List of Free Software Licenses

Introduction

We classify a license according to certain key criteria:

  • Whether it qualifies as a free software license.
  • Whether it is a copyleft license.
  • Whether it is compatible with the GNU GPL. Unless otherwise specified, compatible licenses are compatible with both GPLv2 and GPLv3.
  • Whether it causes any particular practical problems.

We try to list the most commonly encountered free software license on this page, but cannot list them all; we’ll try our best to answer questions about free software licenses whether or not they are listed here. The licenses are more or less in alphabetical order within each section.

If you believe you have found a violation of one of our licenses, please refer to our license violation page.

If you’ve started a new project and you’re not sure what license to use, “How to choose a license for your own work” details our recommendations in an easy-to-follow guide.

If you have questions about free software licenses, you can email us at <licensing@fsf.org>. Because our resources are limited, we do not answer questions that are meant to assist proprietary software development or distribution, and you’ll likely get an answer faster if you ask a specific question that isn’t already covered here or in our FAQ. We welcome knowledgeable volunteers who want to help answer licensing questions.

If you are contemplating writing a new license, please also contact us at <licensing@fsf.org>. The proliferation of different free software licenses is a significant problem in the free software community today, both for users and developers. We will do our best to help you find an existing free software license that meets your needs.

If you are wondering what license a particular software package is using, please visit the Free Software Directory. The Free Software Directory catalogues over 6000 free software packages and their licensing information.

Software Licenses

GPL-Compatible Free Software Licenses

(#GPLCompatibleLicenses)

The following licenses qualify as free software licenses, and are compatible with the GNU GPL.

GNU General Public License (GPL) version 3 (#GNUGPL) (#GNUGPLv3)
This is the latest version of the GNU GPL: a free software license, and a copyleft license. We recommend it for most software packages.

Please note that GPLv3 is not compatible with GPLv2 by itself. However, most software released under GPLv2 allows you to use the terms of later versions of the GPL as well. When this is the case, you can use the code under GPLv3 to make the desired combination. To learn more about compatibility between GNU licenses.

 

GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2 (#GPLv2)
This is the previous version of the GNU GPL: a free software license, and a copyleft license. We recommend the latest version for most software.

Please note that GPLv2 is, by itself, not compatible with GPLv3. However, most software released under GPLv2 allows you to use the terms of later versions of the GPL as well. When this is the case, you can use the code under GPLv3 to make the desired combination. To learn more about compatibility between GNU licenses.

GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) version 3 (#LGPL) (#LGPLv3)
This is the latest version of the LGPL: a free software license, but not a strong copyleft license, because it permits linking with nonfree modules. It is compatible with GPLv3. We recommend it for special circumstances only.

Please note that LGPLv3 is not compatible with GPLv2 by itself. However, most software released under GPLv2 allows you to use the terms of later versions of the GPL as well. When this is the case, you can use the code under GPLv3 to make the desired combination. To learn more about compatibility between GNU licenses.

 

GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) version 2.1 (#LGPLv2.1)
This is the previous version of the LGPL: a free software license, but not a strong copyleft license, because it permits linking with nonfree modules. It is compatible with GPLv2 and GPLv3. We generally recommend the latest version of the LGPL, for special circumstances only. To learn more about how LGPLv2.1 is compatible with other GNU licenses.

GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) version 3 (#AGPL) (#AGPLv3.0)
This is a free software, copyleft license. Its terms effectively consist of the terms of GPLv3, with an additional paragraph in section 13 to allow users who interact with the licensed software over a network to receive the source for that program. We recommend that developers consider using the GNU AGPL for any software which will commonly be run over a network.

Please note that the GNU AGPL is not compatible with GPLv2. It is also technically not compatible with GPLv3 in a strict sense: you cannot take code released under the GNU AGPL and convey or modify it however you like under the terms of GPLv3, or vice versa. However, you are allowed to combine separate modules or source files released under both of those licenses in a single project, which will provide many programmers with all the permission they need to make the programs they want. See section 13 of both licenses for details.

 

GNU All-Permissive License (#GNUAllPermissive)
This is a lax, permissive free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL, which we recommend GNU packages use for README and other small supporting files. All developers can feel free to use it in similar situations.

Older versions of this license did not have the second sentence with the express warranty disclaimer. This same analysis applies to both versions.

Apache License, Version 2.0 (#apache2)
This is a free software license, compatible with version 3 of the GNU GPL.

Please note that this license is not compatible with GPL version 2, because it has some requirements that are not in that GPL version. These include certain patent termination and indemnification provisions. The patent termination provision is a good thing, which is why we recommend the Apache 2.0 license for substantial programs over other lax permissive licenses.

Artistic License 2.0 (#ArtisticLicense2)
This license is a free software license, compatible with the GPL thanks to the relicensing option in section 4(c)(ii).

Clarified Artistic License
This license is a free software license, compatible with the GPL. It is the minimal set of changes needed to correct the vagueness of the Artistic License 1.0.

 

Berkeley Database License (a.k.a. the Sleepycat Software Product License) (#BerkeleyDB)
This is a free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL.

Boost Software License (#boost)
This is a lax, permissive non-copyleft free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL.

Modified BSD license (#ModifiedBSD)
This is the original BSD license, modified by removal of the advertising clause. It is a lax, permissive non-copyleft free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL.

This license is sometimes referred to as the 3-clause BSD license.

The modified BSD license is not bad, as lax permissive licenses go, though the Apache 2.0 license is preferable. However, it is risky to recommend use of “the BSD license”, even for special cases such as small programs, because confusion could easily occur and lead to use of the flawed original BSD license. To avoid this risk, you can suggest the X11 license instead. The X11 license and the modified revised BSD license are more or less equivalent.

However, the Apache 2.0 license is better for substantial programs, since it prevents patent treachery.

 

CC0 (#CC0)
CC0 is a public domain dedication from Creative Commons. A work released under CC0 is dedicated to the public domain to the fullest extent permitted by law. If that is not possible for any reason, CC0 also provides a lax, permissive license as a fallback. Both public domain works and the lax license provided by CC0 are compatible with the GNU GPL.

If you want to release your work to the public domain, we recommend you use CC0.

CeCILL version 2 (#CeCILL)
The CeCILL is a free software license, explicitly compatible with the GNU GPL.

The text of the CeCILL uses a couple of biased terms that ought to be avoided: “intellectual property” and “protection”; this decision was unfortunate, because reading the license tends to spread the presuppositions of those terms. However, this does not cause any particular problem for the programs released under the CeCILL.

Section 9.4 of the CeCILL commits the program’s developers to certain forms of cooperation with the users, if someone attacks the program with a patent. You might look at that as a problem for the developer; however, if you are sure you would want to cooperate with the users in those ways anyway, then it isn’t a problem for you.

The Clear BSD License (#clearbsd)
This is a free software license, compatible with both GPLv2 and GPLv3. It is based on the modified BSD license, and adds a term expressly stating it does not grant you any patent licenses. Because of this, we encourage you to be careful about using software under this license; you should first consider whether the licensor might want to sue you for patent infringement. If the developer is refusing users patent licenses to set up a trap for you, it would be wise to avoid the program.

 

Cryptix General License (#CryptixGeneralLicense)
This is a lax, permissive non-copyleft free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL. It is very similar to the X11 license.

License of the ec fonts for LaTeX (#ecfonts)
This license covers the European Computer Modern Fonts and Text Companion Fonts, commonly used with LaTeX. Depending on how it is used, it may be free or not. If the package says that some fonts in the package may not be modified, then the package is nonfree. Otherwise the package is free. The original fonts have no restrictions on modification, so they are free.

Much like the LaTeX Project Public License 1.2, this license requires modified versions of the work to use a name that’s different from the name of any prior version. This is acceptable for work meant to be used with LaTeX, since TeX allows you to create filename mappings for your programs, but it’s very annoying and could be overly burdensome in other contexts.

eCos license version 2.0 (#eCos2.0)
The eCos license version 2.0 is a GPL-compatible free software license. It consists of the GPL, plus an exception allowing linking to software not under the GPL. This license has the same disadvantages as the LGPL.

 

Educational Community License 2.0 (#ECL2.0)
This is a free software license, and it is compatible with GPLv3. It is based on the Apache License 2.0; the scope of the patent license has changed so that when an organization’s employee works on a project, the organization does not have to license all of its patents to recipients. This patent license and the indemnification clause in section 9 make this license incompatible with GPLv2.

Eiffel Forum License, version 2 (#Eiffel)
This is a free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL. Previous releases of the Eiffel license are not compatible with the GPL.

EU DataGrid Software License (#EUDataGrid)
This is a lax, permissive non-copyleft free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL.

Expat License (#Expat)
This is a lax, permissive non-copyleft free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL. It is sometimes ambiguously referred to as the MIT License.

For substantial programs it is better to use the Apache 2.0 license since it blocks patent treachery.

 

FreeBSD license (#FreeBSD)
This is the original BSD license with the advertising clause and another clause removed. (It is also sometimes called the “2-clause BSD license”.) It is a lax, permissive non-copyleft free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL.

Our comments about the Modified BSD license apply to this license too.

Freetype Project License (#freetype)
This is a free software license, and compatible with GPLv3. It has some attribution requirements which make it incompatible with GPLv2.

License of the iMatix Standard Function Library (#iMatix)
This is a free software license and is GPL compatible.

License of imlib2 (#imlib)
This is a free software license, and GPL-compatible. The author has explained to us that the GPL’s options for providing source all mean the source has been “made available publicly” in their words.

Independent JPEG Group License (#ijg)
This is a free software license, and compatible with the GNU GPL. The authors have assured us that developers who document changes as required by the GPL will also comply with the similar requirement in this license.

 

Informal license (#informal)
An “informal license” means a statement such as “do whatever you like with this” or “you can redistribute this code and change it.”

In the United States, these licenses are supposed to be interpreted based on what the author seems to intend. So they probably mean what they appear to mean. That would make them non-copyleft free software licenses and compatible with the GNU GPL. However, an unlucky choice of wording could give it a different meaning.

However, many other countries have a more rigid approach to copyright licenses. There is no telling what courts in those countries might decide an informal statement means. Courts might even decide that it is not a license at all.

If you want your code to be free, don’t invite gratuitous trouble for your users. Please choose and apply an established free software license. We offer recommendations that we suggest you follow.

Intel Open Source License (#intel)
This is a free software license, compatible with the GNU GPL.

 

ISC License (#ISC)
This license is sometimes also known as the OpenBSD License. It is a lax, permissive free software license, and compatible with the GNU GPL.

This license does have an unfortunate wording choice: it provides recipients with “Permission to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute this software…” This is roughly the same language from the license of Pine that the University of Washington later claimed prohibited people from distributing modified versions of the software.

ISC has told us they do not share the University of Washington’s interpretation, and we have every reason to believe them. Thus, there’s no reason to avoid software released under this license. However, to help make sure this language cannot cause any trouble in the future, we encourage developers to choose a different license for their own works. The Expat License and FreeBSD License are similarly permissive and brief.

This are the Some Licenses I Written. To learn and know about more licenses

click this site http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html

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