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From Definition of Free Cultural Works
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Comparison of Licenses

License Intended scope Copyleft Practical modifiability Attribution Related rights Access control prohibition Worldwide applicability
Against DRM Works of art Normal No Copyright notice Granted Licensor & Licensee Exact translations
CC0 Public Domain Dedication Generic No No No No No Same license (English version)
Creative Commons Attribution Generic No No Yes No Yes National adaptations
Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike Generic Normal No Yes No Yes National adaptations
Design Science License Generic, optimally science data Normal Yes Copyright notice No No Same license (English version)
Free Art License Works of art Normal Yes Yes Yes Yes Exact translations (French law)
FreeBSD Documentation License Documentation No Yes Copyright notice Yes Yes Same license (English version)
GNU Free Documentation License Documentation Normal Yes Yes Yes Yes Same license (English version)
GNU Lesser General Public License Generic, optimally Software Weak Yes Copyright notice Yes Yes Same license (English version)
GNU General Public License Generic, optimally Software Strong Yes Copyright notice Yes Version 3 prohibits "Tivoisation" in certain cases Same license (English version)
Lizenz für Freie Inhalte Generic Normal Yes Yes Yes Yes Unknown (license text is German)
MirOS Licence Generic (software, content, …) No Yes Copyright notice Yes No Same licence (English version)
MIT License Software No Yes Copyright notice Yes Yes Same license (English version)

List of licenses

Against DRM

BSD-like non-copyleft licenses

In parallel with the set of GNU licenses (including the GNU GPL), the free software world evolved a number of very simple permissive (copyfree) licenses. These licenses are so simple that no dedicated text is needed to expose the terms of the license. To reuse such a license, you must take its text and replace the copyright notice with your own. Since these licenses are non-copyleft, changing the license text in such a way does not prevent reuse between works from happening.

Regardless of their wording, these licenses always grant the user very broad rights, including the right to modify and distribute without supplying any source code. Also, their concise wording makes them simple to understand and unambiguous as to their effects.

These licenses are often called "BSD-like" because the first occurrence of such a license has been the license under which the Berkeley Software Distribution (one of the first free versions of Unix) was shipped to users.

One should distinguish the original BSD license with its controversial advertising clause from the revised BSD license that does not have the advertising clause.

CC0 Public Domain Dedication

  • Aliases: CC-0, Creative Commons Zero
  • Current version: 1.0


The CERN Open Hardware License (CERN OHL) is a license used in open-source hardware projects (OSHW).

Creative Commons Attribution

Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike

Design Science License

FreeBSD Documentation License

Although especially written for the FreeBSD project, this license shows you how to draft a very simple non-copyleft license for documentation works.

Free Art License

GNU Free Documentation License

Invariant sections

Invariant sections are a special provision of the GFDL which, if used, prevent anyone from modifying the parts of the work which are defined as "invariant". The Free Software Foundation finds it useful to protect some special "non-functional" parts of the work, like a statement of intent (the motivation for invariant sections was, allegedly, to prevent the GNU Manifesto to be removed or modified in GNU documentations).

We believe, however, that freedom should apply to all kind of works, and that what is "functional" in one situation can be "artistic" in another - and vice-versa. Consequently, a work using invariant sections to forbid some kinds of modifications to the work cannot be considered completely free.

Unless additional permissions are granted, all FDL works contain unmodifiable sections which aren't called Invariant Sections, such as a copy of the license embedded in the document itself.

GNU General Public License

The GNU GPL is, according to various statistics, probably the most used free software license. It was also the first license to implement the concept of copyleft, guaranteeing that "GPL'ed" free software cannot become, or take part in, non-free software.

Although the GPL is primarily intended for software programs, it is worded so as to apply to many different kinds of works. The main condition for the GPL to be applicable to a type of work is that it admits the notion of a preferred form of a work for making modifications to it (be it source code in a computer language, music score notation, digital graphics under a format retaining structure, etc.). For example, there are many occurrences of text or graphics released under the GPL.

Lizenz für Freie Inhalte

AFAIK only used by the german portal neppstar for free music and video. Anyway, it seems to be a valid free license.

MirOS Licence

This licence is intended as the European variant of the BSD/MIT licences, but applicable as widely as possible. It shifts focus away from code/software by using the generic term “work” (of authorship), and as such can be used for mostly everything (code, documentation, audiovisual content, possibly others; for example fonts in jurisdictions where they are protected by copyright law). It’s intended as a permissive or "Copycenter" licence (so no copyleft, as that would be a restriction; basically “do what you want, leave me alone, but give due credits”) with as few strings as possible attached (so no “forced freedom” anti-DRM clauses, etc.) and weighs in less than one Kibibyte. Most permissions are enumerated, but the grant is not limited to them. Attribution is required by retaining the copyright notices, licence and disclaimer (this is not a copyleft though) or reproducing it in the accompanying documents (the BSD world is all about credits being given but freedom being unrestricted and not enforced). The disclaimer’s wording has been modified to meet certain European law requirements.

MIT License

This license is arguably the simplest form of the BSD-like licenses for software. All the license, except for the no-warranty statement, is condensed in two short paragraphs.

There are variants, like the current BSD license which has an additional provision forbidding endorsement of derived works using the name of the original authors.

Open Publication License

The Open Publication License (OPL) was among the earliest open-content licenses -- it predates the 2002 GFDL by over 3 years.

The Fedora project selected the OPL for their documentation. (At various times, the Fedora project released their documentation under the GNU FDL, the OPL, and CC-by-SA. See for details).

Open Source Hardware

Open Source Hardware OSHW is apparently "a standard by which to evaluate licenses for hardware designs".

Commentary on non-free licenses