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How to choose the best license for your open source software project

Paul Rubens | Oct. 2, 2013
Getting the right license for your open source project can mean the difference between success and failure for your software.

"To get around this, licenses such as the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) have a stipulation that users who access the software over a network are also entitled to receive the source code for the application," says Johnson.

Online Tools for Choosing Open Source Licenses
There are some useful online tools that can help you choose and understand open source licenses, including:

" OSS Watch's License differentiator
" Github's Choose a license tool
" Open Source Initiative's Open Source Licenses page

Non-Software Licenses Needed for Image, Sound, Video Portions of Project

Copyleft and permissive licenses are appropriate for open source software projects, but Johnson points out that some parts of a project need other types of licenses. "If you have images, sound or video, for example, you need to provide an appropriate license for those. You may want to look at a Creative Commons license for those types of assets," he says.

Take Time to Fully Understand the Terms of Open Source Licenses
Johnson recommends getting independent advice and setting aside plenty of time to read and fully understand the terms of any license you are considering.

"Don't underestimate this," he says. "Some licenses are just a few lines and can be understood in a few minutes. But some are much longer — the GPL, for example, is a small essay."


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