Home > opinion > Open Source / Free Software : Beware the Black Duck

Open Source / Free Software : Beware the Black Duck

I usually refer to the OSI list of popular Open Source licenses when someone asks me which FLOSS licenses are relevant and recommendable.

Recently someone pointed out the Black Duck list of popular licenses as a “more recent” reference list.

After some reviewing, I would strongly recommend against that Black Duck list, for several reasons:

Lack of neutrality

Open Source Initiative (OSI) is the foundation that first officially defined the term “Open Source”, as a non-profit, vendor neutral organization, free from any commercial goals.

Black Duck Software is a venture-capital-funded, for-profit entity with strong ties to certain big software vendors.

Irrelevant licenses

The licenses that Black Duck added relative to the OSI popular licenses list, include several unpopular, problematic licenses with less than 1% market share, like for example:


Black Duck has been repeatedly accused of bias against copyleft licenses like the GPL and having spread misinformation about the popularity of those licenses.

Questionable patents

Black Duck has managed to be granted patents on trivial “software methods for detecting and resolving open source software licensing conflicts”. This not only contradicts the spirit of sharing and software freedom by most definitions of common sense but also illustrates the aggressive for-profit focus of the company.

Professor Bradley Kuhn from the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) went so far as to say: “Black Duck again shows itself as a company whose primary goal is to prey on people’s fear of software freedom.” (quoting from an article on arstechnica.com)

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