Published in


Get a License for Software Licensing

Obtain an overall understanding about Software Licensing

In this present world of technology, software is important thus, software licensing is. So, what is this software licensing? It’s time to explore.

Did you know that software licensing helps both the software company and the end-user, protect themselves? Did you know that unlicensed software accounts for 37 percent of software installed on personal computers? Are you aware of the fact that using unlicensed software is illegal and cost you time and money unnecessarily while decreasing productivity and efficiency?

Here is everything you need to know about software licensing in order to answer all the questions now arising in your head.

What is Software Licensing?

A software licensing is creating a legally binding agreement through a software license, between the owner or developer of a software program and the user. Software license is a document, outlining how users can use and distribute the product. In the software license agreement, the responsibilities of each party are clearly defined, preventing user from infringement of copyrights and protecting the owners’ intellectual property rights.

Typically, the software license includes:

· Restrictions on how the software can be used

· Visibility of underlying source code to the user

· Distribution rights of the user

· Limitations of liability

· Warranties and disclaimers

· Duration of the agreement

· Device Usage

Types of software licenses

There are many different types of software licenses, and here we will discuss about five common licenses among them.

Open — Source Software Licenses

Open-source type of licensing affords the user authority to modify and reuse of the software code, providing the actual source code with the software product.

Public Domain License

Most permissive category of software license that allows adopting the code into reusing the software as desired. Software included in the public domain, have no restrictions applied for modifications and usage of the software. The definition brings out the idea that software falling under this type are the best. But, public domain software may not always adhere to standards of secure software. Moreover, always keep in mind that software without specific licensing terms is not always a public domain software.

GNU/LGPL — GNU Lesser General Public License

LGPL license, provide rights to link to open source libraries within your own software. Resulting code obtained after linking a LGPL-licensed library with your own code, can be licensed under any other type of license. But if any part of the library under LGPL license is copied into your code or modified, the developed code that used the library should be released under similar terms as the LGPL.


Permissive licenses are also known as “Apache style” or “BSD style.” This is the most common and popular type of licenses. These include minimal restrictions or requirements for the redistribution and modification of the software. Another variation of a permissive software license is the “MIT” license.


Copyleft licenses are also known as reciprocal licenses or restrictive licenses. According to the terms of a copyleft license, the licensed code can be modified or distributed as part of a software project only if the new code is distributed under the same software license. The most well-known example for a copyleft license is the GNU General Public License (GLU).

Proprietary software licenses

Most restrictive software licensing method as make the software ineligible for copying, modifying, or distribution. But, this is the most favorable type of software license to the owner as it prevents unauthorized use of the software. Ex: -License for Microsoft Windows

Software Licensing Models

A software licensing model combines various parameters to define how software can be used by a customer. There are several software licensing models in the software world. Here we will consider top five models of them.

Perpetual licensing Model

Perpetual Licensing is the most traditional, common and simple software licensing model. In this model, the customer is given a chance to purchase the software once and use it forever. It is a non-expiring license. Generally, customers pay at the time of purchasing the license and sometimes pay a yearly maintenance fee. One advantage of this license is that customers know the exact amount they need to pay, without being surprised by pricing changes in a subscription model.

At present, many companies are shifting from traditional perpetual licenses to more flexible subscription models. Ex: — Microsoft Office Suite

Subscription-Based Licensing Model

One of the most popular software license models. Companies like Spotify, Adobe, Netflix, and others use this software licensing model. It is a renewable license including software support and updates during the coverage period. Customers are given the opportunity to pay their renewal fee (monthly, yearly, etc.) and the license is automatically terminated unless it is renewed.

Consumptive licensing Model

This is one of the most modern Licensing Models. It has a periodic fee based on usage. Payment can be before (Pre-paid) or while using (Pay-as-you-go) or after use. With this licensing model the price customer has to pay is most closely similar to actual usage of the software.

Copyright Law

When someone creates a product that is viewed as original (if the author created it from independent thinking without duplication), this product becomes an intellectual property that must be protected from unauthorized duplication. Ex: — computer software

Copyright refers to the legal right of the owner of intellectual property. Simply, copyright is the right to copy. This means that the original creators of products and anyone they give authorization to are the only ones with the right to reproduce the work.

Copyright law gives creators of original material the exclusive right to further use and duplicate that material. Under copyright law, anyone with an original work of authorship automatically has the copyright to that work, preventing others from using or replicating it.

Computer software were not protected by copyright until 1974 as they were not viewed as fixed, tangible objects. However, in 1983 traditional copyright law was extended to include machine-readable software and the Copyright Act awarded computer programs the same copyright status as literary works.

Ex: -When you create a new computer software, copyright law effectively gives you ownership of that program.

The underlying notion of copyright, the fact that you have control over how your software can be copied by others, is what makes software licenses meaningful. So, software copyright is the legal system which gives you control over your software and software licensing is a legal mechanism which allows you to form agreements with other parties over how they use your copyrighted software.

Ownership Vs Licensing

What happens when you purchase a specific software? If you’ve purchased software, what is the license agreement for? Do you own the software because you paid for it? The answer is simple, NO

Though you may have paid for the software, what you have actually done is licensed the software. You just have paid for the rights to use the software according to guidelines determined by the owner. When a user either purchases software or freely downloads software from the Internet, the user is not buying the ownership rights to the software but a license to use the software according to the licensing agreement, or EULA (for end user licensing agreement).

Ownership is holding the copyright with sole legal authority power to sell, distribute, copy and change the content of the software.

So, unless the owner of the software transfers ownership rights to you the rights remain with the owner, no matter how many times the owner legally distributes the software and users purchases software or download the software.

Ownership — full rights to do whatever you want with the software & code. The original creator has transferred full rights to you.

Licensing — Permission given by the owner of the software to do certain things with the software, as detailed in the license agreement.

Software Piracy

Software Piracy is the illegal use of licensed software. It is unauthorized use, duplication, or distribution of copyrighted or legally protected software. Software piracy is illegal and constitutes a federal crime.

There are five main types of software piracy


Softlifting is the process of someone purchasing one version of the software and downloading it onto multiple computers, although the software license states it should only be downloaded once.

Client-server overuse

Client-server overuse is the situation where too many people on a network use one main copy of the program at the same time.

Hard disk loading

Hard disk loading is a type of commercial software piracy. Here, someone buys a legal version of the software and then reproduces, copies or installs it onto computer hard disks.


Counterfeiting happens when software programs are illegally duplicated and sold with the appearance of authenticity.

Online Piracy

Online piracy, also known as Internet piracy, takes place when illegal software is sold, shared or acquired by means of the Internet.

Why should you use Licensed Software?

Software licensing may appear burdensome to you, the end user. But actually it provides you with some advantages and protection.

· Using a licensed software, protects the you from any legal liabilities incurred by the owner of the software s copyright.

· Using unlicensed software exposes you to legal and financial risk.

· Licensed software decreases the risk of cybersecurity incidents.

· Licensed software can save money and increase efficiency.


Everyday you work with many and different software. Most of the times you download at least one software per week. So, always try to explore your software license so as to know what it contains?, what type of a software license it is? and whether it is favorable for you or not. Moreover, all the time use a licensed software that benefits both you and the owner.

Hope the article is useful in obtaining an idea on software licensing. Thank you very much for reading!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Isuruni Rathnayaka



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Isuruni Rathnayaka

Isuruni Rathnayaka

Software Engineering Undergraduate - University of Kelaniya Sri Lanka