Any public repository must include a licence that details the terms under which the code or documentation is available to be used or modified.
In British English, licence is the noun and license the verb. So you need a licence to run a licensed bar, or you may need to visit the off-licence.
Some examples of this:
- Use the British English spelling of the noun licence, not the US English spelling of license (for example “you need a licence to drive a car.”)
- When talking about the permissions that a licence grants, or the act of using a licence, use license (for example “your pet shop needs to be licensed.”)
- When using a proper name, use the appropriate spelling for that thing (e.g. the MIT License.)
So you would license your software under a particular licence, such as the MIT License.
Guidelines for repositories containing code
Specifying the licence
Each repository should include a licence file. This should be called
GitHub’s guidance for including an open source licence in your repository uses the US English spelling of license, but will still show licence details for the British English spelling.
You should specify the licence and link to it in the repository’s README. It’s typical to include this information at the very end of a README under a ‘Licence’ heading.
At GDS we use the MIT License.
Make sure the licence content is included in full, including the title “The MIT License”, so that readers are quickly able to see what licence is being used.
The Copyright is Crown Copyright; you can put “Government Digital Service” in brackets.
Copyright (c) 2024 Crown Copyright (Government Digital Service).
The year should be the year the code was first published. Where the code is continually updated with significant changes, you can show the year as a period from first to most recent update, for example 2015-2019.
For more information on copyright notices, see the UK Copyright Service fact sheet.
There is a good example of a licence in the pay-adminusers repo.
Guidelines for repositories that are open documentation
Some repositories will produce websites serving documentation. The GDS Way is an example of this. In addition to the MIT License for the code in the repository, you should include the Open Government Licence (OGL) for the documentation.
The GDS Way repo is a good example of licensing open documentation.