You ignore everything, and click “I agree”

Kesavan Selvarajah
3 min readSep 8, 2020

What is Software License?

A software license is a document that provides legally binding guidelines for the use and distribution of software.

Software licenses typically provide end-users with the right to one or more copies of the software without violating copyrights. The license also defines the responsibilities of the parties entering into the license agreement and may impose restrictions on how the software can be used. Software licensing terms and conditions usually include fair use of the software, the limitations of liability, warranties, and disclaimers, and protections if the software or its use infringes on the intellectual property rights of others.

Software licenses typically are either proprietary, free or open-source, the distinguishing feature being the terms under which users may redistribute or copy the software for future development or use.

What are the different types of software licenses?

Here are five types of common software license models we should know about. Four are examples of open source licenses (which allow us to reuse code to some extent), and one disallows any reuse whatsoever.

Public domain: This is the most permissive type of software license. When software is in the public domain, anyone can modify and use the software without any restrictions. But you should always make sure it’s secure before adding it to your own codebase. Warning: Code that doesn’t have an explicit license is NOT automatically in the public domain. This includes code snippets you find on the internet.

Permissive: Permissive licenses are also known as “Apache-style” or “BSD style.” They contain minimal requirements about how the software can be modified or redistributed. This type of software license is perhaps the most popular license used with free and open-source software. Aside from the Apache License and the BSD License, another common variant is the MIT License.

LGPL: The GNU Lesser General Public License allows you to link to open source libraries in your software. If you simply compile or link an LGPL-licensed library with your own code, you can release your application under any license you want, even a proprietary license. But if you modify the library or copy parts of it into your code, you’ll have to release your application under similar terms as the LGPL.

Copyleft: Copyleft licenses are also known as reciprocal licenses or restrictive licenses. The most well-known example of copyleft or reciprocal license is the GPL. These licenses allow you to modify the licensed code and distribute new works based on it, as long as you distribute any new works or adaptations under the same software license. For example, a component’s license might say the work is free to use and distribute for personal use only. So any derivative you create would also be limited to personal use only. (A derivative is any new software you develop that contains the component.)

The catch here is that the users of your software would also have the right to modify the code. Therefore, you’d have to make your own source code available. But of course, exposing your source code may not be in your best interests.

Proprietary: Of all types of software licenses, this is the most restrictive. The idea behind it is that all rights are reserved. It’s generally used for proprietary software where the work may not be modified or redistributed.

Why Software Licensing Is Important?

Businesses must be savvy in the licenses they purchase to ensure firstly they are using software legally and secondly, they aren’t paying for licenses that aren’t being used. By acquiring too many software licenses you’re wasting company resources, without enough you leave yourself liable to a potential lawsuit (which is quite costly). Finding the right license agreement can also make it easier to manage software in your company.

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