Comparison of free and open-source software licences

This is a comparison of free and open-source software licences. The comparison only covers software licences with a linked article for details, approved by at least one expert group at the FSF, the OSI, the Debian project or the Fedora project. For a list of licences not specifically intended for software, see List of free content licences.

FOSS licences

stands for "Free and Open Source Software". There is no one universally agreed-upon definition of FOSS software and various groups maintain approved lists of licences. The Open Source Initiative is one such organization keeping a list of open-source licences. The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of what it considers free. FSF's free software and OSI's open-source licences together are called FOSS licences. There are licences accepted by the OSI which are not free as per the free software definition. The open source definition allows for further restrictions like price, type of contribution and origin of the contribution, e.g. the case of the NASA Open Source Agreement, which requires the code to be "original" work. The OSI does not endorse FSF licence analysis as per their disclaimer.
The FSF's Free Software definition focuses on the user's unrestricted rights to use a program, to study and modify it, to copy it, and redistribute it for any purpose, which are considered by the FSF the four essential freedoms. The OSI's open-source criteria focuses on the availability of the source code and the advantages of an unrestricted and community driven development model. Yet, many FOSS licences, like the Apache License, and all Free Software licences allow commercial use of FOSS components.

General comparison

For a simpler comparison across the most common licenses see free-software license comparison.
The following table compares various features of each licence and is a general guide to the terms and conditions of each licence, based on seven subjects or categories. Recent tools like the European Commissions' Joinup Licensing Assistant, makes possible the licenses selection and comparison based on more than 40 subjects or categories, with access to their SPDX identifier and full text. The table below lists the permissions and limitations regarding the following subjects:
LicenceAuthorLatest versionPublication dateLinkingDistributionModificationPatent grantPrivate useSublicensingTM grant

Academic Free LicenseLawrence E. Rosen3.02002
Affero General Public LicenseAffero Inc2.02007
Apache LicenseApache Software Foundation2.02004
Apple Public Source LicenseApple Computer2.02003August 6, 2003
Artistic LicenseLarry Wall2.02000
BeerwarePoul-Henning Kamp421987
BSD LicenseRegents of the University of California3.0
Boost Software License1.02003August 17, 2003
Creative Commons ZeroCreative Commons1.02009
CC BYCreative Commons4.02002
CC BY-SACreative Commons4.02002
CeCILLCEA / CNRS / INRIA2.12005June 21, 2013
Common Development and Distribution LicenseSun Microsystems1.02004-12December 1, 2004
Common Public LicenseIBM1.02001May 2001
Cryptix General LicenseCryptix Foundation1995
Eclipse Public LicenseEclipse Foundation2.0August 24, 2017
Educational Community LicenseIndiana University1.02007
European Union Public LicenceEuropean Commission1.22009May 2017
FreeBSDThe FreeBSD project1999April 1999
GNU Affero General Public LicenseFree Software Foundation3.02007
GNU General Public LicenseFree Software Foundation3.02007June 2007
GNU Lesser General Public LicenseFree Software Foundation3.02007June 2007
IBM Public LicenseIBM1.01999August 1999
ISC licenseInternet Systems Consortium2003June 2003
LaTeX Project Public LicenseLaTeX project1.3c
Microsoft Public LicenseMicrosoft
MIT license / X11 licenseMIT1988
Mozilla Public LicenseMozilla Foundation2.02012January 3, 2012
Netscape Public LicenseNetscape1.1
Open Software LicenseLawrence Rosen3.02005
OpenSSL licenseOpenSSL Project
PHP LicensePHP Group3.012019
Python Software Foundation LicensePython Software Foundation2
Q Public LicenseTrolltech
Sleepycat LicenseSleepycat Software1996
Unlicenseunlicense.org12010December 2010
W3C Software Notice and LicenseW3C200212312002December 31, 2002
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License Banlu Kemiyatorn, Sam Hocevar22004December 2004
XCore Open Source License
also separate "Hardware License Agreement"
XMOS2011February 2011
XFree86 1.1 LicenseThe XFree86 Project, Inc
zlib/libpng licenseJean-Loup Gailly and Mark Adler

Other licences that don't have information:
LicenceAuthorLatest versionPublication date

Eiffel Forum LicenseNICE22002
Intel Open Source LicenseIntel Corporation
RealNetworks Public Source LicenseRealNetworks
Reciprocal Public LicenseScott Shattuck1.52007
Sun Industry Standards Source LicenseSun Microsystems
Sun Public LicenseSun Microsystems
Sybase Open Watcom Public LicenseOpen Watcom2003-01-28
Zope Public LicenseZope Foundation2.1


This table lists for each licence what organizations from the FOSS community have approved itbe it as a "free software" or as an "open source" licence, how those organizations categorize it, and the licence compatibility between them for a combined or mixed derivative work. Organizations usually approve specific versions of software licences. For instance, a FSF approval means that the Free Software Foundation considers a licence to be free software licence. The FSF recommends at least "Compatible with GPL" and preferably copyleft. The OSI recommends a mix of permissive and copyleft licences, the Apache License 2.0, 2- & 3-clause BSD license, GPL, LGPL, MIT license, MPL 2.0, CDDL and EPL.
Licence and versionFSF approval
GPL compatibility
OSI approval
Debian approval
Fedora approval
Academic Free License
Affero General Public License 3.0
Apache License 1.x
Apache License 2.0
Apple Public Source License 1.x
Apple Public Source License 2.0
Artistic License 1.0
Artistic License 2.0
Beerware License
Original BSD license
Modified BSD license
Zero-Clause BSD License
Boost Software License
Common Development and Distribution License
Common Public License
Creative Commons Zero
Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0
Cryptix General License
Eclipse Public License
Educational Community License
Eiffel Forum License 2
European Union Public Licence
GNU Affero General Public License
GNU General Public License v2
GNU General Public License v3
GNU Lesser General Public License
GNU Free Documentation License
IBM Public License
Intel Open Source License
ISC license
LaTeX Project Public License
Microsoft Public License
Microsoft Reciprocal License
MIT license / X11 license
Mozilla Public License 1.1
Mozilla Public License 2.0
NASA Open Source Agreement
Netscape Public License
Open Software License
OpenSSL license
PHP License
Python Software Foundation License 2.0.1; 2.1.1 and newer
Q Public License
Reciprocal Public License 1.5
Sleepycat License
Sun Industry Standards Source License
Sun Public License
Sybase Open Watcom Public License
W3C Software Notice and License
Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License
XFree86 1.1 License
zlib/libpng license
Zope Public License 1.0
Zope Public License 2.0