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Legal specialists on open source rank EUPL in the top 7 licences


© European Commission

The German Institute for Legal Questions on Free and Open Source Software considers the European Union's software licence EUPL to be among the seven most important open source software licences. "It is anticipated that this license will be increasingly used by Public Administrations for licensing independent developments", the ifrOSS institute writes in a review, posted on its website. The ifrOSS is a network of lawyers and legal experts, mostly based in Germany.

Version 1.1 of the EUPL license was published by the European Commission in 2009. It allows others to re-use the software and lets them improve and share the code. The EUPL license is available in 22 official linguistic versions that have identical legal value. The licence with a strict copyleft takes into account the EU law and that of the EU's Member States. It is compatible with the GNU General Public Licence (GPL).

The GPL is the most important and widespread open source license according to ifrOSS. "Approximately 60 per cent of all open source software is published under this license. This includes well-known programs like Linux or Busybox. The GPL is the template for all licenses with a strict copyleft” – a method for making software free (libre), and requiring that all modified and extended versions of the program shall be free as well.

Second in the ifrOSS top seven licences for free and open source software is the GNU Lesser General Public License, which was developed especially for program libraries. The other licences on the think tank's list are the Apache Licence, the BSD licence, the Common Public License and the Mozilla Public License.

The EUPL, currently under revision, is on its way to become compatible with the GPLv3 and a number of other commonly-used open source licences. A public consultation on the revision of the EUPL has just closed and a number of changes have been proposed. For instance, it has been suggested to add the Cc-by-sa, a free content licence, to the list of compatible licences. This could help public administrations that want to publish software code along with its documentation and logos. The revision is supported through ISA, the European Commission’s programme to foster interoperability, sharing and re-use.

Publication of the revised EUPL (1.2) is planned for June 2013.

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