The applications that I develop on my free time are getting bigger and I'm planning to launch some other projects that I'm currently developing, so I want to know how to choose the correct license for freeware and open source projects for this and some of my future projects.


You don't explain what you want to do with your software.

Typically, you could go to Open Source Institute and browse their approved licenses, but it's simpler to pick a few.

My general recommendation, unless you have specific requirements (such as software you're incorporating into yours, restrictions on license for intended use, or source repository restrictions): Ask yourself if it would bother you to have people take your software, incorporate it into their proprietary/closed-source programs, and profit from it.

If your answer is "no, not particularly", go with the BSD license.

If your answer is "yes, I don't want that to happen", go with the GPLv2, and its recommendation to allow people to use any later version of the GPL.

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  • Alternative to BSD : MIT – Klaim Apr 18 '11 at 21:52
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    @Klaim: An excellent alternative, but I don't like giving alternatives for recommendations without guidelines on which to choose. – David Thornley Apr 18 '11 at 22:04
  • Yeah I understand, but as MIT and BSD "roughly are the same" (from the OSS website) then I guess "go with the BSD or MIT license" would be correct. As it's the same, nevermind. – Klaim Apr 18 '11 at 22:07
  • While I generally agree with the answer, I think it's a little over simplistic. Lots of people will say "no way, I don't want anyone to profit!", even though the likelihood is infinitesimally small. Your pet project almost certainly isn't worth stealing (no offense!). So, if you take the "no profit" stance for something nobody would likely profit from anyway, you're (arguably) needlessly restricting the number of people who can use your software. – Bryan Oakley Feb 26 '12 at 14:35

If you want to give something back to the community, use MIT or BSD.

Otherwise, don't publish the project at all.

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    Your second sentence is thoroughly unhelpful. I'd really like to keep BSD vs. GPL flamewars out of programmers.se, and this answer invites one. – David Thornley Apr 18 '11 at 21:36
  • +1@David ... unhelpful ? ... it was just plain .... you know;) – explorest Apr 19 '11 at 1:44
  • @David what flame? GPL is much more restrictive, that's just true. Publishing under GPL means: I'll show you my code and if you don't show yours(which is not always possible because of enterprise policy), you have to implement it on your own. It's better than nothing - but it really annoys (and does not help at all - I could re-implement 90% libraries by hand, I just don't want to, I want to USE them) – Kamil Tomšík Apr 19 '11 at 5:23
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    "Otherwise don't publish it at all..." is flamebait. You strongly prefer BSD, and that's fine. Saying that it's better not to publish at all than to copyleft is not. Please stick to pushing for the things you like, and not denigrating what you don't, particularly when lots of people disagree and that exact topic is good for several flamewars a month on Slashdot. – David Thornley Apr 19 '11 at 13:50
  • "don't publish it at all" means: "you will make a lot of people veeeery angry" - which is not true for MIT (because it's compatible with GPL while still BSD-style) – Kamil Tomšík Apr 24 '11 at 23:15

See producingoss.org for Karl Fogel's thoughts on this.

Picking the right license is especially important if you intend on making $$ from your project or if you intend on stopping others from easily making $$ off your project :). The Apache license for example is seen as being corporate/business friendly

If in doubt, make sure you see a lawyer that's well versed in this area. They're rare, but there's not a lot of proven case law around open source licenses and so it pays to check out the current state of play

Oh and whatever you do, please don't create your own license, you're only going to create yourself a legal nightmare.

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