The Unlicense is a public domain equivalent license with a focus on an anti-copyright message. It was first published on January 1 (Public Domain Day), 2010. The Unlicense offers a public domain waiver text with a fall-back public-domain-like license, inspired by permissive licenses but without an attribution clause. In 2015, GitHub reported that approximately 102,000 of their 5.1 million licensed projects (2% of licensed projects on GitHub.com) use the Unlicense.
|OSI approved||Partial (considered free, but not recommended)|
|Linking from code with a different license||Yes|
In a post published on January 1 (Public Domain Day), 2010, Arto Bendiken outlined his reasons for preferring public domain software, namely: the nuisance of dealing with licensing terms (for instance license incompatibility), the threat inherent in copyright law, and the impracticability of copyright law.
On January 23, 2010, Bendiken followed-up on his initial post. In this post, he explained that the Unlicense is based on the copyright waiver of SQLite with the no-warranty statement from the MIT License. He then walked through the license, commenting on each part.
In a post published in December 2010, Bendiken further clarified what it means to "license" and "unlicense" software.
On January 1, 2011, Bendiken reviewed the progress and adoption of the Unlicense. He admits that it is "difficult to give estimates of current Unlicense adoption" but suggests there are "many hundreds of projects using the Unlicense".
The license terms of the Unlicense is as follows:
This is free and unencumbered software released into the public domain. Anyone is free to copy, modify, publish, use, compile, sell, or distribute this software, either in source code form or as a compiled binary, for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, and by any means. In jurisdictions that recognize copyright laws, the author or authors of this software dedicate any and all copyright interest in the software to the public domain. We make this dedication for the benefit of the public at large and to the detriment of our heirs and successors. We intend this dedication to be an overt act of relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights to this software under copyright law. THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE. For more information, please refer to <http://unlicense.org/>
The Free Software Foundation states that "Both public domain works and the lax license provided by the Unlicense are compatible with the GNU GPL." However, for dedicating software to the public domain it recommends CC0 over the Unlicense, stating that CC0 "is more thorough and mature than the Unlicense".
The Unlicense has been criticized, for instance by the OSI, for being possibly inconsistent and non-standard, and for making it difficult for some projects to accept Unlicensed code as third-party contributions; leaving too much room for interpretation; and possibly being incoherent in some legal systems.
- "Various Licenses and Comments about Them - GNU Project § The Unlicense". Free Software Foundation. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Frequently Answered Questions".
- Joe Brockmeier (January 11, 2010). "The Unlicense: A License for No License". OStatic. Archived from the original on January 22, 2017.
- "Unlicense Yourself: Set Your Code Free". Retrieved February 28, 2017.
- Balter, Ben (2015-03-09). "Open source license usage on GitHub.com". github.com. Retrieved 2015-11-21.
1 MIT 44.69%, 2 Other 15.68%, 3 GPLv2 12.96%, 4 Apache 11.19%, 5 GPLv3 8.88%, 6 BSD 3-clause 4.53%, 7 Unlicense 1.87%, 8 BSD 2-clause 1.70%, 9 LGPLv3 1.30%, 10 AGPLv3 1.05% (30 million × 2% × 17% = 102k)
- Arto Bendiken (January 1, 2010). "Set Your Code Free". Retrieved February 10, 2017.
anybody affixing a licensing statement to open-source software is guilty of either magical thinking or of having an intention to follow up on the implied threat
- Arto Bendiken (January 23, 2010). "Dissecting the Unlicense: Software Freedom in Four Clauses and a Link". Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- Arto Bendiken (December 19, 2010). "Licensed, License-Free, and Unlicensed Code". Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- Arto Bendiken (January 1, 2011). "The Unlicense: The First Year in Review". Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Licensing/Unlicense". Fedora Project. August 14, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
Fedora recommends use of CC-0 over this license, because it is a more comprehensive legal text around this tricky issue. It is also noteworthy that some MIT variant licenses which contain the right to "sublicense" are closer to a true Public Domain declaration than the one in the "Unlicense" text.
- Mike Linksvayer (December 17, 2010). "Conversation". Identi.ca. Archived from the original on August 16, 2011. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
@bendiken surely there's a better name than copyfree, but I like the movement and look fwd to your roundup.
- Arto Bendiken (December 18, 2010). "CC0 and the Unlicense". Google Groups. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
In case it's of interest, I'm engaged in an ongoing Identi.ca conversation with Mike Linksvayer, the vice president of Creative Commons […] In short, the folks at Creative Commons are aware of the Unlicense initiative, and apparently supportive of it.
- Val Markovic (Valloric) (July 6, 2014). "Use a working license instead of UNLICENSE". GitHub. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
- cgt (May 3, 2012). "What is wrong with the Unlicense?". Software Engineering Stack Exchange. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- Moen, Rick (January 3, 2012). "[License-review] OSI, legal conditions outside the "four corners" of the license, and PD/CC 0 [was Re: Can OSI specify that public domain is open source?]". Open Source Initiative. Archived from the original on March 1, 2017. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "youtube-dl GitHub page". GitHub. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
- Mika Tuomi (August 1, 2013). "SecondReality/UNLICENSE at master · mtuomi/SecondReality". GitHub. Retrieved February 28, 2017.