The Computer Revolution/Software/Software Licenses

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Software licenses[edit]

Congratulations, you just bought the coolest new operating system out there. It’s yours. But wait, is it yours? Can you view the source code? Can you make changes to the code? Can you install the program on all of your computers and your friends' computers, and any other computer that suits your fancy. No, you can’t. That’s because you didn’t really buy the software, you bought a software license.

Software being a non-physical construct is not a scarce resource or intrinsically unique, it can be endlessly replicated. Software licenses are the way authors and copyright owners control their rights over these creations and limit access to them.

A software license is something that declares rights, conditions and permission to the software it applies to. The rights to use, copy, alter and distribute are the most important. Some may only allow you to install it once on only one computer; while others may allow you a certain amount of installs before prohibiting you anymore. The license is also an agreement that you must make in order to continue the installment.

EULAs (End User License Agreements) are a specific case of software licenses, that in some regions are open to be disputed if no legislation has specifically legitimized that type of agreement, since the user will only see them after purchasing the software product. It then becomes undefined if that post-purchase license is valid or if the user that refuses the agreement, has the right to have the the value paid returned or even a compensation for the time lost, since the vendor had many avenues to be clear pre-purchase.

A Copyright Symbol

Author and Copyright owner
Like in any intellectual property creation the author will retain ownership of all rights to it, unless he was doing work for hire or sells some or all rights to another entity, therefor the author can not be the same entity that the copyright owners.

In relation to licenses one has to consider that users do not buy, or own the product but license its use. Details of the license may vary, but in most cases the software license limits the number of computers upon which you can install the software and the types of changes (if any) you can make to the software.

The rest of this section describes the types of licenses available, as you will see they can grant or limit user rights in many aspects, they can even give you the right to alter and distribute the software.

Commercial software[edit]

Commercial software is developed and sold for profit, software that you can purchase, or license. Normally these come with a single –user license which means that you are only allowed to install and use the software on a single computer. In some cases the software could be installed on a second computer that you own, if allowed by the license. The makers of the program do not really sell you their software, rather they sell you a license so you are a "authorized" user of the software.

This could be any programs such as Microsoft Word, TurboTax, GarageBand Adobe Photoshop. You are not allowed to view the source code or make any changes to that code.

Demo/Trial Version
In addition to their full versions, some commercial software is available in a demo or trial version. These versions can be used free of charge and distributed to others but are often missing key features, or will not run after a trial period is over. These programs are not designed to be replacements for the fee-based version and is usually meant to be uninstalled after use.


Shareware software is software that you can obtain for free for a limited trial basis, it is usually also found pre-installed on new computers with commercial operative systems. Should you wish to keep the software after the trial basis, you are required to pay a small fee. It is unethical to use shareware after the trail period ends.

Most shareware software is incomplete or functionally limited in some way until you purchase it. It may run for a limited time, for example for one hour only, each time you launch it, or some key features, such as printing, may be disabled. In order to get a full version of that software, the user will need to purchase a registration code which can be done through publisher’s website.If you pay the fee to keep the program you can copy and share it with people, but if they choose to keep the software they must pay the fee as well. Shareware can be less costly than other kinds of commercial software because it is made by a single programmer and uses a different type of marketing system. You can find different shareware programs on websites that offer different software to download. By using this type of marketing it saves cost of having to advertise or package the programs.


Freeware software is software that the copyright owner permits free utilization. The copyright owner keeps ownership of the software meaning that he is the only that can sell, distribute, or modify it. Freeware does not require any payment. There are no time limits of usage or usage restrictions in the software. Once you install the software, you are free to use it as long as you want. The term 'freeware' was trademarked in the 1980's by Andrew Fluefelman, who was an attorney, computer magazine editor and developer of a popular communications program, "PC-Talk". Although now, the trademark is abandoned and there term is now 'generic'. Some popular examples of freeware is 'Youtube Downloader 3.3' and 'AVG Antivirus Free 2012'.


To do:
Add Andrew Fluefelman to the Timeline. It would be interesting to link it to ad-ware and mention and link software bundles and spyware, for instance the Flash Player is freeware but attempts to install other software. Explain that Web tools are not freeware because they can't be distributed and often are monetized by ads and gathering personal information from users (probably in another section but linked from here).


Open Source Initiative Logo

Open Source software is software that can be edited, viewed, and used by any person. It is open in the same manner that Wikipedia is (though Wikipedia is not an example OS software) anyone may come here and use it, learn from it, change, it correct it or improve on what they see. They allow for a wider distribution and a wider amount of input, it is also possible for there two be a number of people who wish to design software to collaborate and though they may not have identical ends they can contribute. The aim of those who contribute to Open Source software, or open source anything for that matter, not only the design but the subsequent dissemination of the knowledge and products of their labor.

Open Source is the certification trade mark of Open Source Initiative (OSI). To be distributed under the OSI trade mark the software has to conform to the following terms:
•Software must be free to distribute, share, modify and possibly improve.
•The program source code must be made available.
•The name of the developer must be announced.
•The license must be technology-neutral and must not restrict any other software.

The Free Software Directory of Open Source contains over 5,000 free software packages. Free user-generated software now includes the most widely used web-server software Apache, database software MySQL, the second most popular desktop operating system Linux, and web browser Firefox and office suite Open Office.


To do:
Explain the distinction about Open Source (its various interpretations) and the right to access the code, alter it and distribute changes
Feel free also to tackle the issue of:
Free "libre" software is not a license but a software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with minimal restrictions only to ensure that further recipients can also do these things. In practice, for software to be distributed as free software, the human readable form of the program (the "source code") must be made available to the recipient along with a notice granting the above permissions. The free software movement was launched in 1983 to make these freedoms available to every computer user. While free software can be very useful, some operating systems will only accept a certain type of software that is considered free. There are different types of free software. Open source is one type of software that is considered free but does not call itself so. In 1998 some people began using the term open source instead of the word free. Open source is now a well known website to go to download many safe free products.

Public domain software[edit]

Ownership rights for public domain software have been donated or defaulted to the public. This means that anyone can use, modify, and distribute the software free of charge. Programs can be out of copyright simply because their authors (or right owners) intended to share the work with everyone else, releasing them as public domain. The UNIX community has developed a number of such programs over the years.

Programs in the public domain can be used without restriction, even as components of other non public domain programs. When reusing code of public domain software, it is good to understand its history so that you can be sure it really is in the public domain. It can thus be freely used, copied, or altered and licensed because no one owns the rights to restrict its use. Public domain software is the only type in most cases to which no limitations apply.

There are plenty of public domain programs, but these are often confused with several other types of software, called freeware, which can be obtained for free, or shareware, which is usually obtained free but require a fee for use.

Software Piracy

Software licenses and other means are useful in today's time where we often face the problem of software piracy. Software piracy and digital counterfeiting affect individuals and businesses. Some software companies charge very high prices so people may seek out pirated copies. There are some tools currently being used to curb software piracy such as software anti-piracy tools.