Open Source Software Licenses


The OSI is the steward of the open source license. There are numerous licenses which have been approved by OSI with various levels of freedom. MIT and Apache License are considered most free and open where GPL and LGPL are on the other side of the spectrum. These can be largely categorized into two types.

Permissive license

Permissive license, as the name suggests, is the one with least restrictions and most rights. MIT , BSD and Apache are popular examples. MIT license grants ‘rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so,’ the only limitation is that the redistributed copy will contain the original copyright notice and a copy of the license text.
The permissive nature of this license makes it very popular among proprietary endeavors.

Reciprocal License

They are also referred to as copyleft license and require the author to release his modifications under the same license as of the original source code. Moreover, programmers releasing their code under a reciprocal license allow others to release their modifications under the same reciprocal license. The GNU General Public License sums it up as: “if you distribute copies of such a program, whether gratis or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same freedoms that you received. You must make sure that they, too, receive or can get the source code. And you must show them these terms so they know their rights.”


The open source software is at the root of almost all applications and clear understanding of these licenses can make your modification safer. According to report the global share of open source software is expected to grow by 18% in next six years. Open source procurement.org is a worldwide community with the aim to facilitate all open source stakeholders and be part of this growth.

Some Pointers Before Choosing a License

If the intention is to make the code reusable and shareable, you should go for a permissive licence. Under such licenses anyone can use your code and make it into it's own code set.

A clear trend can be seen, from 2012 to 2021, creators are choosing the permissive licenses over reciprocal licenses throughout the world. Use of permissive licenses reached to 78% in 2021 from only 41 percent in 2012. “When creators attach permissive licenses to their Open Source projects, it gives corporations various freedom to use the code without having to give much back to the creators.

"If you develop software that is used over a network, it can be highly advantageous to choose the copyleft AGPL. A common example of this are Open Source databases: by not licensing under the AGPL, any company (such as a major cloud provider) could improve on your product and monetize it without being required to distribute their modifications.

On the other hand, if the code that you are developing is your sole hope of income stream than guard it by copyleft license.

Also beware of your target audience. For example "a large enterprise company with lots of intellectual property within its application may not want to use your library if it means they can’t keep their code under wraps. Or they may shy away from using your software if it prevents them from distributing their software commercially.

When you have finalised which one of the categories you are opting for, then look at the community or ecosystem you wish to contribute to and see what license it is using. "If any of your project’s dependencies are licensed under GPL, you must also license your project under GPL or replace that dependency".

For more detail see : https://choosealicense.com/ created by Git Hub.