Maintaining Open Source Projects: Licenses

Tute Costa

We just released a new chapter of the Maintaining Open Source Projects book: “Licenses”.

When we publish a new software project without any specified license, it legally belongs to ourselves, and nobody can use or edit the project without our explicit permission. If we want to seize the benefits of an open source community we need to allow it to happen. The new chapter will teach you how to do it.

There are four ways we can make a project Free Software:

  1. Releasing it to the Public Domain, without any restrictions on how it may be used or built upon
  2. Releasing it under a “Copyleft” type of license, guaranteeing any derivative project will keep the same license. An example of a Copyleft license is the General Public License (GPL)
  3. Releasing it under a “permissive” type of license, like the BSD, MIT or ISC licenses, by which we allow anyone to use the software however they like, and even relicense it under different terms, provided they keep the copyright notice
  4. Dual-licensing allows, for example, the use of both a Copyleft type of license and a proprietary one, where the software owners can sell per-copy exclusive licenses to organizations that want to use or redistribute the software under proprietary terms

Each option has its set of pros and cons, which we study in the new chapter.

Maintaining Open Source Projects is useful for you if you want to learn the soft skills needed to grow and maintain a software project following open source practices. It covers topics such as shaping the community, promoting your library, keeping good communication with many different people, deciding when to release new versions, and prioritizing all of the above.

This book is useful outside of open source too. For example, as a software company you can embrace the practices that for years have encouraged thorough code reviews, forthright communication, and efficient collaboration. The book is built following the very same practices it describes, so you get access to its GitHub repository, commits, discussions, and more.

Like our other beta books, this is a work in progress. You may find errors, but you’ll also be able to ask questions and help shape the book’s development. You’ll get a $10 discount on the final price, and regular updates as we write more chapters.

Download a free sample, and if you like it you may buy the latest version at a beta discount. Enjoy!