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The Open Source Initiative lists 9 different licenses in their list of "License that are popular and widely used or with strong communities".

I want to license my project as open-source. Unfortunately, I do not speak legalese. Is there some chart I could consult that will help me make the right choice, or at least point me in the right direction? For example a table summarizing the differences between the licenses, or perhaps a flow-graph using my requirements to guide me into the correct license for me?

I also intend to meet a lawyer, but any information to start with will help.

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License Chooser It lets you choose a license for you project based on certain criteria. –  Mahmoud Hossam May 6 '12 at 0:50
I'm not a lawyer either so when I wanted a license for a new application I'm working on I just wrote one myself. Who knows if it would ever really hold up in court, but it is pretty straightforward in explaining what I want done/not done with the code... davidvhill.com/article/an-open-source-license-in-plain-english –  David Hill Mar 22 '13 at 16:58
Github have created this simplified site to help users choose a licence: choosealicense.com –  ltn100 Aug 16 at 14:56

3 Answers 3

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Jeff Atwood has done a pretty good job explaining the differences among the multitude of Open Source software licenses in plain English here:


The most important consideration affecting your decision will be your redistribution terms. That is, will you allow your code to be used in commercial applications and if so, will you require such applications to open-source their own code?

This is where the GPL is notable: If you license your code under the GPL, anyone using your code must also license their code under the GPL. Since the GPL requires that all of your code be open-source, this pretty much excludes its use in companies that wish to keep their code proprietary.

Note that the GPL does allow you to use GPL'd code for in-house business applications, so long as you do not redistribute those applications to a third party.

See Also

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+1 for sharing Jeff Atwood article! –  topgun_ivard Sep 1 '11 at 18:48
Jeff's advice has some errors in it! In many jurisdictions you can not put your work into the public domain (other than by being dead for the requisite amount of time) and it also doesn't mention your point about GPL for code you don't release, for which I'd mention server code, which is a very important model in the industry –  jk. May 6 '12 at 7:46

As you have asked for a chart of Open source licenses comparison:
enter image description here

Please, read this excellent article too: Adopting an Open Source Approach to Software Development, Distribution, and Licensing.

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A great resource for understanding open source licenses is the very comprehensive, interactive license differentiator, from Oxford Universities OSS Watch.

This asks questions which guide you towards a suitable license for your software.

There are pro's and cons to each, so read up on what restrictions they place on the code and decide who you want to be able to use it. Warning, whichever you choose someone will complain - this is holy war territory, and beyond the scope of this question.

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