Although GitHub is the most popular tool for collaborative online version control and development of open source software, it hasn't been hot on licensing, with the result that many of its projects don't even have a declared license. Now it is taking steps to rectify this situation.
Developers who are keen to share their projects are not always aware of the need for a licence and the implications of not having one.
To overcome this problem GitHub has established a new microsite, ChooseALicense.com which outlines the pros and cons of alternative choices features three licenses:
MIT License - a permissive license that is short and to the point. It lets people do anything they want with your code as long as they provide attribution back to you and don’t hold you liable.
Apache License is a permissive license similar to the MIT License, but also provides an express grant of patent rights from contributors to users.
GPL (GNU General Public License) - requires others who modify your code to disclose their changes if they redistribute it in source or binary form.
but it also has details of ten others.
It also explains what it means to choose the No License option, stating:
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.
Having provided the information needed for an informed choice it has also added a license picker to the process of creating a repository:
These initiatives have been welcomed as a good step in the right direction. Simon Phipps on InfoWorld comments on the ChooseALicense site:
It's an excellent first release, and of course, the whole site can itself be forked and improved at GitHub. I plan to take a look and offer some improvements; you can too.