FAQ: Why should I use a standard open source license?

Using standard, OSI-approved open source licenses lowers the barriers to entry to a project by allowing new contributors to quickly and efficiently assess what legal terms will apply to their contributions, instead of requiring them to assess different legal terms for each new project they use or participate in. Using standard licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition, particularly those licenses that are widely-used, can also help new projects by reducing the chance of cultural, procedural, or legal errors that can be present in new, "custom" licenses.

Web site entry? Why you should use standard, approved open source licenses

One key reason that open source has been such a successful  development model is that it lowers the barriers to entry and increases trust. Using standard licenses that have been approved by the Open Source Initiative is important to both of those benefits.

Standard licenses lower the barrier to entry

When a new contributor takes a look at an existing project, one of the questions they often have is how their contributions will be share with the world - in other words, what legal terms their contributions will be licensed under. This is true whether the new contributor is a lone hacker, or an employee of a large company with a big legal team. In either case, using a well-known license that is standard in the community and approved by the Open Source Initiative allows those new contributors to very quickly and efficiently assess whether your project's licensing works for them. In contrast, using a non-standard license, or no license at all, means that they have to ask questions - perhaps of you, or perhaps of their lawyers. In either case, that non-standard license has put more steps in between them and contributing to your project. The same is true of users who are trying to understand whether or not they can use your project. Using standard, widely-used terms that comply with the Open Source Definition makes it easier for them to start using and investing in your project.

Standard licenses increase trust

[This section still needs a rewrite]

New users and contributors to an open source project also have to trust your judgment and ability, since they may be investing significant time and resources into your project. As the manager of an open source project, using standard licenses that are approved by the Open Source Initiative signals that you're aware of community norms and behaviors, and that you've avoided "reinventing the wheel", which many engineers consider a sign of bad judgment.

Created by Luis Villa on 2014.04.27 at 12:01:14 PDT

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