What is a Software License?

Software licensing exists to protect the copyright of software and can restrict the way that the user can use it. In general, the restrictions consist of copying the software or having it installed on more than one device.

Software License Types

  1. Proprietary

Proprietary software licenses provide no such authority for code modification or reuse and normally provide software with operational code only, and no source code. A proprietary software license often includes terms that prohibit “reverse engineering” of the object code with the intention of obtaining source code by the licensee.

2.Free and open-source (FOSS)

FOSS gives rights to the customer that include modification and reuse of the software code, providing the actual source code with the software product(s). This open-source type of licensing affords the user authority to modify the software functions and freedom to inspect the software code.

FOSS license can be mainly categorized into two topics.

Copyleft License is a license type in which code derived from the original open-source code inherits its license terms.

Permissive license is a license type that provides more freedom for reuse, modification, and distribution.

Copyright Law

“Copyright law protects creators of original material from unauthorized duplication or use. For an original work to be protected by copyright laws, it has to be in tangible form. In the U.S., the work of creators is protected by copyright laws until 70 years after their death.”

Ownership vs Licensing

Let's take a simple example to discuss the above matter.

What happens after you buy a specific piece of software? What is the purpose of the license agreement if you have purchased software? Do you now own the program as a result of your payment?

Simply the answer is NO! Though you may have paid for the software, what you have actually done is licensed it, which means you have paid for the rights to use it according to the owner’s terms.

The copyright belongs to the person or entity who owns the program, providing them the sole legal ability to sell, distribute, duplicate, and/or change the software’s content. And regardless of how many times the owner legally distributes the program, the rights to the software stay with the owner unless the individual or organization transfers ownership rights.

Software engineering undergraduate