The REUSE initiative

Best Practices to Add License and Copyright Information to Your Free Software Project


Reusing Free Software components is an appealing possibility for many software developers to be more productive. Unfortunately, despite of the mentioned advantages, reusing Free Software components is accompanied by an inherent risk of license conflicts that may arise when integrating a Free Software component with an existing piece of software. To address this problem, the Free Software Foundation Europe initiated a project called “REUSE Initiative”, which has the goal to provide clear guidelines on how to publish Free Software in a way that license and copyright information are clearly defined and that this information is also machine readable. The goal of this talk is to discuss to which extent current Open Source repositories hosted on GitHub conform to the practices defined by the REUSE initiative. For this purpose, we analyzed 2,000 randomly selected GitHub projects and studied to which extent they respect the guidelines defined by the REUSE initiative. So far, compliance is low, but this is understandable since the standard is in place only since December 2017. In the future, we think that the combination of such recipes combined with tool support can help to alleviate the burden for developers to have a consistent and valid copyright and licensing strategy for their projects as well as to enable, as a second step, tools, which can find Free Software contributions based on specific licensing requirements, since such information is present in a machine-readable form.