Choosing the Best License for Your Open Source Software Project

Paul Rubens | CIO Magazine | October 1, 2013

You need sound coding skills to create good software, but the success of an open source project can also depend on something much less glamorous: your choice of software license.

That's because the license under which you make your code available has a real impact on what you can do with your code, who will contribute to it, and ultimately whether it gets widely used or ignored.

..."If you use the Gnu General Public License (GPL), for example, some people won't touch it as they'll be worried about incorporating GPL code into their product. On the other hand, if you don't use the GPL then some developers simply won't be prepared to contribute, so picking the right license really depends on who you are targeting your software at."

But if you want your project to be truly open source then you need an appropriate license, and the easiest way to understand the many licenses that are available is to divide them in to three broad categories:

  • Strong copyleft
  • Weak copyleft
  • Permissive