License Distribution

Bernhard Reiter bernhard at
Mon Jan 22 18:02:26 UTC 2001

Hi People,
recently the question popped up about how many free software
is published under which license.  We believe that the licenses of
the FSF, especially the GNU GPL is the most commonly used and
spreaded Free Software license. 

Probably with BSD like licenses and Public domain coming next
(personal guess).

This is of course not just a matter of how many code lines are under
which license or the number of projects. It is also a matter of
importance. Nontheless I tried to collect some numbers I could grasp
easily, probably underrepresenting the BSD code out there.


  OSI Approved (8964 projects)
  Public Domain (242 projects)
  Other/Proprietary License (216 projects)    

(I don't know why they allow proprietory licenses....., I always
thought they did not, but obviously someone should inquire otherwise
the brand sourceforge for free software is damaged.)

Comment: OSI generally means that the license is also FSF approved.
	(with some exceptions, like the Artistic license.)

Including PD from above:

          GNU General Public License (GPL) 			:6634
          GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 		: 895
          BSD License 						: 513
	  Public Domain						: 242
          Mozilla Public License (MPL) 				: 154
          MIT/X Consortium License 				: 120
          Python License 					:  80
          QT Public License (QPL) 				:  63
          zlib/libpng License 					:  49
          IBM Public License 					:  11
          Ricoh Source Code Public License 			:   5
          MITRE Collaborative Virtual Workspace License (CVW) 	:   4

          Artistic License (not free by FSF standards) 		: 307

Also LWN now publishes annoucement by license.
(I have bugged them about this for a long time. :) )
The annoucemente come from freshmeat for each week. 
Unfortunalty I have not found an easy method to get the license distribution 
of the freshmeat database. (I have send them mail and asked for it today.)

A small script could process the LWN annoucements starting with the 
21.9.2000 when the annoucements were done by license the first time.
(lynx -dump is your friend.) Here are the results:

                          LGPL: 376
                      BSD type: 317
                    OpenSource: 201
                 Public Domain:  86
                Artistic & GPL:  66
                  Apache style:  65
                           MIT:  48
                           MPL:  44
                           QPL:  29
               The PHP License:  22
            IBM Public License:  10
                       unknown:   6
 Eiffel Forum Freeware License:   6	
                           NPL:   2

non-free licenses:

          freely distributable: 228	*
                      Freeware: 169	*
    free to use but restricted: 137	*
                      Artistic: 123	*
   free for non-commercial use:  99	*
                   proprietary:  52	*
                    Free Trial:  45	*
  source-available proprietary:  31	*
                     Shareware:  23	*
          Voxel Public License:   3	*
            Free World Licence:   1	*
                          AFPL:   1	*

Conclusion: Active and visible project on freshmeat and sourceforge
definately are dominated by the GNU GPL by an order of magnitute!

The LGPL seems to be second with unprotected free software types
BSD/MIT/PD being in the same league.

Therefore my thesis above is backed by some data. 
And it makes sence, because LGPL and BSD/MIT/PD are useful licenses 
for some special cases, when GPL protection inhibits other goals of 
the project.


Professional Service around Free Software                (  
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