Software Licensing

dilusha sandaruwani
3 min readSep 7, 2020


What is software Licensing?

Software Licensing is the legal right to run or the privilege given to you by a company to access their application (or program)

For example, in most situations, it is illegal to purchase one copy of a program and copy it onto multiple computers. Instead of requiring tens, hundreds, or thousands of individually licensed copies of a program, companies often purchase site licenses which scale according to the number of installed users.

Examples of software licenses

  • Single-user license — The software is licensed for a single user and often a single computer.
  • Multi-user license — This license allows you to install a program onto multiple computers used by multiple users. Typically this may be a set number of users. For example, a five user multi-user license allows up to five people to use the program.
  • Site license — A program can be installed on an unlimited amount of computers, as long as they’re at the location of the site license. Site licenses are usually for schools and businesses.

What rights do software licensing establish?

  • The original owner of the software (usually the Licensor)
  • The right to modify the software (alter, install, modify)
  • The right to redistribute the software and/or source code (to other users or install onto other computers)

What are the different types of software licenses?

Here are five types of common software license models you should know about.

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.

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.

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.

Copyleft: Copyleft licenses are also known as reciprocal licenses or restrictive licenses. The most well-known example of a 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.

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.


The following is an example of the software license agreement for Cisco VPN Client Software:

Are software licenses transferrable?

In most situations, a retail version of an operating system license and software license is transferrable as long as it isn’t used on the older computer. For example, a retail version of Microsoft Windows can be transferred to another computer as long as the other computer is no longer used or switched its operating system.

Thank you 😊.



dilusha sandaruwani

Software Engineering undergraduate at University of Kelaniya