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16 July 2013, 10:25

GitHub gets smart over open source licences

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Zoom The dropdown of licence choices when creating a new repository on GitHub
GitHub has launched a new site – – as a way to simplify selecting an open source licence for projects and has added new licence setting options when creating new repositories for those projects. The company has been criticised in the past for not reminding users that putting code up in public doesn't place it in the public domain, but leaves it as copyrighted and unlicensed code.

Now, when a new repository is being created, as well as the options to initialise the repository with a readme file and .gitignore file, the user can now select Apache, GPL, MIT, Affero GPL, Artistic, BSD, Eclipse or LGPL licences to be automatically added to the project. Selecting which of these licences is appropriate is assisted by the site, which approaches selecting a licence by asking what the user desires from the licence; from a desire for simple, permissive licences, a patent-aware licence, or one that enforces the sharing of improvements. Once a licence is selected, a summary of its attributes is shown, along with notes on how to apply it to a project; a one-click button can copy the licence text to the clipboard. The site is also open source, under a CC Attribution 3.0 licence and MIT licence, and can be forked from its own project repository.

An unaffiliated application by GitHub employee Garen J Torkian has also appeared, which works through the GitHub API and can visit each of a user's public repositories, let the user select a licence and then add the new licence file to the repository. This is ideal for developers with existing open source projects who want to tidy up their licensing issues. Again, licensed under an MIT licence, this project can also be forked and modified.


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