Creative Commons does not recommend its licenses are computer software and hardware.

Creative Commons

Software licenses

An important aspect of research software reusability is to give consent to third parties about how the software can be built, modified, used, accessed and distributed. Even if a code repository is made open, this is not equivalent of giving consent to use it. The consent is given by providing a software license.

There are many software licenses in existence. Many of those allow researchers to do very little, but some of them give more freedom to use and re-use a licensed software. Licenses can either be Free or Proprietary, with Free Licenses further classified as Copyleft or Permissive.

The table below summarizes the main categories of software licenses.

Free Proprietary
Copyleft Permissive
Strong Weak

GNU General Public License (GPL)

Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL)

GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL)

Mozilla Public License (MPL)

Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Research Only: No copying, No modification

Source: The Turing Way 

Licenses can either be Free or Proprietary, with Free Licenses further classified as Copyleft or Permissive.

Free: Software licenses categorized as free deal with the degree of reusability, distribution, and modification of the software.

Property: If a software license is not free, it means it is proprietary. A proprietary license does not allow copying or modification of the software. Restrictions such as “Research only” or “Commercial use only” can be applied under a proprietary license.

Choose a License application

If you are not sure about which software license to use, then you can use the Choose a License application. This web application will guide you through simple questions and list the most suitable software license options for your needs.



This is a checklist for adding a license to your project repository:

  • Go to your repository folder (local computer or online repository on GitHub/GitLab/BitBucket).
  • Create a new file and name is License.txt or based on your preference of the file format.
  • Choose a type of license (or multiple licenses for mixed content) that is suitable for your project (visit
  • Copy the license content to the newly created file, for example, you can use an Open-Source license CC-BY 4.0 for text content and MIT License for software.


For more information and assistance, contact Documentation Centre and Library.


Research Software License (University of Groningen).

Checklist (The Turing Way Community).

Last updated: 19/02/2024