FOSS Licensing Introduction

Author: Diego Biurrun

FOSS licensing is a topic that every hacker should know about. This talk is intended to introduce fellow hackers to the topic without overwhelming details and legalese.

GPL, LGPL, BSD, MIT, ISC, MPL, ... - at first sight the world of FOSS licenses presents itself as a zoo of bewildering acronyms. Finding one's way around the FOSS license landscape is not easy for the beginner and generally not considered a fun topic to deal with. This explains why few members of the FOSS community are familiar with licensing although clearly licensing forms the basis of code sharing and thus the FOSS community itself.

But while the seemingly endless variety of FOSS licenses is indeed confusing, there are common traits and principles that allow grouping licenses into a small number of classes. Once this framework is grokked, it becomes easier to know what a license allows or forbids, to choose a license for a new work, to combine code under different licenses safely and to know what to do to remain license-compliant.

This talk will not make you a licensing expert, but you should walk away from it with a basic understanding that will help you find your way around FOSS licensing issues.