Open Source License

  • Status: proposed

  • Deciders: dev, devops, managers

  • Date: 2020-06-07

Context and Problem Statement

It is the offical policy of the Digital Iceland and stated in the Techical Direction that it is to be implemented as free and open source. Open source software by definition is open to anyone to use, modify, distribute and study. These permissions are enforced an open source license. There are a number of well-known and widely used open source licenses available and we need to choose a license that best fits the goals of digital iceland.

There are two main types of open source licences: more permissive licences that confer broad freedoms and minimal obligations (e.g., the MIT, BSD and the Apache 2.0 licences); and sharealike licences that require licensing adaptations with the same licence if they distribute them (e.g., the GNU GPL).

Development for Digital Iceland will be open and free with minimum complications for development for all involved. Reuse and transparency will be promoted.

Decision Drivers

  • The primary motivation is to encourage, co-development, collabiration, transparency and reuse of the software.

  • It is important to build on the experience of similar government led inititives in other countries.

  • Digital Iceland has no patents or intellecatual property that needs to be protected or guarded by the license chosen.

  • It is not a concern for Digital Iceland that the license restricts usage in other projects, be it open or closed source.

Considered Options

The different licenses

  • Apache

  • BSD


  • MIT

Decision Outcome

The MIT license was chosen, for the following reasons:

  • It is the least restrictive of the licenses.

  • It is very consise, simple and easy to understand and therefore should be clear to users and developers.

  • Digital Iceland does not require protection of patents or existing intelletual property.

  • Well known government lead initiatives like and X-Road use the MIT license.

  • The MIT license is the best known and most widely used free and open-source license in the world.

Pros and Cons of the Options


  • Good, because is well known and very permissive like the MIT license.

  • Bad, it is has restrictions around redistribution that do not apply for Digital Iceland.

  • Bad, is way very long and wordy and therefore requires more effort to understand.


  • Good, because is well known and very permissive like the MIT license.

  • Bad, because it has restrictions about using the names of the copyright holder which is not a concern for digital Iceland.


  • Good, because it is very well known.

  • Bad, that it is not permissive and requires derived software to adopt the license as well.

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