Make your choice

GitHub clears up licensing issues with simplifying tools

Chris Mayer

Realising their own hypocrisy, the biggest open source coding hub iron out the creases in their licensing policy with handy tools.


Despite being the biggest open source community
out there, GitHub has faced flak in the past for its slightly hazy
policy on open source licenses.

As Open Source Initiative President,

Simon Phipps points out
“a significant
number of GitHub projects come with no rights whatsoever for you to
use their code.” Many newcomers naturally assume that because the
repository is in the public domain, then they must be able to fork
to their heart’s content. Yet, unless there is an open source
license attached, you have no rights to do so, under

GitHub’s Terms of Service

To make amends for this oversight, GitHub has
to clear up the confusion and help newcomers make an informed
decision on their open source license – whether it is permissive,
copyleft or otherwise

The homepage simplifies the implications of selecting
one of the most popular open source licenses – MIT, GPL or Apache –
and by delving deeper, you can explore further choices. There’s a
summary for each OSS license, complete with full legalese, which
explains what is permitted and what isn’t, as well as notes on how
to apply that license to any given project.

GitHub have finally acknowledged the
problem too in the documentation. Even
better news is that the site itself can be
so you are encouraged to offer your improvements.

To further assist users, GitHub has introduced
additional options when creating a new repository. It is now
possible to associate an open source license from the start through
a helpful dropdown menu, which will in turn automatically create a
readme file in the root directory of that repository.

GitHub should be commended for taking the first step
towards addressing their unclear licensing policy, and with the
community striving to improve it, Choose A License should become an
invaluable asset to the service.

Although not officially associated with GitHub,
another project
(created by GitHub’s Garen J Torkian) helps you apply
licenses to public repositories without one. This is useful for
those unsure how to apply licenses and for those needing to polish
their existing collection.

Also announced this week is a new native new
mobile view
for the repository service, so users
can check Issues and Pull Requests whilst on the go. Currently, the
native app is purely for browsing though, and not for building from
the ground. Maybe in a few years eh?

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