Which kind of licence would be better for the open source community. An extremely permissive licence like the MIT or Apache Licences of a more copyleft licence like the GNU licences that limit commercial use. I initially thought the GNU licences are better for making more projects open source, but I later realized that if the commercial use were limited organizations and people who have commercial interests in mind would want to stay away from Open Source. So is there any kind of definitive answer on what to use for larger open source projects?

  • 3
    Please define "better for the open source community"
    – Felix G
    Aug 6 '20 at 10:28
  • @FelixG Get more people and organizations to think contributing to Open Source is worth their time and effort.
    – aklingam
    Aug 6 '20 at 10:29
  • 1
    Voting to close as "opinion based". If there were an answer to this question, we wouldn't have both strong and weak copyleft licenses. Aug 6 '20 at 12:23
  • 7
    Don't you think if there was a 'better' one, that the others would be mostly extinct? It all depends on what you desire on how your code is treated. Aug 6 '20 at 12:23
  • I believe the "cancer" ( (c) Ballmer) and the BSD line are both okay and upvotable. Maybe the question has multiple, contradicting answers, but I think this time it is okay.
    – peterh
    Aug 6 '20 at 20:24

Your question presumes there's one free software community, with one set of goals in mind. In my experience, in any room containing ten free software enthusiasts, you can usually find at least eleven different motivations. But I do think there is something objective that can be said about the permissive vs. copyleft free licence distinction.

Permissive free licences are better at making your code free. They're easier and simpler to apply, because modulo patent protections they're all the same licence. You throw your code out there, everyone can use it, it's not difficult. If your aim as a developer is to have as many people as possible use your code, these are the licences for you.

Copyleft free licences are better at keeping your code free. They're a bit finickier to use, you have to decide things like whether to go Affero or not, but your code will be free for as long as it lasts, howsoever it evolves. If your aim as a developer is to have your code, and all its users, free for the foreseeable future, these are the licences for you.

The thing is that both those aims are legitimate. Any given developer will know what's important to her (or him, or hir) and will pick a licence accordingly. The Apache folk aren't wrong to use the Apache licence, they're just signalling what they value. The FSF aren't wrong to keep on with the GPL, they too are just signalling what they value. There is no right set of things to value; different people can legitimately place different weights on those two sets of values. I'd advise anyone who thinks otherwise to spend more time worrying about what's important to them, and less about what other people value.

And incidentally and in passing, the GPL is no bar to commercial code use; I think you may be looking for the word proprietary.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.