees from patent claims made by code contributors regarding their contribution, and protection of contributors from patent claims made by licensees
  • Private use - whether modification to the code must be shared with the community or may be used privately (e.g. internal use by a corporation)
  • Sublicensing - whether modified code may be licensed under a different license (for example a copyright) or must retain the same license under which it was provided
  • Trademark grant - use of trademarks associated with the licensed code or its contributors by a licensee
License Author Latest version Publication date Linking Distribution Modification Patent grant Private use Sublicensing TM grant

Academic Free License Lawrence E. Rosen 3 2002 Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Affero General Public License Affero Inc 2.0 2007 Copylefted[8] Copyleft except for the GNU AGPL[8] Copyleft[8] ? Yes[8] ? ?
Apache License Apache Software Foundation 2.0 2004 Permissive[9] Permissive[9] Permissive[9] Yes[9] Yes[9] Permissive[9] No[9]
Apple Public Source License Apple Computer 2.0 2003August 6, 2003 Permissive ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Artistic License Larry Wall 2.0 2000 With restrictions ? With restrictions ? ? ? ?
Beerware Poul-Henning Kamp 42 1987 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Berkeley Database License Oracle Corporation ? 2008February 7, 2008 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
BSD License Regents of the University of California 3.0 ? Permissive[10] Permissive[10] Permissive[10] Manually[10] Yes[10] Permissive[10] Manually[10]
Boost Software License ? 1.0 2003August 17, 2003 Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Creative Commons Zero Creative Commons 1.0 2009 Public Domain[11][12] Public Domain Public Domain No Public Domain Public Domain No
CC-BY Creative Commons 4.0 2002 Permissive[13] Permissive Permissive No Yes Permissive ?
CC-BY-SA Creative Commons 4.0 2002 Copylefted[13] Copylefted Copylefted No Yes No ?
CeCILL CEA / CNRS / INRIA 2.0 2005May 21, 2005 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Common Development and Distribution License Sun Microsystems 1.0 2004-12December 1, 2004 Permissive ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Common Public License IBM 1.0 2001May 2001 Permissive ? Copylefted ? ? ? ?
Cryptix General License Cryptix Foundation ? 1995 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Yes ? Manually
Eclipse Public License Eclipse Foundation 1.0 2004-02February 2004 Limited[14] Limited[14] Limited[14] Yes[14] Yes[14] Limited[14] Manually[14]
Educational Community License ? 1.0 ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Eiffel Forum License NICE 2 2002 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
EUPL European Commission 1.1 2009January 2009 Limited ? With an explicit compatibility list ? ? ? ?
GNU Affero General Public License Free Software Foundation 3.0 2007 GNU GPLv3 only[15] Copylefted[16] Copylefted[16] Yes[17] Copylefted[17] Copylefted[16] Yes[17]
GNU General Public License Free Software Foundation 3.0 2007June 2007 GPLv3 compatible only[18][19] Copylefted[16] Copylefted[16] Yes[20] Yes[20] Copylefted[16] Yes[20]
GNU Lesser General Public License Free Software Foundation 3.0 2007June 2007 With restrictions[21] Copylefted[16] Copylefted[16] Yes[22] Yes Copylefted[16] Yes[22]
IBM Public License IBM 1.0 1999August 1999 Copylefted ? Copylefted ? ? ? ?
Intel Open Source License Intel Corporation ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
ISC license Internet Systems Consortium ? 2003June 2003 Permissive Permissive Permissive ? ? ? ?
LaTeX Project Public License LaTeX project 1.3c ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
MIT license / X11 license MIT N/A 1988 Permissive[23] Permissive[23] Permissive[23] Manually[23] Yes[23] Permissive[23] Manually[23]
Mozilla Public License Mozilla Foundation 2.0 2012January 3, 2012 Permissive[24] Copylefted[24] Copylefted[24] Yes[24] Yes[24] Copylefted[24] No[24]
Netscape Public License Netscape 1.1 ? Limited ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Open Software License Lawrence Rosen 3.0 2005 Permissive ? Copylefted ? ? ? ?
OpenSSL license OpenSSL Project ? ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
PHP License PHP Group 3.01 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Python Software Foundation License Python Software Foundation 2 ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Q Public License Trolltech ? ? Limited ? Limited ? ? ? ?
RealNetworks Public Source License RealNetworks ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Reciprocal Public License Scott Shattuck 1.5 2007 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Sun Industry Standards Source License Sun Microsystems ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Sun Public License Sun Microsystems ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Sybase Open Watcom Public License Open Watcom N/A 2003-01-28 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Unlicense unlicense.org 1 December 2010 Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain ? Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain ?
W3C Software Notice and License W3C 20021231 December 31, 2002 Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (WTFPL) Sam Hocevar 2 December 2004 Permissive/Public domain ? Permissive/Public domain ? ? ? ?
XCore Open Source License
also separate "Hardware License Agreement"
XMOS ? 2011February 2011 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Yes Permissive ?
XFree86 1.1 License The XFree86 Project, Inc ? ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
zlib/libpng license Jean-Loup Gailly and Mark Adler ? ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Zope Public License Zope Foundation 2.1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Approvals[edit]

This table lists for each license what organizations from the FOSS community have approved it – be it as a "free software" or as an "open source" license – , how those organizations categorize it, and the license compatibility between them for a combined or mixed derivative work. Organizations usually approve specific versions of software licenses. For instance, a FSF approval means that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) considers a license to be free software license. The FSF recommends at least "Compatible with GPL" and preferably copyleft. The OSI recommends a mix of permissive and copyleft licenses, the Apache License 2.0, 2- & 3-clause BSD license, GPL, LGPL, MIT license, MPL 2.0, CDDL and EPL.

License and version FSF approval
[25]
GPL (v3) compatibility
[26][27][28][29][30]
OSI approval
[31]
Copyfree approval
[32][33]
Debian approval
[34][35]
Fedora approval
[36]
Academic Free License Yes No Yes No No Yes
Affero General Public License 2.0 Yes Yes ? ? ? ?
Apache License 1.x Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Apache License 2.0 Yes GPLv3 only[37] Yes No Yes Yes
Apple Public Source License 1.x No[38] No Yes No No No
Apple Public Source License 2.0 Yes No Yes No No Yes
Artistic License 1.0 No[note 1] No Yes No Yes No
Artistic License 2.0 Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Beerware 42 No No No Yes No Yes[39]
Berkeley Database License Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Original BSD license Yes No No[40] No Yes Yes
Modified BSD license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Boost Software License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CeCILL Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Common Development and Distribution License Yes GPLv3 (GPLv2 disputed)[41][42][43][44][45][46] Yes No Yes Yes
Common Public License Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Creative Commons Zero Yes[47] Yes[47] not approved and not rejected[48] Yes[49] Partial[50][51] Yes[52]
Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 Yes GPLv3[53] ? ? ? ?
Cryptix General License Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Eclipse Public License Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Educational Community License Yes Yes[54] Yes No No Yes
Eiffel Forum License 2 Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
GNU Affero General Public License Yes Yes[15][55] Yes No Yes Yes
GNU General Public License v2 Yes No[note 2][56] Yes No Yes Yes
GNU General Public License v3 Yes Yes[note 3][56] Yes No Yes Yes
GNU Lesser General Public License Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
GNU Free Documentation License Yes No[57] No[58] No No[59] No
IBM Public License Yes No Yes No[33] Yes Yes
Intel Open Source License Yes Yes Yes No No No
ISC license Yes[60] Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
LaTeX Project Public License Yes No Yes No[33] Yes Yes
Microsoft Public License Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Microsoft Reciprocal License Yes No Yes No No Yes
MIT license / X11 license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mozilla Public License 1.1 Yes No Yes No Yes Yes
Mozilla Public License 2.0 Yes Yes[note 4][61] Yes No Yes Yes
NASA Open Source Agreement No No Yes No Unknown No
Netscape Public License Yes No No No No Yes
Open Software License Yes No Yes No No Yes
OpenSSL license Yes No No No Yes Yes
PHP License Yes No Yes No Yes Partial
Python Software Foundation License 2.0.1; 2.1.1 and newer Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Q Public License Yes No Yes No No Yes
Reciprocal Public License 1.5 No No Yes No No No
Sun Industry Standards Source License Yes No Yes No No Yes
Sun Public License Yes No Yes No No Yes
Sybase Open Watcom Public License No No Yes No No No
Unlicense Yes[62] Yes[47] No[63] ? ? Yes[52]
W3C Software Notice and License Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (WTFPL) Yes[note 5] Yes No[64] Yes Yes Yes
XFree86 1.1 License Yes Yes[65] No No No No
zlib/libpng license Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Zope Public License 1.0 Yes No No No No Yes
Zope Public License 2.0 Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
  1. ^ The original version of the Artistic License is defined as non-free because it is overly vague, not because of the substance of the license. The FSF encourages projects to use the Clarified Artistic License instead.
  2. ^ But can be made compatible by upgrading to GPLv3 via the optional "or later" clause added in most GPLv2 license texts.
  3. ^ But not with GPLv2 without "or later" clause.
  4. ^ MPL 2.0 is GPL compatible unless marked "Incompatible with Secondary Licenses".
  5. ^ Listed as WTFPL.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Open source licenses - Licenses by Name on opensource.org
  2. ^ "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". Retrieved August 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ What is "free software" and is it the same as "open source"? on opensource.com "The FSF uses a shorter, four-point definition of software freedom when evaluating licenses, while the OSI uses a longer, ten-point definition. The two definitions lead to the same result in practice, but use superficially different language to get there."
  4. ^ "Relationship between the Free Software movement and Open Source movement", Free Software Foundation, Inc
  5. ^ "What is Free Software", Free Software Foundation, Inc
  6. ^ opensource.org/about "Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in."
  7. ^ Popp, Dr. Karl Michael (2015). Best Practices for commercial use of open source software. Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand. ISBN 978-3738619096. 
  8. ^ a b c d "affero.org: Affero General Public License version 2 (AGPLv2)". 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "the section 4 of the apache license version 2". 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g "BSD license". 
  11. ^ "Using CC0 for public domain software". Creative Commons. April 15, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". GNU Project. Retrieved April 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b cc-by-4-0-and-cc-by-sa-4-0-added-to-our-list-of-free-licenses (2015)
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "the eclipse public license version 1". 
  15. ^ a b [1]: section 13 of the GNU AGPLv3 license
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i [2]: GNU licenses copyleft
  17. ^ a b c "the GNU Affero General Public License version 3". 
  18. ^ [3]: If library is under GPLv3
  19. ^ [4]: Linking with the GNU GPLv3
  20. ^ a b c "the GNU General Public License version 3". 
  21. ^ [5]: the section 4 of the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3
  22. ^ a b "the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3". 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g "MIT License". 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g "MPL version 2". 
  25. ^ Free Software Foundation. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  26. ^ Free Software Foundation. "To be GPL-Compatible has to be compatible with Licenses GNU GPLv3 and GNU GPLv2 – Free Software Foundation". Software Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  27. ^ Free Software Foundation. "GPL-Compatible Free Software Licenses – Free Software Foundation". Software Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  28. ^ Free Software Foundation. "GPL-Incompatible Free Software Licenses – Free Software Foundation". Software Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  29. ^ Free Software Foundation. "GPL-compatible Definition by FSF – Free Software Foundation". GPL-compatible Definition. Free Software Foundation. 
  30. ^ Free Software Foundation. "GPL-compatible Definition previous version by FSF – Free Software Foundation". GPL-compatible Definition. Free Software Foundation. 
  31. ^ Open Source Initiative. "The Approved Licenses". License Information. Open Source Initiative. 
  32. ^ Copyfree Initiative. "Copyfree Licenses". Copyfree Initiative. 
  33. ^ a b c "Rejected Licenses". CopyFree Initiative. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  34. ^ Debian. "Debian – License information". Licenses. Debian. 
  35. ^ "The DFSG and Software Licenses". Debian wiki. 
  36. ^ Fedora. "Licensing – FedoraProject". Licenses. Fedora Project. 
  37. ^ Free Software Foundation. "Apache License, Version 2.0". Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  38. ^ "Apple Public Source License (APSL), version 1.x". Retrieved 2013-08-07. 
  39. ^ "Licensing/Beerware". Fedora Project. Retrieved 2015-03-10. 
  40. ^ "3-clause BSD License at OSI". 
  41. ^ "Various Licenses and Comments About Them - Common Development and Distribution License". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
  42. ^ Michael Larabel (6 October 2015). "Ubuntu Is Planning To Make The ZFS File-System A "Standard" Offering". Phoronix. 
  43. ^ Dustin Kirkland (18 February 2016). "ZFS Licensing and Linux". Ubuntu Insights. Canonical. 
  44. ^ Are GPLv2 and CDDL incompatible? on hansenpartnership.com by James E.J. Bottomley "What the above analysis shows is that even though we presumed combination of GPLv2 and CDDL works to be a technical violation, there's no way actually to prosecute such a violation because we can’t develop a convincing theory of harm resulting. Because this makes it impossible to take the case to court, effectively it must be concluded that the combination of GPLv2 and CDDL, provided you’re following a GPLv2 compliance regime for all the code, is allowable." (23 February 2016)
  45. ^ Moglen, Eben; Choudhary, Mishi (26 February 2016). "The Linux Kernel, CDDL and Related Issues". 
  46. ^ GPL Violations Related to Combining ZFS and Linux on sfconservancy.org by Bradley M. Kuhn and Karen M. Sandler (February 25, 2016)
  47. ^ a b c "Various Licenses and Comments about Them - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation". 
  48. ^ "Frequently Answered Questions". opensource.org. CC0 was not explicitly rejected, but the License Review Committee was unable to reach consensus that it should be approved 
  49. ^ "Copyfree Licenses". 
  50. ^ "Re: Creative Commons CC0". 
  51. ^ "License information". 
  52. ^ a b "Licensing:Main". 
  53. ^ "Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 declared one-way compatible with GNU GPL version 3 — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software". 
  54. ^ Free Software Foundation. "Educational Community License 2.0". Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  55. ^ [6]: "We use only licenses that are compatible with the GNU GPL for GNU software."
  56. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses – Is GPLv3 compatible with GPLv2?". gnu.org. Retrieved 3 June 2014. No. Some of the requirements in GPLv3, such as the requirement to provide Installation Information, do not exist in GPLv2. As a result, the licenses are not compatible: if you tried to combine code released under both these licenses, you would violate section 6 of GPLv2. However, if code is released under GPL "version 2 or later," that is compatible with GPLv3 because GPLv3 is one of the options it permits. 
  57. ^ [7]
  58. ^ [8]
  59. ^ "General Resolution: Why the GNU Free Documentation License is not suitable for Debian main". 
  60. ^ Free Software Foundation. "A Quick Guide to GPLv3". Licenses. Free Software Foundation. 
  61. ^ Mozilla Foundation. "MPL 2.0 FAQ". Licenses. Mozilla Foundation. 
  62. ^ "Various Licenses and Comments about Them - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation". 
  63. ^ "Frequently Answered Questions". 
  64. ^ "OSI Board Meeting Minutes, Wednesday, March 4, 2009". 
  65. ^ Free Software Foundation. "XFree86 1.1 License". Licenses. Free Software Foundation.