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  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
  2. <html>
  3. <version>1</version>
  4. <head>
  5. <title>Legal Issues in Free Software</title>
  6. </head>
  7. <body>
  8. <p id="category"><a href="/freesoftware/freesoftware.html">About Free Software</a></p>
  9. <h1>Legal Issues in Free Software</h1>
  10. <div id="introduction">
  11. <p>
  12. It is important when re-using and developing Free Software (also known as Open Source), to
  13. also understand the legal issues surrounding them. Much of
  14. these legal issues are focused around Free Software licenses,
  15. and the rights and obligations that they provide and impose.
  16. Having a basic understanding of these legal issues enable users
  17. to effectively use and comply with the requirements of Free
  18. Software licences.
  19. </p>
  20. </div>
  21. <p>
  22. You can follow <a href="/freesoftware/legal/faq.html">this link
  23. for more Frequently Asked Questions</a> that can help you
  24. understand the legal implications of Free Software licensing.
  25. </p>
  26. <h2>What is software licensing?</h2>
  27. <p>
  28. Generally, a license is an authorization to use, release, or
  29. distribute someone else's property. This includes intellectual
  30. property such as a piece of text, a song, or artwork. Software
  31. licenses are therefore licenses that inform users of how the
  32. rights holder over a piece of software (usually the author) wants
  33. that software to be used, and what freedoms and/or restrictions
  34. it has. Without a license, many uses of the software may be
  35. prohibited due to the default application of copyright law.
  36. </p>
  37. <p>
  38. A Free Software licenses is a software license whose terms allow
  39. a user to obtain and enjoy the <a
  40. href="/freesoftware/freesoftware.html">four freedoms of Free
  41. Software</a>; namely, the freedom to use, modify, share and
  42. improve software. Conversely, the opposite of a Free Software
  43. license is a proprietary software license, which restricts users
  44. from enjoying any of the four freedoms of Free Software. Even
  45. software that is distributed free of charge (gratis) can be
  46. considered to be proprietary software, as long as any of the four
  47. freedoms are restricted.
  48. </p>
  49. <p>
  50. Copyleft licenses are a type of Free Software licences that allow
  51. the user to enjoy the four freedoms, under the condition that
  52. those freedoms remain intact in any further distribution of the
  53. software or derivative works.
  54. </p>
  55. <p>
  56. The absence of a license does not make a software Free Software.
  57. Software is copyrighted by default, so unless it has been
  58. explicitly and validly placed into the <a
  59. href="/freesoftware/legal/faq.html#public-domain">public
  60. domain</a>, using code without a license may be considered
  61. copyright infringement.
  62. </p>
  63. <h2>Why should software projects use Free Software licenses?</h2>
  64. <p>
  65. Software is the most important cultural technology of the 21st
  66. Century. It is almost impossible to imagine daily life today
  67. without it. When others control a tool as important to society as
  68. software, they can exert great influence over our lives and
  69. actions.
  70. </p>
  71. <p>
  72. For example, whoever controls the search engines that we use has
  73. the power to determine what we find online; whoever controls the
  74. software on which our online transactions are run can have access
  75. to our personal data. It would be dangerous to democracy if the
  76. critical social instrument that software constitutes were
  77. controlled by only a small group.
  78. </p>
  79. <p>
  80. The four freedoms of Free Software can therefore be applied to
  81. hand control of the future of software back to the people. A Free
  82. Software license is an explicit way of granting these freedoms,
  83. so that users of a piece of such licensed software are able to
  84. use, study, share and improve the tools that it provides.
  85. </p>
  86. </body>
  87. </html>