Concise description of all common software licenses for the average programmer?

| | August 7, 2015

I’m reviewing some jQuery plugins for distribution with closed source (on the server, anyhow) commercial applications. One thing I’m noticing is that there isn’t any standard license that covers all plugins.

After reading through the legal BS of a couple licenses, I’m feeling very glad I didn’t go through with getting a law degree.

I’m interested in a concise list of all common software licenses and what requirements they place on code’s use in a software project.

By “software licenses” I mean licenses applied to code that is released to the public domain.

Imagine a comparison grid of licenses (MS-PL, GNU 3.0, etc) and restrictions (Include disclaimer, modify source, not for profit, etc), where you can get an idea of what the license says before slogging through the legalese.

3 Responses to “Concise description of all common software licenses for the average programmer?”

  1. The Gnu project has a list, but it goes way past being concise, and only covers a small subset of Free and pseudo-free licenses. But if you want to know about the interactions between various shackled software licenses, you are on your own in a house of mirrors.

    This is actually one of the big problems with software development, particularly closed-source software. Everyone has to come up with their very own custom license. As a result, any company of even moderate size ends up needing a full time professional license tracking person just to ensure they stay legal.

    Even stuff labeled “freeware” will often have license line-items prohibiting the kind of use I want to do. Examples have been prohibitions aginst commercial use, military use, or redistribution (eg: to our customer).

    This is a secondary benifit to true Free Software use. When I’m looking for a new software tool, I make sure to put “GPL” on the search line. Its license terms are spelled out, well-known, easy to re-acquire if you lose the info, and there’s that nice webpage explaining its interactions with other licenses.

  2. The ‘duplicate’ link contained a link to something like I’m talking about:

    Which contains six aspects of some common licenses. This is the best one I’ve seen so far.

  3. Looks like the GNU project keeps a list of common software licenses here.

    I also found a Wikipedia article that attempts to compare many licenses in a table format.

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