Suppose you have an open source piece of software. You decide you want to publish the software under an open source license. You spend time researching licenses online and finally you find the perfect one.

My question:

Are there any (better) alternatives to simply adding a link to the chosen license?

If yes, what are some examples?

If no, why not? How could I prevent a broken link?


3 Answers 3


I'll convert my comment to an answer and suggest this:

Add the entire text of the license to your software, formatted like a comment (or as a separate file). This is essentially foolproof. Longer licenses would take up more space, but this should not be a problem. Licenses such as the MIT license, which are quite short, should be easy to fit in. As Zizouz212 mentioned, though, be sure to indicate that this is the text of the last updated version, in order to account for changes.

  • The one defect with this approach here is that the licence terms that are extended, such as GPL V3 or later. Jul 7, 2015 at 23:12
  • @AndrewRussell That's true, I guess.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 7, 2015 at 23:44
  • But still, It's much better than not having the license available as all. @HDE226868 Perhaps you could add a tip to have a "last updated" section when adding the entire license to the code in order to prevent the information from outdating itself?
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 11, 2015 at 16:01
  • @Zizouz212 Sure.
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 11, 2015 at 16:01
  • I don't quite get what the defect would be there? Jul 13, 2015 at 20:59

Choose a well understood, common, supported and maintained Licence!

(just like you choose your software)

I would choose one of the following:

  • GPL, LGPL, AGPL licences
  • Creative Commons Licences
  • Apache Licence
  • Eclipse Public Licence
  • BSD licence

Or other Common Licences applicable to the language/platforms you inhabit.

The organizations that support and promote these licenses are especially careful to keep the links valid. Usually, it is a key facet of the organisation's reason for existing.

Compare this to company related links:

i.e. Oracle bought Sun and refocussed around open source, I am not sure if links changed much but some licenses were almost deprecated and the licenses won't be maintained.

  • 2
    Couldn't those also be susceptible to broken links?
    – HDE 226868
    Jul 7, 2015 at 23:43

If you are referring to link rot, the best solution is to archive it in the wayback machine. That way, should the link ever break, you can point it to the wayback machine's archive. A good way to ensure this would be to index the page in the wayback machine whenever you publish your document with the link.

I do like @HDE 226868's suggestion of adding the license content too. I think you should combine them.

Of course this is susceptible to going down, as is any reliance on a third party solution, however I do not think the internet archive is in any danger of going away anytime soon.

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