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My company has given permission for me to open source some internal tools I've built. The first step is to choose an open source license. How do I do this? I know about the GPL, the Apache license, and others. Are there any resources out there that compare and contrast the different licenses? I'd rather not have to read every single candidate until I've narrowed the field.

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closed as too broad by gnat, MichaelT, Ampt, Bart van Ingen Schenau, Dan Pichelman Sep 15 '14 at 17:27

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

In a similar situation, I personally selected the Apache license because of the care it goes into to make sure IP rights and ownership are clear, and other terms that are important to lawyers. –  gahooa Nov 17 '11 at 20:19
Also, don't forget that you don't have to choose just one license. You can always dual license. –  Mark Booth Nov 22 '11 at 17:25
I wish there was just a spreadsheet of "This license has this feature". I'm on the verge of releasing something and it's very hard to pick the right license. –  Rig Dec 13 '11 at 18:15

4 Answers 4

I've found http://three.org/openart/license_chooser/ to be useful for choosing a license.

Although this chooser is very limited in the number of licenses it reports on and unsuccessfully groups different licenses together under names not applicable to them.

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OSS Watch in the UK have a really useful (and complete) licence differentiator. It works by asking you questions about your objectives and narrows down the list of OSI approved license that match your requirements. See http://oss.ly/licdif

They also have some really useful documents that describe the common licenses in plain English. See http://www.oss-watch.ac.uk/resources/licencefinder.xml

The first question should not be "which licence" but rather "what do we want to achieve by open sourcing this code".

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Eric S. Raymond's "The Art Of Unix Programming" has the better part of an entire chapter devoted to standard Open Source licenses; especially this part and the following pages are of interest.

Generally speaking, Open Source licenses fall into two major categories: viral and non-viral. Viral licenses mandate that all derived code also becomes open-source; GPL is the best-known example of this model. Non-viral licenses do not carry this restriction; code released under a non-viral license can be redistributed as closed-source software, in either original or modified form. Examples of non-viral Open Source licenses are BSD, MIT, and Apache.

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Some useful resources:

Full text for over a hundred open source licesnes: http://spdx.org/licenses/

Red Hat's list of "good" open source licenses: http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Licensing#Good_Licenses

OSI-approved open source licenses: http://opensource.org/licenses/index.html

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