Black Duck Highlights Diversity in Open-Source Licensing

A study by Black Duck Software shows increasing diversity in license types being chosen for open-source projects. Black Duck makes software for analyzing open-source code.

Black Duck Software, a maker of software for analyzing open-source code, on June 30 announced results of a study that shows "increasing diversity in license types being chosen for open-source projects."

According to Black Duck there has been "increasing adoption of the GPLv3 license coupled with an overall 5 percent drop in the number of projects adopting the GPL license generally." Moreover, "GPL licenses ... are used in more than 65 percent of open-source projects evaluated by Black Duck. Growth in the use of the GPLv3 license increased at a 4x rate year-over-year, with 9,500 GPLv3 licenses in use in 2009, compared to 2,345 in 2008," Black Duck said in a news release.

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A recent indication of the diversity in open-source license use is the growth of the OSI-approved Ms-PL (Microsoft Public License), which the company said is currently the 10th most popular license in the Black Duck KnowledgeBase. According to the release:

"The GPLv3 license this year moved past the Mozilla, MIT and Apache licenses to the number five spot behind BSD. Black Duck estimates that the current rate of adoption will see GPLv3 pass BSD in about six months. Many large projects, including Linux, JBoss and Hibernate, have chosen to remain with GPLv2."

"With more than 1,500 different open-source licenses in use, it is possible for software developers to choose a license that closely reflects their intentions for the use of their software," said Peter Vescuso, executive vice president of marketing and business development at Black Duck. "Many developers are selecting licenses that are less restrictive, a move that underscores the broader adoption and value of open source in today's multisource development environments."

Additionally, Black Duck officials noted a trend showing how open-source licenses are being used to "support revenue-based business models. From straight open-source licensing to dual licensing, more businesses are moving to 'open-core' licensing approaches."

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Matt Aslett, an enterprise software analyst for The 451 Group, was quoted as saying, "Open-Core Licensing-offering proprietary commercial extensions around an open-source core-has become a popular strategy for generating revenue from an installed base of open-source users." According to the release, "Examples of projects embracing this approach include MySQL, PostgreSQL and Continuent."

The release continued, "Black Duck spiders the Internet collecting open-source and other downloadable code into a repository called the Black Duck KnowledgeBase, a database of more than 200,000 open-source projects with 10s of billions of lines of code from over 4,100 unique Internet sites. Daily updates of license statistics can be found at"

According to Black Duck, the top 10 open-source licenses in use, in order beginning with the most-used license, are:

  • GNU GPL (General Public License) 2.0
  • GNU LGPL (Lesser General Public License) 2.1
  • Artistic License (Perl)
  • BSD License 2.0
  • GNU GPL 3.0
  • Apache License 2.0
  • MIT License
  • Code Project Open 1.02 License
  • MPL (Mozilla Public License) 1.1
  • Ms-PL (Microsoft Public License)