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License to code

GitHub publishes License API to combat low licensing numbers

JAX Editorial Team
Licensing image via Shutterstock

Countless open-source projects rely on GitHub. But the vast majority of these are forgetting to add a valid license. That’s where the License API comes in.

As the success of GitHub continues to spiral, hundreds and thousands of open-source projects are using this web-based hosting service. But a recent analysis has shown that there’s a “small” problem with the licensing of projects. To put it in a nutshell, less than 20 percent of the projects hosted on GitHub have a valid license.

To rectify this, GitHub has released a new API designed to help project leaders in attributing a license – and save others a whole heap of frustration.

GitHub and licensing problems

GitHub is populated largely by fans of open-source software – that’s why the team has gone to the effort of checking licenses of projects on their site. The result is somewhat surprising.

github-repositories

via GitHub

It’s fairly obvious that licensing efforts have declined significantly since the project begain in 2008 – to date not even 20 percent of all projects hosted on GitHub have an open-source license (or their teams are keeping them very well hidden).

GitHub itself assists developers in the selection of the appropriate license for the project with Choose a License, a website that clearly explains open-source licenses, thereby taking the fear out of blindly deciding on an license. It’s also worth noting that licensing has shown an upward spike since the start of this helpful project.

The GitHub License API

It’s no surprise that the MIT license is in high demand with developers. 44 percent of all licensed projects use MIT. The GPLv2 (12 percent) and Apache (11 percent) licenses are also popular choices.

To get even more developers to decide for a license, GitHub has now published the License API in a preview that shows all important information about a specific license. The developer documentations by GitHub provide an overview of the processes, for example that it’s enough to add just a LICENSE.txt file to your project.

Of course, developers are by no means obliged to choose a license for their work. But neglecting to do so means that other members of the community aren’t allowed to reproduce, distribute or alter the code – which is not exactly an open-source approach.

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