Open source license

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An open source license is a copyright license for computer software that makes the source code available for everyone to use. This allows end users to review and modify the source code for their own customization and/or troubleshooting needs. Open source licenses are also commonly free, allowing for modification, redistribution, and commercial use without having to pay the original author. Some open source licenses only permit modification of the source code for personal use or only permit non-commercial redistribution. All such licenses usually have additional restrictions such as a requirement to preserve the name of the authors and a copyright statement within the code. One popular set of free open source software licenses are those approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) based on their Open Source Definition (OSD).



The Free Software Foundation has a related but distinct criterion for evaluating whether or not a license qualifies a program as free software. All licenses qualified as free software are also considered open source licenses. Likewise, the Debian project has its own criteria, the Debian Free Software Guidelines, on which the Open Source Definition is based.

There are also shared source licenses which have some similarities with open source, such as the Microsoft Reference License (MS-RL). They are mainly used by Microsoft and can range from extremely restrictive to comparable with free open source software.

Free and open source are two distinct categories of licensing that are most often used in conjunction. It is a common misconception that open source licenses are free software licenses. In addition, this confusion is perpetuated by free software advocates that vigorously object to "open source" being used as a term for non-free licenses. The misconception is reinforced by significant overlap in the most common licenses found in the open source and free software communities. Most free software licenses require the release of the source code. Most open source licenses include rights permitting modification, distribution, and commercial use.

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