Predicting Open Source Licensing

What’s the most popular open source license currently in use? If you said
GPL you would be right. But how did you know?

Plenty of people assume that GPL is the most commonly used because
that’s what a simple search of the online repository brings up.

Now, licensing detection software vendor Black Duck is jumping into
the fray by providing a public resource that includes the benefit of Black
Duck’ efforts detailing open source license usage.

“We have a spider group [with] manual and automated tools that has
resulted in the knowledge base,” Douglas Levin, president and
CEO of Black Duck Software, told . “Having a listing
of the top open source licenses by usage is very useful for companies
already in open source as well as those considering it.”

Levin added that the Black Duck open source software resource center plots
the growth of open source as well as the relative use of various licenses.

The top license according to Black Duck’s data is GPL version 2, coming out
on top at 59.74 percent. Although GPL is the leader, Levin noted that there
are many other licenses still actively involved in the mix.

Second spot goes to the Lesser GPL (LGPL) at 11.4 percent, followed by the Artistic
License (Perl) (8.07 percent), BSD License 2.0 (6.50 percent) and Apache
License 2.0 (2.72 percent) to round out the top five.

The rankings were roughly what Levin had expected, despite different versions of some licenses. For
example the site tracks both GPL version 2 and 3 as well as Apache version 1
and 2.

“I was impressed by the level of distribution among various licenses,” Levin
said. “We think this is important information as an indicator of the health
of adoption rates of open source.”

Black Duck’s site also takes specific aim at tracking adoption of GPLv3,
which is something that Black Duck’s competitor, Palamida, has been doing for

“We’ve taken more time to develop our resource center as we really want to
be carefully about how companies announce adoption and then actually
release, ” Levin said. “That distinction is very important.”

Levin also declined to forecast what he expected GPLv3 adoption rates to be.
Palamida had initially forecast that over 5500 projects would move to GPLv3.

“We will not forecast because we’re not careless in our presentation of
data,” Levin stated.

Palamida, for its part, doesn’t share Levin’s assessment.

“We released our GPLv3 Resource Site in June of 2007 after six months of
intensive research surrounding GPLv2 and v3 conversion status,” Melisa
LaBancz-Bleasdale Senior Communications Manager at Palamida told “It’s important to note that after polling the
development community, working together with open source project leaders and
continuing to accept and build upon information continuously submitted by
open source community development teams, we can confidently state that
Palamida offers the most accurate and frequently updated information
regarding the General Public License conversions.”

LaBancz-Bleasdale also questioned Black Duck’s distinction of announced
versus actual code publication.

“We call your attention to the existence of Accounting on Rails (Rubyforge)
and that project (also listed on our site) has not even switched over to
GPLv3 and in fact, it is among projects listed as “planning” to move,” she

News Around the Web