Report: Most GitHub Projects Don’t Have an Open Source License

Is it true that the current generation of open source developers can’t be bothered with licensing details?

Aaron Williamson, senior staff counsel at the Software Freedom Law Center conducted a study of GitHub projects and found that many of them either don’t specify their licensing terms or only address licensing in very vague ways, calling into question whether they ought to be described as “FOSS” (free and open source) projects.

Williamson analyzed about 28 percent of GitHub’s repositories with a tool called FOSSology that looks for key words related to licensing terms. Out of the 1,692,135 code repositories analyzed, just 219,326 of them (14.9 percent) identified which open source license they were using. And interestingly, among those that did identify a license, the very permissive MIT and BSD licenses were much more common than the more restrictive GPL licenses.

Williamson also analyzed the programming languages used by GitHub projects and found that the most popular was JavaScript with 21 percent of projects, followed by Ruby with 12 percent of projects.

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