Comparison of free and open-source software licenses

This is a comparison of published free software licenses and open-source licenses. The comparison only covers software licenses with a linked article for details, approved by at least one expert group at the FSF, the OSI, the Debian project, the Fedora project, or the Copyfree project. For a list of licenses not specifically intended for software, see List of free content licenses.

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.[1] The Free Software Foundation (FSF) maintains a list of what it considers free.[2] 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.[3][4] The OSI does not endorse FSF license analysis (interpretation) as per their disclaimer.[5]

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.[6][7]The OSI's open-[1]source criteria focuses on the availability of the source code and the advantages of an unrestricted and community driven development model.[8]Yet, many FOSS licenses, like the Apache license, and all Free Software licenses allow commercial use of FOSS components.[9]

General comparison

The following table compares various features of each license and is a general guide to the terms and conditions of each license. The table 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
  • Trademark grant - use of trademarks associated with the licensed code or its contributors by a licensee
License Author Latest version Publication date Linking Distribution Modification Patent grant Private use Sublicensing TM grant

Academic Free License[10]Lawrence E. Rosen3.02002PermissivePermissivePermissiveYesYesPermissiveNo
Affero General Public LicenseAffero Inc2.02007Copylefted[11]Copyleft except for the GNU AGPL[11]Copyleft[11]?Yes[11]??
Apache LicenseApache Software Foundation2.02004Permissive[12]Permissive[12]Permissive[12]Yes[12]Yes[12]Permissive[12]No[12]
Apple Public Source LicenseApple Computer2.0August 6, 2003Permissive?Limited????
Artistic LicenseLarry Wall2.02000With restrictionsWith restrictionsWith restrictionsNoPermissiveWith restrictionsNo
BeerwarePoul-Henning Kamp421987PermissivePermissivePermissiveNoPermissivePermissiveNo
BSD LicenseRegents of the University of California3.0?Permissive[13]Permissive[13]Permissive[13]Manually[13]Yes[13]Permissive[13]Manually[13]
Boost Software License?1.0August 17, 2003Permissive?Permissive????
Creative Commons ZeroCreative Commons1.02009Public Domain[14][15]Public DomainPublic DomainNoPublic DomainPublic DomainNo
CC-BYCreative Commons4.02002Permissive[16]PermissivePermissiveNoYesPermissive?
CC-BY-SACreative Commons4.02002Copylefted[16]CopyleftedCopyleftedNoYesNo?
CeCILLCEA / CNRS / INRIA2.1June 21, 2013PermissivePermissivePermissiveNoPermissiveWith restrictionsNo
Common Development and Distribution LicenseSun Microsystems1.0December 1, 2004Permissive?Limited????
Common Public LicenseIBM1.0May 2001Permissive?Copylefted????
Cryptix General LicenseCryptix FoundationN/A1995PermissivePermissivePermissiveManuallyYes?Manually
Eclipse Public LicenseEclipse Foundation1.0February 2004Limited[17]Limited[17]Limited[17]Yes[17]Yes[17]Limited[17]Manually[17]
Educational Community LicenseIndiana University[18]1.02007Permissive?Permissive????
European Union Public LicenceEuropean Commission1.2May 2017Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list[19]Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list[19]Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list[19]Yes[20]Yes[20]Copylefted, with an explicit compatibility list[19]No[20]
GNU Affero General Public LicenseFree Software Foundation3.02007GNU GPLv3 only[21]Copylefted[22]Copylefted[22]Yes[23]Copylefted[23]Copylefted[22]Yes[23]
GNU General Public LicenseFree Software Foundation3.0June 2007GPLv3 compatible only[24][25]Copylefted[22]Copylefted[22]Yes[26]Yes[26]Copylefted[22]Yes[26]
GNU Lesser General Public LicenseFree Software Foundation3.0June 2007With restrictions[27]Copylefted[22]Copylefted[22]Yes[28]YesCopylefted[22]Yes[28]
IBM Public LicenseIBM1.0August 1999Copylefted?Copylefted????
ISC licenseInternet Systems ConsortiumN/AJune 2003PermissivePermissivePermissive????
LaTeX Project Public LicenseLaTeX project1.3c?Permissive?Permissive????
Microsoft Public LicenseMicrosoftN/A?PermissivePermissivePermissiveNoPermissive?No
MIT license / X11 licenseMITN/A1988Permissive[29]Permissive[29]Permissive[29]Manually[29]Yes[29]Permissive[29]Manually[29]
Mozilla Public LicenseMozilla Foundation2.0January 3, 2012Permissive[30]Copylefted[30]Copylefted[30]Yes[30]Yes[30]Copylefted[30]No[30]
Netscape Public LicenseNetscape1.1?Limited?Limited????
Open Software License[10]Lawrence Rosen3.02005PermissiveCopyleftedCopyleftedYesYesCopylefted?
OpenSSL licenseOpenSSL ProjectN/A?Permissive?Permissive????
Python Software Foundation LicensePython Software Foundation2?Permissive?Permissive????
Q Public LicenseTrolltech??Limited?Limited????
Sleepycat LicenseSleepycat SoftwareN/A1996PermissiveWith restrictionsPermissiveNoYesNoNo
Unlicenseunlicense.org1December 2010Permissive/Public domainPermissive/Public domainPermissive/Public domain?Permissive/Public domainPermissive/Public domain?
W3C Software Notice and LicenseW3C20021231December 31, 2002Permissive?Permissive????
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (WTFPL)Banlu Kemiyatorn, Sam Hocevar2December 2004Permissive/Public domainPermissive/Public domainPermissive/Public domainNoYesYesNo
XCore Open Source License
also separate "Hardware License Agreement"
XMOS?February 2011PermissivePermissivePermissiveManuallyYesPermissive?
XFree86 1.1 LicenseThe XFree86 Project, Inc??Permissive?Permissive????
zlib/libpng licenseJean-Loup Gailly and Mark Adler??Permissive?Permissive????

Other licenses that don't have information:

License Author Latest version Publication date

Eiffel Forum LicenseNICE22002
Intel Open Source LicenseIntel CorporationN/A?
PHP LicensePHP Group3.01?
RealNetworks Public Source LicenseRealNetworks??
Reciprocal Public LicenseScott Shattuck1.52007
Sun Industry Standards Source LicenseSun Microsystems??
Sun Public LicenseSun Microsystems??
Sybase Open Watcom Public LicenseOpen WatcomN/A2003-01-28
Zope Public LicenseZope Foundation2.1?


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
Copyfree approval
Academic Free LicenseYesNoYesNoYesNo
Affero General Public License 3.0YesYesYesYesYesNo
Apache License 1.xYesNoYesYesYesNo
Apache License 2.0YesGPLv3 only[42]YesYesYesNo
Apple Public Source License 1.xNo[43]NoYesNoNoNo
Apple Public Source License 2.0YesNoYesNoYesNo
Artistic License 1.0No[note 1]NoYesYesNoNo
Artistic License 2.0YesYesYesYesYesNo
Beerware Licensesee "informal license" section[44]see "informal license" section[44]NoNoYes[45]Yes
Original BSD licenseYesNoNo[46]YesYesNo
Modified BSD licenseYesYesYesYesYesYes
Boost Software LicenseYesYesYesYesYesYes
Common Development and Distribution LicenseYesGPLv3 (GPLv2 disputed)[47][48][49][50][51][52]YesYesYesNo
Common Public LicenseYesNoYesYesYesNo
Creative Commons ZeroYes[53]Yes[53]not approved and not rejected[54]Partial[55][56]Yes[57]Yes
Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0YesGPLv3[58]?Yes?No
Cryptix General LicenseYesYesYesYesYes?
Eclipse Public LicenseYesNoYesYesYesNo
Educational Community LicenseYesYes[59]YesNoYes?
Eiffel Forum License 2YesYesYesYesYes?
European Union Public LicenceYesYes[19]YesYes??
GNU Affero General Public LicenseYesYes[21][60]YesYesYesNo
GNU General Public License v2YesNo[note 2][61]YesYesYesNo
GNU General Public License v3YesYes[note 3][61]YesYesYesNo
GNU Lesser General Public LicenseYesYesYesYesYesNo
GNU Free Documentation LicenseYesNo[62]Yes[63]No[64]NoNo
IBM Public LicenseYesNoYesYesYesNo
Intel Open Source LicenseYesYesYesNoNo?
ISC licenseYes[65]YesYesYesYesYes
LaTeX Project Public LicenseYesNoYesYesYesNo
Microsoft Public LicenseYesNoYesNoYesNo
Microsoft Reciprocal LicenseYesNoYesNoYesNo
MIT license / X11 licenseYesYesYesYesYesYes
Mozilla Public License 1.1YesNoYesYesYesNo
Mozilla Public License 2.0YesYes[note 4][66]YesYesYesNo
NASA Open Source AgreementNoNoYes?No?
Netscape Public LicenseYesNoNoNoYes?
Open Software LicenseYesNoYesNoYes?
OpenSSL licenseYesNoNoYesYes?
PHP LicenseYesNoYesYesYesNo
Python Software Foundation License 2.0.1; 2.1.1 and newerYesYesYesYesYesNo
Q Public LicenseYesNoYesNoYes?
Reciprocal Public License 1.5NoNoYesNoNo?
Sleepycat LicenseYesYesYesYesYes?
Sun Industry Standards Source LicenseYesNoYesNoYes?
Sun Public LicenseYesNoYesNoYes?
Sybase Open Watcom Public LicenseNoNoYesNoNo?
UnlicenseYes[67]Yes[53]while considered free not recommended[68]?Yes[57]Yes
W3C Software Notice and LicenseYesYesYesYesYesNo
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License (WTFPL)Yes[note 5]YesNo[69]YesYesYes
XFree86 1.1 LicenseYesYes[70]NoNoNo?
zlib/libpng licenseYesYesYesYesYesNo
Zope Public License 1.0YesNoNoNoYesNo
Zope Public License 2.0YesYesYesNoYesNo
  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


  1. 1 2 Open source licenses - Licenses by Name on
  2. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  3. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them: NASA Open Source Agreement". Free Software Foundation.
  4. "Licenses by Name". Open Source Initiative.
  5. "Other Resources & Disclaimer". Open Source Initiative. While the OSI acknowledges these as potentially helpful resources for the community, it does not endorse any content, contributors or license interpretations from these websites.[...]The OSI does not promote or exclusively favor any of the above resources, but instead mentions them as a neutral, separate third-party.
  6. "Relationship between the Free Software movement and Open Source movement", Free Software Foundation, Inc
  7. "What is Free Software", Free Software Foundation, Inc
  8. "Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in."
  9. Popp, Dr. Karl Michael (2015). Best Practices for commercial use of open source software. Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand. ISBN 978-3738619096.
  10. 1 2 "OSL 3.0 Explained".
  11. 1 2 3 4 " Affero General Public License version 2 (AGPLv2)".
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "the section 4 of the apache license version 2".
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "BSD license".
  14. "Using CC0 for public domain software". Creative Commons. April 15, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
  15. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". GNU Project. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  16. 1 2 cc-by-4-0-and-cc-by-sa-4-0-added-to-our-list-of-free-licenses (2015)
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "the eclipse public license version 1".
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 "EUPL compatible open source licences".
  20. 1 2 3 "EUPL text (1.1 & 1.2)".
  21. 1 2 : section 13 of the GNU AGPLv3 license
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 : GNU licenses copyleft
  23. 1 2 3 "the GNU Affero General Public License version 3".
  24. : If library is under GPLv3
  25. : Linking with the GNU GPLv3
  26. 1 2 3 "the GNU General Public License version 3".
  27. : the section 4 of the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3
  28. 1 2 "the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3".
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "MIT License".
  30. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "MPL version 2".
  31. Free Software Foundation. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  32. Free Software Foundation. "To be GPL-Compatible has to be compatible with Licenses GNU GPLv3 and GNU GPLv2 – Free Software Foundation". Software Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  33. Free Software Foundation. "GPL-Compatible Free Software Licenses – Free Software Foundation". Software Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  34. Free Software Foundation. "GPL-Incompatible Free Software Licenses – Free Software Foundation". Software Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  35. Free Software Foundation. "GPL-compatible Definition by FSF – Free Software Foundation". GPL-compatible Definition. Free Software Foundation.
  36. Free Software Foundation. "GPL-compatible Definition previous version by FSF – Free Software Foundation". GPL-compatible Definition. Free Software Foundation.
  37. Open Source Initiative. "The Approved Licenses". License Information. Open Source Initiative.
  38. Debian. "Debian – License information". Licenses. Debian.
  39. "The DFSG and Software Licenses". Debian wiki.
  40. Fedora. "Licensing – FedoraProject". Licenses. Fedora Project.
  41. Copyfree. "Copyfree Licenses".
  42. Free Software Foundation. "Apache License, Version 2.0". Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  43. "Apple Public Source License (APSL), version 1.x". Retrieved 2013-08-07.
  44. 1 2 "Various Licenses and Comments about Them". Free Software Foundation. 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  45. "Licensing/Beerware". Fedora Project. Retrieved 2015-03-10.
  46. "3-clause BSD License at OSI".
  47. "Various Licenses and Comments About Them - Common Development and Distribution License". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved 2006-12-31.
  48. Michael Larabel (6 October 2015). "Ubuntu Is Planning To Make The ZFS File-System A "Standard" Offering". Phoronix.
  49. Dustin Kirkland (18 February 2016). "ZFS Licensing and Linux". Ubuntu Insights. Canonical.
  50. Are GPLv2 and CDDL incompatible? on by James E.J. Bottomley "What the above analysis shows is that even though we presumed combination of GPLv2 and CDDL works to be a technical violation, there's no way actually to prosecute such a violation because we can’t develop a convincing theory of harm resulting. Because this makes it impossible to take the case to court, effectively it must be concluded that the combination of GPLv2 and CDDL, provided you’re following a GPLv2 compliance regime for all the code, is allowable." (23 February 2016)
  51. Moglen, Eben; Choudhary, Mishi (26 February 2016). "The Linux Kernel, CDDL and Related Issues".
  52. GPL Violations Related to Combining ZFS and Linux on by Bradley M. Kuhn and Karen M. Sandler (February 25, 2016)
  53. 1 2 3 "Various Licenses and Comments about Them - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation".
  54. "Frequently Answered Questions". CC0 was not explicitly rejected, but the License Review Committee was unable to reach consensus that it should be approved
  55. "Re: Creative Commons CC0".
  56. "License information".
  57. 1 2 "Licensing:Main".
  58. "Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 declared one-way compatible with GNU GPL version 3 — Free Software Foundation — working together for free software".
  59. Free Software Foundation. "Educational Community License 2.0". Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  60. : "We use only licenses that are compatible with the GNU GPL for GNU software."
  61. 1 2 "Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses – Is GPLv3 compatible with GPLv2?". Retrieved 3 June 2014. No. Some of the requirements in GPLv3, such as the requirement to provide Installation Information, do not exist in GPLv2. As a result, the licenses are not compatible: if you tried to combine code released under both these licenses, you would violate section 6 of GPLv2. However, if code is released under GPL "version 2 or later," that is compatible with GPLv3 because GPLv3 is one of the options it permits.
  62. "General Resolution: Why the GNU Free Documentation License is not suitable for Debian main".
  63. Free Software Foundation. "A Quick Guide to GPLv3". Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
  64. Mozilla Foundation. "MPL 2.0 FAQ". Licenses. Mozilla Foundation.
  65. "Various Licenses and Comments about Them - GNU Project - Free Software Foundation".
  66. "Frequently Answered Questions".
  67. "OSI Board Meeting Minutes, Wednesday, March 4, 2009".
  68. Free Software Foundation. "XFree86 1.1 License". Licenses. Free Software Foundation.
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