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The Importance of Open Source Licensing Realized by GitHub

choose a licenseFrom the 'Because it Matters' files:

GitHub has emerged to be one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) tool for collaborative online version control and development. While it is often associated with open source software development, that's not always a requirement.

In fact, many projects on GitHub (the actual numbers vary depending on who/when you ask) don't even have a declared license.

That's not good.

Open source licenses, protect both the developer and the user. It's not just about freedom either, it's about understanding that code is 'real' in the sense that it is intellectual property (that can be made free/open).

Choosing an open source license might have been an issue for some developers, because quite frankly they didn't know any better. In an effort to educate developers, GitHub now has the Choosealicense.com site set up.

Really straightforward choices too: MIT, Apache or GPL.

While I personally believe that choosing a license is important -- GitHub also explains that developers can have no license as well. *

You're under no obligation to choose a license and it's your right not to include one with your code or project. But please note that opting out of open source licenses doesn't mean you're opting out of copyright law.


You'll have to check with your own legal counsel regarding your particular project, but generally speaking, the absence of a license means that default copyright laws apply. This means that you retain all rights to your source code and that nobody else may reproduce, distribute, or create derivative works from your work. This might not be what you intend.

My advice, choose wisely.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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