7 Feb outputs: licensing


In preparing for the event, there were several demands from attendees for information on software licensing. My experience has been whilst there are some general principles to understand, many of the thorny issues only come out when considering a specific example of a software licence (especially commercial software). I fired off an email to JISC Legal to see what advice and help they are able to offer. They kindly replied and the rest of this post comprises their guidance (with my editing!).

Open source software

The JISC-funded OSS Watch should have specific information on open source licences. They have expertise both in licensing in and licensing out software and can advise on the appropriateness of open source. Open source licensing can be an effective way of making software that has been written by public bodies (with public money) available to the wider community, where it may be taken up and adapted for greater public benefit. It also should be possible to reverse engineer it so that it can be used to maintain access to resources even when changes and developments take place.

Your own software

The JISC Policy on open source software for JISC projects and services may also be useful for projects and services that generate software as a core output. This is available here and advises projects to maintain an IPR register listing all contributors to their software and who owns the copyright on contributions.

Commercial software

Commercial software presents more of a problem as it usually brings with it intellectual property of a company that will be very protective of it and who may on-licence it but probably on commercial terms. Some may be interested in maintaining their software so that data is preserved and accessible but there is no guarantee.

Certainly maintaining data in media neutral format is an aim of many mainstream commercial publishers who value the flexibility that this bring.

Need to know more?

JISC Legal are able to advise on particular licensing issues: just click here