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GPLv3 Licenses Quadruple in 2009, But GPL Projects Drop by Five Percent from 2008 Levels

Black Duck Software Analysis Shows other License Options Gaining Ground

WALTHAM, Mass., June 30, 2009, Open source license adoption trends indicate a new pragmatism in the open source community, as evidenced by increasing diversity in license types being chosen for open source projects.  Most notable was the increasing adoption of the GPLv3 license coupled with an overall five percent drop in the number of projects adopting the GPL license generally. The analysis was conducted by Black Duck Software, a leading provider of products and services for accelerating software development through the managed use of open source software (OSS).

GPL licenses, sometimes referred to as reciprocal licenses, are used in more than 65 percent of open source projects evaluated by Black Duck. Growth in the use of the GPLv3 license increased at a 4X rate year-over-year, with 9,500 GPLv3 licenses in use in 2009, compared to 2,345 in 2008.

Despite strong growth in GPLv3 adoption, the percentage of projects using GPL variants dropped from 70 to 65 percent, demonstrating that open source software licensing is becoming more diverse, reflecting renewed pragmatism on the part of open source developers and consumers.  A recent indication of this shift is the growth of the Microsoft Public License (MS-PL), an OSI-approved license, which is now the tenth most popular license in the Black Duck Software Knowledge Base.

The GPLv3 license this year moved past the Mozilla, MIT and Apache licenses to the number five spot behind BSD. Black Duck estimates that the current rate of adoption will see GPLv3 pass BSD in about six months. Many large projects, including Linux, JBoss and Hibernate, have chosen to remain with GPLv2.

“With more than 1,500 different open source licenses in use, it is possible for software developers to choose a license that closely reflects their intentions for the use of their software,” observed Peter Vescuso, executive vice president of marketing and business development, Black Duck Software. “Many developers are selecting licenses that are less restrictive, a move that underscores the broader adoption and value of open source in today’s multi-source development environments.”

The top 10 open source licenses in use are:

LicensePercentage Rank
GNU General Public License (GPL) 2.050.06
GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) 2.19.63
Artistic License (Perl)8.68
BSD License 2.06.32
GNU General Public License (GPL) 3.05.10
Apache License 2.03.91
MIT License3.80
Code Project Open 1.02 License3.35
Mozilla Public License (MPL) 1.11.25
Microsoft Public License (MS-PL)1.02

An additional trend in the growth of open source confirms how licenses are being employed to support revenue-based business models. From straight open-source licensing to dual licensing, more businesses are moving to ”open-core” licensing approaches. Matt Aslett, Enterprise Software Analyst for The 451 Group, says, “Open-Core Licensing – offering proprietary commercial extensions around an open source core – has become a popular strategy for generating revenue from an installed base of open source users.” Examples of projects embracing this approach include MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Continuent.

Black Duck spiders the Internet collecting open source and other downloadable code into a repository called the Black Duck KnowledgeBase, a database of more than 200,000 open source projects with tens of billions of lines of code from over 4,100 unique Internet sites. Daily updates of license statistics can be found at

To listen to a podcast discussion of open source licensing trends with Tim Yeaton, CEO of Black Duck software, visit

About Black Duck Software

Black Duck Software is the leading global provider of products and services for accelerating software development through the managed use of open source and third-party code. Black Duck™ enables companies to shorten time-to-market and reduce development and maintenance costs while mitigating the risks and challenges associated with open source reuse, including hidden license obligations, security vulnerabilities, unsupported open source and version proliferation. The company is headquartered near Boston and has offices in San Francisco, Amsterdam and Hong Kong, as well as distribution partners throughout the world.
Black Duck, Know Your Code and the Black Duck logo are registered trademarks of Black Duck Software, Inc. in the United States and other jurisdictions. Koders is a trademark of Black Duck Software, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective holders.

Press Contacts

Peter Vescuso
Black Duck Software
+1 781-891-5100
Ann Dalrymple
+1 781-404-2432


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