Software licensing describes the legal rights pertaining to the authorized use of digital material. Failure to adhere to software license agreement terms often incurs criminal charges related to licensed intellectual property (IP) and copyrighted material.
Free and open source licenses include free software with no monetary usage charge, but users, or licensees, are legally required to abide by agreement terms. Generally purchased software is sold with proprietary licenses, and despite much legal jargon, many license term particulars have no legal basis or are unenforceable.
Free licenses provide a licensee with rights similar to the original owner. For example, a licensee may copy, modify and distribute creative works, provided a free license is obtained.
Some forms of licensing, such as the General Public License (GPL), permit licensees to sell software or digital products. Proprietary licenses are obtained through End User License Agreements (EULA). Without a software licensing agreement, the licensee is strictly prohibited from using licensable media.
Free or open source licenses do not always require signed agreements. However, if a licensee or owner skips this option, the licensee may not realize all open source licensing benefits because an agreement is usually required to redistribute free or open source copyrighted material.
With proprietary software, the original copyright owner maintains ownership. By granting a license, which is not always legally binding, the copyright owner is more or less renting or leasing copyrighted materials to licensees.
A software license agreement details exclusive and reserved copyright owner rights. Licensees failing to adhere to this agreement section may be held liable under copyright law.