Text of the GNU All-Permissive License (also known as the "FSF All Permissive License"):

Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification, are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved. This file is offered as-is, without any warranty.

  • The FSF only recommends its use for README files and other short documentation (reference: [1], [2]), but is the license also usable for source code (anywhere from 10 to 10,000+ lines)?

  • The license is approved by the FSF. Is it also approved by the OSI?

  • 1
    By "usable", do you mean legally, whether it generally would be considered a good idea, or something else? Dec 9, 2023 at 12:34
  • @PhilipKendall By "usable", I mean legally and whether it generally would be considered a good idea.
    – Flux
    Dec 9, 2023 at 12:40
  • Those two questions have polar opposite answers Dec 9, 2023 at 13:03
  • Has it been approved by OSI? Looking at the list opensource.org/licenses I do not find it there. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not OSI compliant; probably the OSI just didn't take the time to review this license.
    – Brandin
    Dec 12, 2023 at 7:08

1 Answer 1


Legally, you can license your code under any license you feel like, even one which doesn't make sense: for example, you could license a piece of music under the Open Database License. In some cases, that might mean that you aren't in fact granting anyone any rights, but that's still something you're allowed to do.

Is it a good idea to use licenses for purposes they're not intended? In almost all cases, almost certainly not. License proliferation - where users must understand more and more licenses in order to use a combined work - is a real problem. If you want to license code under a short, permissive license instead use one of the MIT or BSD licenses; these are better understood by the community and will probably lead to greater uptake of your code.

  • 1
    I fully agree. For my own code, I generally use only two licenses, and I have only two rules: 1) If I truly believe that the code makes the world better and is profoundly important, use AGPLv3, otherwise use MIT X11. 2) The license should not be longer than the code. So far, I have not produced any code which I believe to rise to the level of #1, so all my code is under MIT X11. (Obviously, this does not apply to code written on Stack Exchange nor to code written for my employer.) Dec 9, 2023 at 22:06

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