Licensing for open source developers

Licensing for open source developers

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3 min read

MIT License

The MIT License stands out as a widely embraced open source software license utilized by platforms such as Ruby on Rails, jQuery, and Node.js. Functioning as a permissive license, it outlines the permissible actions, restrictions, and obligations when engaging with, altering, or distributing the code it covers.

This contrasts with copyleft licenses such as GPL v3 and AGPL, which mandate that derivative works must adopt the same license as the original. Notably, the MIT License exhibits fewer constraints compared to other permissive options like the BSD family and Apache License 2.0. In this blog post, we will delve into these distinctions, exploring the specific requirements and permissions associated with the MIT License.

At present, the MIT License stands out as the most extensively employed open source license. As previously noted, being a permissive license, it imposes minimal requirements.

Moreover, the MIT License is known for its simplicity and ease of comprehension, distinguishing it from various other prevalent licenses.

Obligations:

In implementing the MIT License for your code copy or modification, two essential elements are mandated:

  1. Inclusion of the original copyright notice.

  2. Provision of a copy of the license itself.

The MIT License streamlines compliance by enabling licensors to apply the license with the copyright notice pre-filled.

Differing from copyleft licenses, the MIT License does not compel individuals modifying the original code to release their modifications under the same license. There is no reciprocity or "pay it forward" requirement, allowing your substantially reworked code to remain proprietary.

Opting for the MIT License is highly advantageous as it permits the reuse and modification of your work without imposing a mandatory source code sharing requirement. This becomes crucial, as organizations might hesitate to incorporate your code into their proprietary products if obligated to release their modifications to the public.

Only prohibition you have, you are not allowed to legally hold the code author(s) responsible for any issues. Additionally, you are prohibited from removing the copyright notice and original license from your version of the code.

Under the MIT License, users have the freedom to:

  1. Utilize the code in commercial applications: This entails the creation of proprietary software by companies, incorporating some or all of the original open source code and subsequently charging fees for the software.

  2. Modify the code: Developers have the flexibility to make alterations or updates to the code as they see fit.

  3. Distribute copies of the code and any modifications: Organizations are permitted to distribute and sell copies or modified versions of the code, provided that the original copyright notice and the license itself are included.

  4. Sublicense the code: This allows the incorporation of the original code into a modification with a more restrictive license.

Apache License

Similar to the MIT License, the Apache License 2.0 mandates that any utilization of the code must encompass the original copyright notice and a complete copy of the license. However, these are not the sole stipulations. The Apache License 2.0 also specifies that individuals making substantial modifications to the code must provide a description of their changes. Moreover, if the open source library incorporates a "NOTICE" file containing attribution notes, users are obligated to incorporate that NOTICE alongside the code.

Accompanying these limitations are a couple of supplementary advantages. Specifically, Apache 2.0 expressly affords copyright holders the ability to assert patents related to their work.

BSD License

The MIT and BSD Licenses share a striking resemblance, encompassing identical fundamental requirements. Nonetheless, the BSD License introduces multiple variants, with the BSD 3-Clause License being the most widely adopted, featuring slightly less permissive language. Consequently, the MIT License maintains its status as the more favored choice between the two.