A license is a legal agreement between you and your software publisher. The license spells out what you can and cannot do with the software. It might specify the number of computers on which the software may be installed or address resale rights. Software may include a validation feature as a check on proper use. There are several categories of software and licenses.
Common types of Software and Licenses
Shared source - Microsoft developed “shared source.” There is not one standard license for shared source, there are several. When using this software, read the accompanying restrictions on use.
Shareware is proprietary software that is distributed freely or at low cost as a way for users to test drive copyrighted software they are interested in purchasing. Shareware will usually come with a license and registration. Shareware often distinguishes between commercial and non-commercial use.
Freeware – Although free, this software is copyrighted. It may have proprietary code or it may be open source software. It could even be in the public domain. Look for possible restrictions on use.
Open Source (OS) software is copyrighted, but the copyright holder ascribes to the OS license principles. OS comes with a license that uses special criteria known as Open Source Definition (OSD) established by the Open Source Initiative. See OSD for the ten principles. This is non-proprietary software. It can be downloaded, modified and redistributed. Commonly known OS software examples include Apache and Mozilla.
Shrink Wrap Licenses- These licenses are found after the buyer tears off the shrink wrap and opens the box. While “shrink wrap” licenses have been found to be unenforceable in some cases, one cannot assume this is will always be true.
Click Wrap License- Also known as “click through,” this is similar to a Shrink Wrap license, but we find these all over the web or on CDs. The user is required to agree to terms before using the service.
Copyleft License - This liberal license retains copyright for the creator, but allows the user to modify and distribute the software with the understanding that “downstream” users will be equally generous. GNU (General Public License) is a copyleft type of license.
Public Domain software – this is software that has no copyright restricting its use, no license, it’s free for you to use any way you wish.
Copyright Law and Sofware
If computer software is wrapped inside so many types of licenses, what does the exemption in the law allow me to do? ( Copyright Law, Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 117 Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer Programs)
The purchaser of an original copy of a computer program may “make or authorize the making of another copy or adaptation of the computer program provided:
(1) that the new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in using the program on one’s computer [an ephemeral copy] and that it is used in no other manner, or
(2) that such new copy or adaptation is for archival purposes only and that all archival copies are destroyed in the event that continued possession of the coputer program should cease to be rightful.”
The making of an archival copy permitted under this section of the law does not apply to software that is licensed unless the license allows it. (Simpson 89)
If a computer needs maintenance or repair, section 117 allows the owner or lessee of the computer to make a copy of a computer program in order to make the repair. This extra copy made in order to repair the computer must be destroyed immediately after the repair is made.
Original copies of software and copies made from originals may be “leased, sold or otherwise transferred…only as part of the lease, sale or other transfer of all rights in the program.” Adaptations “may be transferred only with the authorization of the copyright owner.” However, if your license speaks to the lease, sale or transfer of software, you must abide by those stated restrictions.
Privately Owned Software
If the software is licensed, check to see what kinds of transfer of ownership it permits. (Although there is some question about the enforceability of the license, the risk averse path is to abide by the license). Look for a clause allowing you to transfer the software to a third party. Some allow this; the license may tell you if you need to uninstall it first. The software may have to be transferred as a separate item. If your software falls into one of the more liberal licenses above that permits this or is public domain software, you may sell the software on the computer. If the software has no license, you may sell or transfer the copy of your computer software to the new owner of your computer, but all use rights go with it. You may no longer use that software. This also applies to a lease situation.
3. If I have adapted the software, may I transfer the software to someone else?
The only lending or renting of software allowed is for nonprofit libraries under the Copyright Software Rental Amendments Act of 1990.
13. How do I know if UMKC has a site license for certain software?
14. I am a faculty member and I would like to load the software from the CD in the back of my course text into my department's computer lab. Can I do this?
15. I have some licensed software installed on my office desktop computer. Can I also install a copy on my laptop? I am the only one who uses it.
Carol Simpson, Copyright for Administrators. 2008.