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All content by Kyle E. Mitchell, who is not your attorney.

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Open Source License Business Perception Reportthe pain and confusion of common open licenses, roughly quantified

How does business perceive specific form software public licenses in Q1 2017? From this lawyer’s point of view:

License Pain Confusion Key Points
AGPL-3.0 ! ! ! ? ? ? Bugbear. ASP loophole closure works; don’t like it. Relatively new form.
Apache-2.0 ! ? Best permissive license. Professionally drafted. Explicit patent license.
Artistic-1.0 ! ? ? Niched to Perl. Loosely drafted. Applied in an important court case.
Artistic-2.0 ! ? Niched to Perl. Explicit patent license. Relicensing helps compatibility.
BSD-2-Clause ! ? ? Ubiquitous. Permissive. Unclear if licenses patents.
BSD-3-Clause ! ? ? Ubiquitous. Permissive. Unclear if licenses patents.
CC0-1.0 ! ? Copyright-only. Backstop license gives comfort. Not OSI-approved.
EPL-1.0 ! ! ? ? Best copyleft license. Clear patent license. Professionally drafted.
GPL-2.0 ! ! ? ? Most popular “community” copyleft license. Can hire compliance pros.
GPL-3.0 ! ! ? ? ? Less well understood than GPL-2.0.
ISC ! ? ? Of a kind with MIT and BSD-2-Clause.
LGPL-2.1 ! ! ? ? Best-understood “community” library copyleft license. Can hire compliance pros.
LGPL-3.0 ! ! ? ? ? Less well understood than LGPL-2.1.
MIT ! ? ? Ubiquitous. Permissive. Unclear if licenses patents.
MPL-2.0 ! ! ? ? Good copyleft license. File-based copyleft more clear. Less common.
Unlicense ! ? ? Permissive. Unclear if licenses patents. Probably not.
WTFPL ! ? ? ? Bad vibes. Legal head scratching about waiver, estoppel.

Pain: Inconvenience in incorporating or using software in company products or services. Mostly from compliance with license conditions requiring attribution, identification of changes, provision of source code, and copyleft license terms requirements.

Confusion: Unfamiliarity with a license’s terms and uncertainty in interpreting what those terms mean. A reflection of license popularity, how long the form has been used, and quality of license drafting.


Copyright 2017 Kyle E. Mitchell. Licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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