Understanding licenses in open source

Understanding licenses in open source

As my journey into open source continues. I realized there are various types of licenses. The ones I was familiar with the most were MIT and Apache but I did not know about the other licenses. It would be perfect for me to learn more about the various licenses when participating in the open-source community.

Understanding the types

Open-source licenses fall into two main categories permissive and copyleft. A permissive license means anyone can use, modify, or redistribute any part. A copyleft means the owner can claim copyright and specify what parts of the software users can modify, or redistribute. Some licenses have strong copylefts while other licenses can have weaker copylefts. It is important to read the types of licenses and pick which one suits your needs.

These are the most common open-source licenses used:


The most popular license used. Anyone can do whatever they want as long as they include the original copyright and license in the copy of the software.


Less permissive than MIT because of the addition of stating any changes made to the software, and including the notice file if they have one.


The most common copyleft licenses protect the software from becoming proprietary. Closed versions cannot be distributed, and the source code must be released.

Non Software liscenses

Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses are used for media and data.

SIL Open Font License 1.1

The SIL Open Font License 1.1 allows fonts to be freely used.

CERN Open Hardware Licence Version 2

The CERN Open Hardware Version 2 is for open-source hardware projects. There are three types the license; permissive, weakly reciprocal, and strongly reciprocal.


OSI Approved Licenses

Choosing an open-source license

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Jamie Larson