Case Studies/Google Summer of Code

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A project which provides students with stipends to work on a broad array of different free software and open source projects over the summer months.


Google's Summer of Code (SoC) project, first launched in 2005 from an idea by co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, provides students with stipends to work on a broad array of different free software and open source projects over the summer months. Proposal applications are submitted and then matched with one of more than a hundred partnered open source organizations. In turn, these organizations provide mentors to supervise students throughout the project. SoC has grown at a rapid pace in its first few years, more than doubling the number of students and accepted projects involved (as of 2008, 1125) while more than quadrupling the number of active partner organizations (174) [1]. Projects in the past have included a mail client project for the mobil project OpenMoko, a newspaper reader extension for Firefox, and improving Tor's censorship evading capability. Beyond its success as a project providing summer opportunities to students, it is also a prominent implementer of the Creative Commons license, broadly releasing all documentation and APIs created under SoC on liberal terms to the public.

License Usage

SoC licenses all the documentation and API's created by the project under the CC Attribution 2.5 license. In practice, this has allowed for expanded ease of sharing and embedding of these materials for discussion in blog posts and other media.


In an interview, Leslie Hawthorn, Google's Open Source Program Manager, laid out two overarching goals that made the CC BY 2.5 license an attractive fit for the Google Summer of Code project. First, Google sees making code widely available online as an important part of their business. As she explained simply, “what's good for the internet is good for Google.” As a result, the Summer of Code project was seeking a license that would lower the barriers for the code to spread and be easily reposted, discussed, and used by third-parties. Google's second related aim was to use a licensing structure that provided the flexibility to be permissive while allowing creators to efficiently maintain certain controls and make stipulations on the use of their work. In both cases, the Creative Commons model of “some rights reserved” matched neatly into their preferences.


Creative Commons has paired up as a participating organization with the Summer of Code for the past three years, which has generated some useful examples of the types of projects supported by the program. Details are available at: