OSI Certification Mark and Program
The Open Source Definition spells out the essential
qualities of open source software. Unfortunately, the term "open source"
itself is subject to misuse, and because it's descriptive, it can't be
protected as a trademark (which would have been our first choice). Since
the community needs a reliable way of knowing whether a piece of software
really is open source, OSI is registering a certification mark, OSI Certified, for this
purpose. OSI has also created a graphic certification mark,
, that can be used instead of
the text certification mark. If you see either of these marks on a piece of
software, the software is being distributed under a license
that conforms to the Open Source Definition. Use of these marks for software
that is not distributed under an OSI approved license is an infringement of
OSI's certification marks and is against the law.
The OSI Certified mark or the graphic
- OSI maintains a list of open
source licenses that conform to the Open Source Definition, have been
through public scrutiny, and have been approved by us. If you have a
license that you would like added to this list, please contact [email protected],
which starts the process described here.
- If you want to use the OSI Certified mark on your
software, you can do this by distributing the software with an approved
license from the list and marking the software appropriately, as described
The above was just a summary. Here are the details on getting licenses
approved, and on using the OSI Certified mark on your
- Choose a unique title for your license, different from any known
titles of licenses. In particular, make it different from any of the
existing approved licenses.
Hint: doing a Google search for "Your License Title" (including the
quotes) is useful.
- Render the license in two formats: HTML and plain text. Put the
HTML version on a web page. We will convert it into the same style as
the existing approved licenses. You can help us by publishing it in
that style yourself to save us the conversion step.
- Create a legal analysis of the license as it complies with the
terms of the Open Source Definition. Each paragraph of the license
should be followed by an explanation of how the paragraph interacts
with each numbered term of the Open Source Definition. The analysis
should come from a licensed practitioner of the law in your country.
Email this analysis to license-approval at our domain name,
opensource.org. This document will remain confidential to the Open
- Prepare an email with three sections as described in the next
three paragraphs. Send that email to the license-discuss mailing list
(license-discuss at our domain name, opensource.org). The subject of
your message should be "For Approval:" followed by the name of your
- Tell us which existing OSI-approved license is most similar to
your license. Explain why that license will not suffice for
your needs. If your proposed license is derived from a license we have
already approved, describe exactly what you have changed. This
document is not part of the license; it is solely to help the
license-discuss understand and review your license.
- Explain how software distributed under your license can
be used in conjunction with software distributed under other
open source licenses. Which license do you think will take
precedence for derivative or combined works? Is there any
software license that is entirely incompatible with your proposed
- Include the plain text version of your license at the end of the
email, either as an insertion or as an attachment.
- You are invited to follow discussion of the licenses by subscribing to
This mailing-list is archived here.
- If license-discuss mailing list members find that the license does
not conform to the Open Source Definition, they will work with you to
resolve the problems. Similarly, if we see a problem, we will work
with you to resolve any problems uncovered in public comment.
- As part of this process, we may also seek outside legal advice on
- Once we are assured that the license conforms to the
Open Source Definition and has
received thorough discussion on license-discuss or by other reviewers, and there are
no remaining issues that we judge significant, we will notify you that the
license has been approved, copy it to our website, and add it to the list
QUICK FAQ: 1) The board meets as needed and on the second Thursday of every month.
Motions may be entered at any time but resolutions are only passed at
scheduled meetings or when all board members have voted via email. 2) You should
hear back from us within two months. Due to various people's travel schedules
we cannot count on having a quorum every month.
You may use the OSI Certified mark on any software that is
distributed under an OSI-approved license.
To identify your software distribution as OSI Certified,
you must attach one of the following three notices, unmodified, to the
software, as described below. The full notice is:
This software is OSI Certified Open Source Software.
OSI Certified is a certification mark of the Open Source Initiative.
The shorter notice is:
OSI Certified Open Source Software
The graphic notice is:
A number of formats and image sizes are available here.
Each form of distribution of your software has its own requirements:
- If the software is being distributed in electronic form (not in tangible
form), you must put the graphic notice or the full notice in a README file, or other similar file
intended to be the first file that a human user would read.
- If the software is being distributed in tangible form, you must do all of
the following that are applicable:
- If the software is distributed with any accompanying printed matter, you
must place the graphic notice or the full notice in the printed matter.
- If the software is distributed on removable information media such as
diskettes, CD-ROM, cartridge tape, etc., on which it is physically possible
to place at least the graphic notice or the shorter notice in a manner that can be read by the
unaided human eye without impairing the functioning of the media, you must
place either the graphic notice or the shorter notice on the media.
- If the tangible object containing the software is distributed in a package
that prevents the notice (if any) on the object from being read, you must
place the graphic notice or the full notice on the outside of the package.
If none of the above apply to your distribution, contact us, and we'll add
guidelines for your situation to this list.
You can also browse a list of OSI-approved licenses.