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There are multiple kinds of licenses that software can be released under.

  • GNU GPL is what GNU/Linux is released under. Essentially, you are free to do what you want with software released under this code, provided that if you release it to the public you must also release the source code. Source code does not have to be released if binaries to modifications are not released to the public. Think of it as a license that grants you every freedom, except the freedom to take away other people's freedom over the software. This license highly favors the end users.
  • GNU AGPL is what the FSF suggests for server software.¹ Essentially, it is the GPL with a additional clause that people accessing the software over a network must also get the source. With the popularity of "cloud" services, GPL software can be changed and run at a server without the obligation to release the source code. This license highly favors the end users.
  • BSD License is much more permissive than the GPL. You basically can do anything you want. You can even incorporate BSD-licensed code in your closed-source proprietary software, effectively re-licensing the source code, so long as you give the original author(s) credit as appropriate.
  • Apache License is known for protecting users against patent suing.
  • MIT License
  • ISC License is like BSD/MIT but clearer given that there is one ISC license and like 6 BSD/MIT licenses, and that no one knows what the fuck an Expat is. The license used by OpenBSD.
  • CC-BY
  • CC-BY-SA - Without the no commercial and no modifications additions, this is a very liberal license. Anyone can use or modify this work, as long as they let others use it and attribute the author. This license lends itself to art better than it does to software.

¹ How to choose a license for your own work