Brussels / 3 & 4 February 2018


A Usability Survey of Free Software Licenses

We want software creators to use FOSS licenses. We also know people make mistakes in the process, or don't even try because they've heard it's "too complicated." Just like with software, we would do well to study these failures and use them as opportunities to improve the usability of our licenses. This talk aims to start that process by identifying known problems and considering some possible solutions.

Usability issues that will be addressed in this talk include:

  • License presentation
  • Where a work's license is declared
  • How a work's license is declared
  • How creators learn to apply a license
  • License drafting

In his work as the FSF's license compliance engineer, Brett had the opportunity to investigate the licensing of many projects for information. He saw what creators do, both right and wrong. He was also deeply engaged in the drafting processes for GPLv3 and MPLv2, and was able to compare and contrast where the resulting licenses succeeded and fell short at improving usability.


Brett Smith