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Licensing is giving permission for someone to use something. This category of the P2P Foundation Wiki covers a number of different aspects of licensing including reviews of licenses and licensing groups that serve creators throughout the world.

Christian Siefkes on the three freedoms characteristic of Copyleft licenses:

  • The freedom to use the work for any purpose.
  • The freedom to study the work and to change it to make it to do what you wish.
  • The freedom to distribute and share the work with others, so that the whole community may benefit.

Combinations of the three freedoms must be possible, too. The Free Software Definition specifies a fourth freedom that combines the preceding two (distribute modified versions).

Copyleft ensures that the three freedoms will also hold for all derived works: I may only published derivative versions if I give all their users the same rights." (

Important article: Defining Open Content Licenses; Stephen Downes in defense of the non-commercial clause, at (pp. 122+)


" I see free and open licence development as happening within three tranches, all related to a specific area of use.

1. FOSS for software.

Alongside the GPL, there have been a number of licences developed since the birth of the movement (and continuing to today), all aimed at software. These licences work best for software and tend to fall over when applied to other areas.

2. Open licences and Public licences for content.

These are aimed at content, such as video, images, music, and so on. Creative Commons is certainly the most popular, but definitely not the first. The birth of CC does however represent a watershed moment in thinking about open licensing for content.

I distinguish open licences from public licences here, mostly because Creative Commons is so popular. Open has so many meanings to people (as do “free”) that it is critical to define from a legal perspective what is meant when one says “open”. The Open Knowledge Definition does this, and states that “open” means users have the right to use, reuse, and redistribute the content with very few restrictions — only attribution and share-alike are allowed restrictions, and commercial use must specifically be allowed.

The Open Definition means that only two out of the main six CC licences are open content licences — CC-BY and CC-BY-SA. The other four involve the No Derivatives (ND) restriction (thus prohibiting reuse) or have Non Commercial (NC) restrictions. The other four are what I refer to as “public licences”; in other words they are licences provided for use by the general public.

Of course CC’s public domain tools, such as CC0, all meet the Open Definition as well because they have no restrictions on use, reuse, and redistribution.

I wrote about this in a bit more detail recently on my blog.

3. Open Data Licences.

Databases are different from content and software — they are a little like both in what users want to do with them and how licensors want to protect them, but are different from software and content in both the legal rights that apply and how database creators want to use open data licences.

As a result, there’s a need for specific open data licences, which is why we founded Open Data Commons. Today we have three tools available. It’s a new area of open licensing and we’re all still trying to work out all the questions and implications." (

Key Quotes

"Why is it a problem that the concepts of free software and open source are intrinsically tied to licenses? It’s that the aims and goals of both of these movements are about distribution and therefore consumption, but what people care about most today is about the production of software. Software licences regulate distribution, but cannot regulate production. (technically they can, but practically, they can’t. I get into this below.) This is also the main challenge of whatever comes after open source; they cannot rely on the legal tactics of the last generation. I don’t have solutions here."

- Steve Blatnik [1]

Key Resources

Related Sections

Audio & Video

  1. Brian Newman on Online Distribution and Creative Licenses
  2. Eben Moglen on Document Licenses and GPL3 ; Eben Moglen on Open Licenses in a Web Services Era
  3. Joi Ito on Commons-based Licenses and Games
  4. Ragavan Srinivasan on Open Licenses in Education

Essays and Reports

  1. Creative Commons is to Free Culture what Shareware is to Free Software. Dmytri Kleiner.
  2. Report: Fred von Lohmann, A Better Way Forward: Voluntary Collective Licensing of Music File Sharing, April 2008 [2]
    • Article: Bonvoisin, J. et al., (2017). What is the “Source” of Open Source Hardware?. Journal of Open Hardware. 1(1), p.5.


Licenses per Domain

Creativity, Art & Music

  1. Free Art License
  2. Free Music Public License ; Free Sheet Music License


  1. OER Licensing Models‎

Equity-based Licenses

  1. Common Good Public License
  2. Copyfarleft
  3. Ecopyleft
  4. Equitable Access Licensing
  5. Equitable Open Source
  6. Equity-based Licenses
  7. IANG License

Free Network Services

  1. Network Service Licenses

Open Data Licenses

Aimed at placing work into the public domain. The public domain has a very specific meaning in a legal context: It means that there are no copyright or other IP rights over the work

  1. Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL)
  2. Public Doman Dedication Certificate (PDDC)
  3. Creative Commons Zero


  1. ODbL
  2. ODC-Attribution licence

Open Design and Manufacturing / Hardware

  1. Recommended Open Hardware Licenses‎
  2. Open Design License Agreement
  3. Open Hardware Licenses
  4. TAPR Open Hardware License
  5. CERN Open Hardware License
  6. Talis Community License
  7. Three-Dimensional Printing Open License


  1. General Public License for Plant Germplasm

Pages in category "Licensing"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 230 total.

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