Licensing non-software assets

Free software licenses are most suitable for licensing, well, software. However, free software projects often incorporate media which is not software in and of itself, such as artwork and documentation. Different licenses are recommended for these use-cases. We have some recommendations for licenses which are suitable for non-software media, are within the spirit of free software, and are compatible with free software licenses.

Creative Commons

Most multimedia assets – images, audio, videos, writing, and so on – are suitable for use with Creative Commons licenses, which include configurable options for traits such as copyleft and attribution. Note, however, that the -ND (no derivatives) and -NC (non-commercial) variants of Creative Commons licenses are incompatible with free software, and the use of these assets will limit the utility of your project within the free software ecosystem.

Open Data Commons

Databases can be licensed under the Open Database License. The most prominent project using it is OpenStreetMap – which in 2012 underwent a move from CC BY-SA. The new license was needed in part because in certain jurisdictions, databases may have additional protections in parallel to (or instead of) copyright.

Similarly to Creative Commons, Open Data Commons publishes a collection of licenses designed for different needs: copyleft, attribution and public domain dedication.


Hardware projects (schematics, HDL sources, etc.) are encouraged to use the CERN Open Hardware License. It comes in several variants: strongly and weakly reciprocal, as well as permissive.

The Open Source Hardware Association provides a number of resources such as guides, FAQs or logos. It also maintains a directory of existing Open Hardware projects and issues OSHW certifications for them.


The SIL Open Font License is recommended for distributing fonts in a manner compatible with free software.


Most projects don’t use a special license for their documentation. However, the GNU Free Documentation License is occasionally used for this purpose.