Starting A FOSS Project? Then Know Your Licenses

by Ostatic Staff - May. 27, 2011

If you're working on an open source project, one of the early decisions you must make is which license the project will be released under, and choosing the perfect license is more complex than ever. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is out with a set of easy-to-follow guidelines for making the decision, and we've provided guidelines here at OStatic as well. Here is all you need to know to make an informed open source license decision.

The Free Software Foundation is the principal organizer of the GNU Project, and you can find the FSF's guidelines on choosing an open source license in this post. The guidelines cover how to choose an overall license for a project, and also cover making decisions on licensing modified versions of an existing project. 

Through the guidelines, you can gain knowledge about what Copyleft is, and why it's a favorable licensing strategy. For many creators, the FSF recommends the Apache License 2.0, with more details here. There are many other licenses to consider, including the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), and the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL). Notably, many open source projects don't license relevant documentation, but the GNU Free Documentation License is a wise choice for doing so. 

We've given a lot of coverage at OStatic to discussion of open source licenses. In this post, you can get to know the "Unlicense," a license that disclaims copyright interest in a piece of code altogether. It's also worth looking into our post on the Software Freedom Law Center's Legal Issue Primer. It contains a very thorough discussion of most popular open source licenses. And you can find much more introductory material on open source licenses in this post

Choosing the right license for your project goes along way toward preventing sticky legal issues down the road. It's wise to do some research in advance.