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Encyclopedia > Open source license

An open-source license is a copyright license for computer software that makes the source code available under terms that allow for modification and royalty-free redistribution. One popular (and sometimes considered normative) set of open source licenses are those approved by the Open Source Initiative based on their Open Source Definition.


OSI Approved Licenses (http://www.opensource.org/licenses/)

Software in the public domain (that is, with no copyright license at all), meets those criteria as long as all source code is made available, and is therefore recognized by the OSI and entitled to use their service mark. In addition, OSI has approved the following licenses as of 2003:

Non-OSI open source licenses

Licenses which are source-available but not OSI-Certified include:

  • Solaris
  • PGP
  • SpamPal (an anti-spam program with a license which prohibits spamming as a means of selling the program or derivative works. Since that restricts a field of endeavor, it's not open source according to the Open Source Definition.)


It should be noted that the Free Software Foundation has related but distinct criteria for evaluating whether or not a license qualifies a program as free software. See Free software license.

Likewise, the Debian project has its own criteria, the Debian Free Software Guidelines, which in many ways was a precursor to the Open Source Definition.

See also

External links

  • The Open Source Initiative (http://www.opensource.org/)
  • Microsoft comments on Open Source Licenses (http://www.microsoft.com/resources/sharedsource/Articles/LicensingOverview.mspx)
  • Open Source Licensing (http://books.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/09/21/0239245) a review and discussion of Lawrence Rosen's book Open Source Licensing: Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law (ISBN 0131487876) on slashdot



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