Did you know? Licenses for Open Source Software

Heng-Loon Wong

IP Attorney, Amadeus IT Group

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An OSS license typically grants the user/licensee a non-royalty right to use, modify and re-distribute the OSS. The OSS license also provides the OSS “as is”. There may be additional obligations to be fulfilled depending on the specific license such as attribution notices.


We’ve discussed the many benefitsof using Open Source Software (OSS) previously on this blog and in our landmark Open for businessreport, but we should also be mindful of the various implications and obligations imposed by OSS licenses.

OSS licenses can be generally categorized into two broad categories:

  • Copyleft– A play on the word “copyright”, it refers to the category of OSS licenses which require any modified or derivative works of the original to be licensed under the same license if distributed. It also requires the source code of the modified or derivative works to be made available. (e.g. GNU General Public License (GPL)) These licenses are said to be “viral”.
  • Permissive – Permissive OSS licenses generally grant users the right to use, modify and distribute the OSS with only very simple obligations such as retaining all attribution notices and including a copy of the license with the distributed work. (e.g. Apache Software License)

How do these licenses benefit businesses and innovation?  

Copyleft/GPL is one of the most popular OSS licenses and there is already a huge pool of codes released under GPL. Therefore when you release your software under GPL, you can easily find many available libraries and codes to use without worrying about the compatibility of the license with your chosen GPL license.

Permissive/Apache licenses are beneficial due to minimal restrictions. You are therefore able to attract both OSS developers and proprietary software developers to develop software released under the permissive license. Hence you can grow your community in a fast manner.

The license we’ve chosen for our ARIA Templatesis the Apache License v2.0. The Apache License is a permissive license, and is very widely known and used in the software industry. It will also help us grow the developer community surrounding ARIA Templates.

We know that this can be a confusing topic – so be sure to let us know if you have any questions below!


Open Source, Research