Comparison of free and open-source software licenses

This comparison only covers software licenses which have a linked Wikipedia article for details and which are approved by at least one of the following expert groups: the Free Software Foundation, the Open Source Initiative, the Debian Project and the Fedora Project. For a list of licenses not specifically intended for software, see List of free-content licences.

FOSS licenses

FOSS stands for "Free and Open Source Software". There is no one universally agreed-upon definition of FOSS software and various groups maintain approved lists of licenses. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is one such organization keeping a list of open-source licenses. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) maintains a list of what it considers free. FSF's free software and OSI's open-source licenses together are called FOSS licenses. There are licenses accepted by the OSI which are not free as per the Free Software Definition. The Open Source Definition allows for further restrictions like price, type of contribution and origin of the contribution, e.g. the case of the NASA Open Source Agreement, which requires the code to be "original" work. The OSI does not endorse FSF license analysis (interpretation) as per their disclaimer.

The FSF's Free Software Definition focuses on the user's unrestricted rights to use a program, to study and modify it, to copy it, and redistribute it for any purpose, which are considered by the FSF the four essential freedoms. The OSI's open-source criteria focuses on the availability of the source code and the advantages of an unrestricted and community driven development model. Yet, many FOSS licenses, like the Apache License, and all Free Software licenses allow commercial use of FOSS components.

General comparison

For a simpler comparison across the most common licenses see free-software license comparison.

The following table compares various features of each license and is a general guide to the terms and conditions of each license, based on seven subjects or categories. Recent tools like the European Commissions' Joinup Licensing Assistant, makes possible the licenses selection and comparison based on more than 40 subjects or categories, with access to their SPDX identifier and full text. The table below lists the permissions and limitations regarding the following subjects:

  • Linking - linking of the licensed code with code licensed under a different license (e.g. when the code is provided as a library)
  • Distribution - distribution of the code to third parties
  • Modification - modification of the code by a licensee
  • Patent grant - protection of licensees from patent claims made by code contributors regarding their contribution, and protection of contributors from patent claims made by licensees
  • Private use - whether modification to the code must be shared with the community or may be used privately (e.g. internal use by a corporation)
  • Sublicensing - whether modified code may be licensed under a different license (for example a copyright) or must retain the same license under which it was provided
  • TM grant - use of trademarks associated with the licensed code or its contributors by a licensee

In this table, "permissive" means the software has minimal restrictions on how it can be used, modified, and redistributed, usually including a warranty disclaimer. "Copyleft" means the software requires that its source code be made publicly available and that all provisions in the license be preserved in derivative works.

License Author Latest version Publication date Linking Distribution Modification Patent grant Private use Sublicensing TM grant
Academic Free License Lawrence E. Rosen 3.0 2002 Permissive Permissive Permissive Yes Yes Permissive No
Affero General Public License Affero Inc 2.0 2007 Copylefted Copyleft except for the GNU AGPL Copyleft ? Yes ? ?
Apache License Apache Software Foundation 2.0 2004 Permissive Permissive Permissive Yes Yes Permissive No
Apple Public Source License Apple Computer 2.0 2003-08-06August 6, 2003 Permissive ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Artistic License Larry Wall 2.0 2000 With restrictions With restrictions With restrictions No Permissive With restrictions No
Beerware Poul-Henning Kamp 42 1987 Permissive Permissive Permissive No Permissive Permissive No
BSD License Regents of the University of California 3.0 ? Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Yes Permissive Manually
Boost Software License ? 1.0 2003-08-17August 17, 2003 Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Creative Commons Zero Creative Commons 1.0 2009 Public Domain Public Domain Public Domain No Public Domain Public Domain No
CC BY Creative Commons 4.0 2002 Permissive Permissive Permissive No Yes Permissive No
CC BY-SA Creative Commons 4.0 2002 Copylefted Copylefted Copylefted No Yes Copylefted No
CeCILL CEA / CNRS / INRIA 2.1 2013-06-21June 21, 2013 Permissive Permissive Permissive No Permissive With restrictions No
Common Development and Distribution License Sun Microsystems 1.0 2004-12December 1, 2004 Permissive ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Common Public License IBM 1.0 2001-05May 2001 Permissive ? Copylefted ? ? ? ?
Cryptix General License Cryptix Foundation 1995 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Yes ? Manually
Eclipse Public License Eclipse Foundation 2.0 2017-08-24August 24, 2017 Permissive Copylefted Copylefted Yes Yes Copylefted No
Educational Community License Indiana University 1.0 2007 Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
European Union Public Licence European Commission 1.2 2017-05May 2017 Permissive, according to EU law (Recitals 10 & 15 Directive 2009/24/EC) Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list Yes Yes Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list No
FreeBSD The FreeBSD project 1999-04April 1999 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Permissive Permissive Manually
GNU Affero General Public License Free Software Foundation 3.0 2007 GNU GPLv3 only Copylefted Copylefted Yes No network usage Copylefted Yes
GNU General Public License Free Software Foundation 3.0 2007-06June 2007 GPLv3 compatible only Copylefted Copylefted Yes Yes Copylefted Yes
GNU Lesser General Public License Free Software Foundation 3.0 2007-06June 2007 With restrictions Copylefted Copylefted Yes Yes Copylefted Yes
IBM Public License IBM 1.0 1999-08August 1999 Copylefted ? Copylefted ? ? ? ?
ISC license Internet Systems Consortium 2003-06June 2003 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Permissive Permissive Manually
LaTeX Project Public License LaTeX project 1.3c ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Microsoft Public License Microsoft ? Copylefted Copylefted Copylefted No Permissive ? No
MIT license / X11 license MIT 1988 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Yes Permissive Manually
Mozilla Public License Mozilla Foundation 2.0 2012-03January 3, 2012 Permissive Copylefted Copylefted Yes Yes Copylefted No
Netscape Public License Netscape 1.1 ? Limited ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Open Software License Lawrence Rosen 3.0 2005 Permissive Copylefted Copylefted Yes Yes Copylefted ?
OpenSSL license OpenSSL Project ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
PHP License PHP Group 3.01 2019 With restrictions With restrictions With restrictions Yes Yes With restrictions Manually
Python Software Foundation License Python Software Foundation 3.9.1 2020-10-05May 10, 2020 Permissive Permissive Permissive Yes Permissive Permissive No
Q Public License Trolltech ? ? Limited ? Limited ? ? ? ?
Sleepycat License Sleepycat Software 1996 Permissive With restrictions Permissive No Yes No No
Unlicense unlicense.org 1 2010-12December 2010 Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain ? Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain ?
W3C Software Notice and License W3C 20021231 2002-12-31December 31, 2002 Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (WTFPL) Banlu Kemiyatorn, Sam Hocevar 2 2004-12December 2004 Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain Permissive/Public domain No Yes Yes No
XCore Open Source License
also separate "Hardware License Agreement"
XMOS ? 2011-02February 2011 Permissive Permissive Permissive Manually Yes Permissive ?
XFree86 1.1 License The XFree86 Project, Inc ? ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?
zlib/libpng license Jean-Loup Gailly and Mark Adler ? ? Permissive ? Permissive ? ? ? ?

Other licenses that don't have information:

license Author Latest version Publication date
Eiffel Forum License NICE 2 2002
Intel Open Source License Intel Corporation ?
RealNetworks Public Source License RealNetworks ? ?
Reciprocal Public License Scott Shattuck 1.5 2007
Sun Industry Standards Source License Sun Microsystems ? ?
Sun Public License Sun Microsystems ? ?
Sybase Open Watcom Public License Open Watcom 2003-01-28
Zope Public License Zope Foundation 2.1 ?
Server Side Public License MongoDB 1.0 2018-10-16

Approvals

This table lists for each license what organizations from the FOSS community have approved it – be it as a "free software" or as an "open source" license – , how those organizations categorize it, and the license compatibility between them for a combined or mixed derivative work. Organizations usually approve specific versions of software licenses. For instance, a FSF approval means that the Free Software Foundation (FSF) considers a license to be free-software license. The FSF recommends at least "Compatible with GPL" and preferably copyleft. The OSI recommends a mix of permissive and copyleft licenses, the Apache License 2.0, 2- & 3-clause BSD license, GPL, LGPL, MIT license, MPL 2.0, CDDL and EPL.

License and version FSF approval
GPL (v3) compatibility
OSI approval
Debian approval
Fedora approval
Academic Free License Yes No Yes No Yes
Affero General Public License 3.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Apache License 1.x Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Apache License 2.0 Yes GPLv3 only Yes Yes Yes
Apple Public Source License 1.x No No Yes No No
Apple Public Source License 2.0 Yes No Yes No Yes
Artistic License 1.0 No No Yes Yes No
Artistic License 2.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Beerware License see "Informal license" section see "Informal license" section No No Yes
Original BSD license Yes No No Yes Yes
Revised BSD license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Simplified BSD license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Zero-Clause BSD License ? ? Yes ? ?
Boost Software License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CeCILL Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Common Development and Distribution License Yes GPLv3 (GPLv2 disputed) Yes Yes Yes
Common Public License Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Creative Commons Zero Yes Yes No Partial Yes
Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 Yes GPLv3 ? Yes ?
Cryptix General License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Eclipse Public License Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Educational Community License Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Eiffel Forum License 2 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
European Union Public Licence Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
GNU Affero General Public License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
GNU General Public License v2 Yes No Yes Yes Yes
GNU General Public License v3 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
GNU Lesser General Public License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
GNU Free Documentation License Yes No Yes No No
IBM Public License Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Intel Open Source License Yes Yes Yes No No
ISC license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
LaTeX Project Public License Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Public License Yes No Yes No Yes
Microsoft Reciprocal License Yes No Yes No Yes
MIT license / X11 license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mozilla Public License 1.1 Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Mozilla Public License 2.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NASA Open Source Agreement No No Yes ? No
Netscape Public License Yes No No No Yes
Open Software License Yes No Yes No Yes
OpenSSL license Yes No No Yes Yes
PHP License Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Python Software Foundation License 2.0.1; 2.1.1 and newer Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Q Public License Yes No Yes No Yes
Reciprocal Public License 1.5 No No Yes No No
Sleepycat License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sun Industry Standards Source License Yes No Yes No Yes
Sun Public License Yes No Yes No Yes
Sybase Open Watcom Public License No No Yes No No
Unlicense Yes Yes Yes ? Yes
W3C Software Notice and License Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (WTFPL) Yes Yes No Yes Yes
XFree86 1.1 License Yes Yes No No No
zlib/libpng license Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Zope Public License 1.0 Yes No No No Yes
Zope Public License 2.0 Yes Yes Yes No Yes
  1. ^ The original version of the Artistic License is defined as non-free because it is overly vague, not because of the substance of the license. The FSF encourages projects to use the Clarified Artistic License instead.
  2. ^ But can be made compatible by upgrading to GPLv3 via the optional "or later" clause added in most GPLv2 license texts.
  3. ^ But not with GPLv2 without "or later" clause.
  4. ^ MPL 2.0 is GPL compatible unless marked "Incompatible with Secondary Licenses".
  5. ^ Listed as WTFPL.

See also


This page was last updated at 2023-11-01 01:47 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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