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202 votes
3 answers
105k views

What are the essential differences between the BSD and MIT licences?

There are many articles out there which cover the topic in length and breadth, but so far I haven't found a nice, concise answer to the question. What are the most important differences between the ...
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  • 2,607
175 votes
9 answers
33k views

I lost the source code for programs I released as GPL. What to do?

I wrote a software utility I released freely as GPL on a separate machine some ten years ago. But the machine I wrote it on is lost, and I can't find the source code on any of my backups. I am still ...
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  • 1,502
157 votes
2 answers
70k views

What can I assume if a publicly published project has no license?

There is some code on GitHub that I would like to use. The repository has no public declaration of license that I can find. But this particular project has over 200 forks and is a pretty active ...
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  • 1,673
127 votes
6 answers
15k views

How can free and open source projects be monetized?

Many open source projects I see involve having dedicated servers, as well as the expensive infrastructure that powers it. Many employ developers to work on the software full or part time. What are ...
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  • 1,769
117 votes
5 answers
14k views

How can a "crayon" license be a problem?

Bruce Perens (co-founder of OSI) has coined the term "crayon license": I've been calling these "crayon licenses", taking a line from an old Monty Python sketch about a dog license ...
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  • 8,705
102 votes
5 answers
53k views

Can I use GPL libraries in a closed source project if only the output is distributed?

If I create a closed source application which uses some GPL licensed libraries but don't actually distribute the software, only its output, can I keep the software closed sourced? Specifically, I am ...
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  • 1,125
95 votes
8 answers
8k views

How to contribute to Open Source as a non-programmer? [closed]

I really like a specific open source project and would like to contribute to it. Unfortunately I don't know anything about programming. What are meaningful ways in which a non-programmer can ...
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  • 11.3k
87 votes
5 answers
11k views

How can a project be relicensed?

I've found out that the license I picked for my project does not quite do what I wanted it do (bad research). Now I want to change the license. Is it as simple as changing the LICENSE.txt in the root?...
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79 votes
2 answers
15k views

Why is CC BY-SA discouraged for code?

Everybody knows that you shouldn't use a CC BY-SA license on your code. Even the Creative Commons folk recommend against it. What I don't know or understand is why. I can't seem to find any ...
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  • 5,038
72 votes
4 answers
15k views

How does GitHub's "forking right" cope with an "All rights reserved" project?

The GitHub FAQ states (emphasis mine): You're under no obligation to choose a license. It's your right not to include one with your code or project, but please be aware of the implications. ...
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  • 820
71 votes
3 answers
13k views

If I change the license of my project, can someone use the old license by navigating through Git history?

I am creating an open-source library in JavaScript and using Git to control versions and history. I have several commits in which the LICENSE file is X (for example, MIT), but I would like to change ...
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  • 799
65 votes
5 answers
38k views

Is Microsoft VS code really open source?

I have been using MS VS Code since a while now and I am I really loving it. Although the other day I was having a discussion regarding editors with my mentor where he pointed to me this. It's ...
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  • 753
65 votes
2 answers
3k views

Relicensing content under CC-BY-SA

I have compiled a body of work from numerous contributors, who all licensed their individual works to me under CC-BY-SA version 3. Can I now instead redistribute their work under CC-BY-SA version 4?
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63 votes
9 answers
8k views

Why do some people refer to Linux as GNU/Linux?

In some cases I have noticed that some people say GNU/Linux instead of just Linux. Why is that so? Do both terms mean the same or is there a subtle difference?
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  • 10.8k
63 votes
3 answers
5k views

How can I determine if two open source licenses are compatible with each other?

Given two open source projects, each with different licenses, are there metrics or resources I can use to determine if it is legitimate to copy code from one of the projects to the other?
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  • 1,059
58 votes
3 answers
7k views

Should I include license text in a single file or all source files?

Many licenses, such as Apache 2.0, have both a long and a short form. Typically, the long form is included in the repository as a single LICENSE file, and the short form is used in the actual source ...
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  • 6,715
56 votes
7 answers
5k views

Is requiring a license a violation of the GPL? Can I get around it?

At work, we use a version of GCC provided by a vendor of a proprietary OS. The vendor has modified gcc so that it will only run if it successfully acquires one of a limited number of licenses we've ...
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52 votes
4 answers
10k views

Security of GitHub.com

Recently some non-technical managers where I work found out that GitHub has a repository with code from "Hidden Tear" which is a ransomware application. The immediate reaction was to ban ...
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51 votes
3 answers
13k views

Can I license my project with an open-source license but disallow commercial use?

I'd like to make my project open-source. Is there a free/open-source license that lets me do that, but disallows anyone receiving my project to use it for commercial purposes or monetary gain? In a ...
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  • 8,770
50 votes
4 answers
18k views

Someone open-sourced an un-open-source project

Someone (Person_A) is sharing an open source project (Project_A) on GitHub. The Project_A is a decompiled version of another project (Project_B). But the original Project_B is not open source, and ...
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  • 629
49 votes
2 answers
4k views

What's the right way to ask if a GitHub project is maintained?

It happens all the time. You come across a useful-looking project that has few or no recent commits, many long-open issues and pull requests, and nothing is changing. How do you usually ask if the ...
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  • 591
49 votes
2 answers
10k views

Is Fairphone violating the GPL with its newest Fairphone 3?

Fairphone does not provide any source code for its Fairphone 3 phone. They admit this on their website and also confirmed this to me in an email: We really appreciate your feedback and concern, but ...
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  • 594
48 votes
12 answers
10k views

Is GPL "for research purposes only" self-contradictory?

So I used a piece of software which claims to be open source and is licensed under "GPL for research purposes only". As far as I know, GPL 2 and 3 are not themselves free, in sense that you can't ...
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  • 596
47 votes
3 answers
4k views

How to explain to users that we do this in our spare time?

Success can be painful for a FLOSS project. We now have nearly a thousand active users and many more people are becoming active contributors to our backlog/issue tracker. Note that while we're getting ...
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  • 5,038
46 votes
4 answers
21k views

Is it legal to use GPL code in a proprietary, closed-source program by putting it in a separate, standalone program?

As we all know, the GNU General Public License (GPL) is a "copyleft" source license: which means it is designed not merely to make the code to which it is initially applied free and preserve its ...
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46 votes
3 answers
6k views

What can/should I do when I see a violation to GPL restrictions?

Some years ago, I was working on a software company that used some copyrighted JAR dependencies that they had bought from a medium-size obscure private company for a very expensive price. After some ...
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45 votes
9 answers
9k views

How can cheating be prevented in a FLOSS multiplayer game?

Hacking and cheating in online multiplayer games (that use the typical client-server model) is not uncommon. For example, in some first-person shooters there are "aimbots" that allow the player's ...
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  • 2,488
45 votes
9 answers
3k views

Does open source qualify as being part of the public domain?

According to Google, Open Source is... denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. It seems to be that the product seems to ...
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  • 6,239
44 votes
3 answers
3k views

Report a security issue to a project hosted at GitHub

If I find a security issue in a Github project should I raise it in the project's issue tracker (where it's open to public scrutiny) or try to find private means to contact the repo's maintainer so ...
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  • 543
44 votes
3 answers
6k views

Should I include a copyright line in every file?

This is similar to my other question, but specifically about Copyright rather than Licensing. Typically, each source file contains a line of the form Copyright 2010-2015, Me Is this strictly ...
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  • 6,715
43 votes
3 answers
10k views

Is it socially acceptable to star your own repositories on GitHub?

While I'm searching for a new project to start contributing to, I often check the daily email I get from GitHub that lists the most popular repositories of the day and also the repositories starred by ...
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  • 1,339
43 votes
5 answers
8k views

Can there be a copyright on negative code?

This is a hypothetical question, but I am curious. Feel free to ignore it, when it seems too theoretical for you. Some people may know the situation that you implement a feature and in the end you ...
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  • 662
43 votes
1 answer
8k views

How to deal with contributors who write very bad quality code?

As a maintainer of an open source project which strictly enforces coding style and 100% test coverage, how do I deal with enthusiastic contributors who write terrible looking, untested code (that ...
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  • 615
43 votes
3 answers
64k views

Open-source license to prevent commercial use? [duplicate]

I could really use some help picking the right license for my project. The project is already released on github under the GPLv3 license but I have been made aware that this prevents uses that I want ...
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  • 549
42 votes
2 answers
9k views

Is GitHub "releases" section safe from malicious code? To be specific, does the binary match the code in a restrictive way?

When a developer creates a binary from the code and puts it in the releases section, does it match the code in a restrictive way so there is no chance that malicious code is compiled into it? How does ...
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  • 523
42 votes
5 answers
46k views

"GitHub Stars" is a very useful metric. But for *what*?

Users on the GitHub website are able to "star" other people's repositories, thereby saving them in their list of Starred Repos. Some people use "stars" to indicate that they like a project, other ...
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40 votes
3 answers
1k views

Can I "Override" a licensing policy?

On many sites, especially Stack Overflow, I can't help but notice such amazing code snippets. However, they come with a "catch" designed by the author. With user contributions being licensed with the ...
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  • 6,239
40 votes
2 answers
4k views

Do I have to change license of fork if mainstream changes license?

I forked a repository a year ago, which at the time had GPLv3 license. Mainstream repository has now applied AGPLv3 license. Do I have to change my license too ? My fork's last commit is over a year ...
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39 votes
8 answers
53k views

Can GPL licenced software be used in corporate environments?

If software is licenced under a GPL license, can it be used without restriction in a corporate/commercial environment? The software that I am refering to is QGIS which provides this description: ...
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  • 601
39 votes
7 answers
4k views

How to react to unhelpful contributions to otherwise unnoticed projects

Time and again, it is noted how frustrating it seems to contributors when their contributions are rejected (e.g. here, here, or here). That is why I am somewhat undecided about how to handle a ...
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38 votes
6 answers
9k views

Why would anyone contribute to Android?

I think of open-source developers as people with a certain sense of social responsibility. In that regard, why would someone decide to contribute to Android? Why help Google make more money? How does ...
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  • 561
38 votes
4 answers
9k views

Why did Google make Chromium Open Source?

This question really baffles me. What advantage does making it Open Source bring? Aren't they worried someone can learn the secrets in their code and make a competing version of chrome?
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  • 1,125
38 votes
6 answers
1k views

How do I attract new programmers?

I am working on a project, currently by myself. It's a side project, I'm not expecting to make money on it. It's posted on GitHub, and I'm going to be building a project page for it. Once it's built, ...
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38 votes
3 answers
18k views

What is the difference between FOSS and FLOSS?

FOSS stands for "Free and Open Source Software", whereas FLOSS stands for "Free/Libre/Open Source Software". The use of libre denotes the idea that the software is "free as in free speech, not free ...
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  • 1,555
38 votes
3 answers
3k views

How could using code released under CC0 infringe on the author's patents?

Creative Commons defines a CC0 license type (here's the full legal code) that claims to allow creators to release their works into the public domain by waiving "all their copyright and related rights ...
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  • 525
37 votes
7 answers
14k views

Can I take BSD licensed code and distribute it under GPL?

Or in more general terms: Can I take code which is licensed under a permissive open source license (like the BSD license) and distribute it under a copyleft free software license (like the GPL)? ...
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  • 473
37 votes
2 answers
4k views

Minified GPL code inside Javascript webapp

This answer on Chess Stack Exchange comes from the lead developer of a webapp for learning chess that integrates a version of Stockfish (a popular chess-playing program released under GPLv3) ...
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37 votes
3 answers
26k views

What's the difference between Copyright and Licensing?

Preamble There are two other questions, specifically related to Licensing and Copyright. In reviewing the answers and comments, I get the feeling that people generally consider the two to be the ...
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  • 6,715
36 votes
7 answers
5k views

How can I get users to read the docs/FAQ before asking new questions?

I created an open source user management system for PHP which is (admittedly) directed towards novice programmers. The idea is to help familiarize "Cowboys from Code Canyon" with the tools ...
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  • 847
36 votes
2 answers
20k views

Why does Linux still use the GPLv2?

As I know, Linux intentionally avoids the switch from GPLv2 to GPLv3. It has the unfortunate side-effect, that it doesn't take part in the defense of the opensource world from the most recent danger, ...
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