Unlicense Yourself: Set Your Code Free
What is the Unlicense?
The Unlicense is a template for disclaiming copyright monopoly interest in software you've written; in other words, it is a template for dedicating your software to the public domain. It combines a copyright waiver patterned after the very successful public domain SQLite project with the no-warranty statement from the widely-used MIT/X11 license.
Why Use The Unlicense?
Because you have more important things to do than enriching lawyers or imposing petty restrictions on users of your code. How often have you passed up on utilizing and contributing to a great software library just because its open source license was not compatible with your own preferred flavor of open source? How many precious hours of your life have you spent deliberating how to license your software or worrying about licensing compatibility with other software? You will never get those hours back, but here's your chance to start cutting your losses. Life's too short, let's get back to coding.
To opt out of the copyright industry's game altogether and set your code free, put your next software project into the [public domain](http://stpeter.im/writings/essays/publicdomain.html) using the following (un)licensing statement: 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 [The Unlicense Website](https://unlicense.ouroboros.group)
In a saner world, you would only need the first one or two paragraphs.
For the time being you'll probably want to retain the whole shebang.
(You should feel free, though, to leave out the last line containing the link to this site, if that's your preference.)
You would traditionally put the above statement into a file named
However, to explicitly distance yourself from the whole concept of copyright licensing, we recommend that you put your unlicensing statement in a file named
UNLICENSE. Doing so also means that your project can more easily be found on e.g. Codeberg
enabling others to reuse your code in their own unencumbered public domain projects.
For a comprehensive listing of software using the Unlicense, Search for the first line of the Unlicense It was purposely worded uniquely, which means that all the returned search results are likely to relate to the Unlicense in some way.
-------------------------In order to ensure your project remains completely free and unencumbered by anyone's copyright monopoly, it is advisable that you ask any major contributors to explicitly dedicate their code-base contributions to the public domain.
This removes any possible ambiguity as to what terms somebody might have thought they were contributing under, in case of a future dispute. These concerns are not unique to public domain software. Most large, established open-source projects have a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) process, of varying degrees of formality.
At minimum, you might ask your contributors to accompany any non-trivial patches with a simple statement like the following:
I dedicate any and all copyright interest in this software to the public domain. I make this dedication for the benefit of the public at large and to the detriment of my heirs and successors. I intend this dedication to be an overt act of relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights to this software under copyright law.
Better yet is to ask the major contributors to digitally sign a more explicit copyright release (see an example
WAIVERfile), and then to keep a record of such signatures in an
AUTHORSfile accompanying your software. Using GnuPG, contributors can sign a copyright waiver file as follows:
$ gpg --no-version --armor --sign WAIVER
Note that if a contributor makes significant changes or enhancements in his capacity as an employee of some formal organization, then the above may be insufficient and you would additionally need to ask for a copyright disclaimer signed by a company officer. For more information, have a look at how the SQLite project handles this. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) also provides an example of a simple copyright disclaimer to be signed by an employer.
For a concrete example of this contributor process, see how the unlicensed RDF.rb project has handled this.
Unlicensed Free Software
Here is a sample some of the software projects that have already adopted the Unlicense or a derivative thereof. If you would like your own project added to this list, please contact limepotato or create a pull request.
For a more comprehensive listing of software using the Unlicense, Search for the first line of the Unlicense.
Public Domain Software
Some examples of well-known public domain or license-free software libraries and applications:
For other listings of public domain software, see some useful search links.
Other Popular Unlicenses
BOLA - Buena Onda License Agreementis similar to the Unlicense in intent.
CC0 - Creative Commons Zero is not intended for software per se.
WTFPL - Do What The Fuck You Want To Public License can't be beat for blunt directness.
If setting your code entirely free still seems a somewhat daunting prospect, try these perspectives on for size.