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Open-Source – open software, but within limits

WordPress, Linux, and Android are examples of the most popular open-source software. This means they are freely available to the public and operate on open-source code, which users can often edit. The popularity of this software type not only reduces costs for users but also provides access to the source code, empowering users to develop and enhance it, which can improve security by eliminating bugs and patching vulnerabilities in the source code.

No one disputes that computer programs are subject to copyright protection, and their creators are entitled (in principle) to all rights to the software created, including, in particular, rights to the source code. Making a program available under an open license does not mean they are deprived of copyright protection and the author relinquishes their rights.

The rules of the legal use of software made available as “open-source” are defined in each case by the license, which generally acts as a contract between the user (entrepreneur or programmer) and the software provider, i.e. the licensor. Open-source licenses define the rules for using the software, its development (modification), and further use and sharing. The use of open-source software is possible only under the terms of the licenses, which are binding, and violation of which gives rise to the risk of liability.

The most popular OS licenses

There are several hundred types of open-source licenses on the market, differing from each other more or less significantly – for example, in terms of the rules of permissible modification of the source code, the rules of further redistribution of the results of code development (copyleft, non-copyleft), or the rules of liability in case of violation of the license.

The main website of the Open-source Initiative (www.opensource.org) lists more than 100 templates of various open-source licenses for use. However, despite this significant number of open-source licenses, most free software operates under several popular open-source license templates indicated below.

GPL LICENSE (GNU General Public License).

This license has the most tremendous significance for the entire open-source movement. Under the GPL, copying, modifying, and distributing programs developed from source code made available under this open license is possible. The condition, however, is that such a program must also be licensed under the GPL. These are so-called “copyleft” licenses, also called “viral” licenses, since the use of code covered by an open license “infects”, as it were, the program using that source code. In other words, if GPL-licensed code is used to develop a program, the resulting work becomes GPL-licensed. The “copyleft” solution aims to prevent the monopolization of the initially free source code while safeguarding its “openness” and free access. As indicated in the Preamble of the GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE document, “if you distribute copies of such a program, either free of charge or for a fee, you must pass on to the recipients the same freedoms that you received.”

In addition, it should be remembered that software developed from code released under the GPL must be accompanied by information about the license, the author of the code, and documented changes made to the original code. An example of such software is Linux.

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) LICENSE.

It has the most fans among those who appreciate the small number of legal provisions of the license. The MIT license document can count a few short sentences. That’s because, without any restrictions (and patent rights), we can use, modify, or distribute the program created from the source code provided under this license. As a condition, you must include a copy of the license and information about the software’s author.


Created by the Apache Software Foundation, this license permits the use, modification, and sharing of software without the obligation to share the source code, with the condition of using the software under this license being that the changes made to the code must be documented. Authors can make their work available for both private and commercial use. The conditions to be fulfilled remain the inclusion of a copyright notice. Software under the Apache 2.0 license cannot be covered by warranty.

BSD LICENSE (Berkley Software Distribution License).

By far the more liberal OS option. What distinguishes it from the GPL is that you don’t have to make your final work open-source when you develop software based on code covered by the BSD license. There is also no obligation to document changes to the source code. One version of the BSD license prohibits, without prior written permission, the use of code developers’ names to sign or promote derivative solutions.


The open license and the activities allowed under it allow flexibility and considerable savings in operating enterprises that use OS (open-source) and can tailor the program to their own needs at low cost. The diversity of specialists who can work on a given software also gives the possibility of constantly developing the project. This is a convenient option for the author of the code, which will be improved, and for users who can get professional software without a significant financial outlay. The openness of the source code also allows for more frequent inspections and security checks of the programs.

When making a decision when choosing the “ideal” software, in addition to the benefits related to the available functionalities of the software, or the content and quality of its source code and low cost, one should also pay attention to the rules of program use indicated in the open-source license and the consequences associated with it. Therefore, it should be standard to legally verify the rules of use of the selected program made available under an open license and the associated risks before deciding to use it.

#licences #open source #open source software

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