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Home > Creating Copyright > Managing Rights > Licensing


Licensing allows:

  • Use
  • Publication

  • Control

A license is a grant of permission to use a work in a manner that would otherwise infringe a copyright if the permission were not given. Licenses are used by copyright owners to allow others to copy, distribute, adapt, perform or display a copyright work.

How you license a work usually depends on what you are trying to achieve. Licenses can be very broad and grant a number of rights, or they can grant limited rights for limited times. For example, you could grant a publisher the right to use your work in a printed journal, but not grant the right to use the work on line. You might grant someone the right to make and distribute copies of a work in a certain class, but not for its use in commercial ventures.

Matching License to Goals
By carefully constructing licenses, the owner of a work can control how a work is used and achieve the maximum impact for the work. By thinking through what your goals are for the work, you can match the license rights to achieve your goals.

Some ideas for matching license rights and goals:

  • License by format, distribution or market. It may be desirable to break up licenses by format and medium of deployment as well as by market sector. This serves the objective of broad dissemination of the results of research and fulfils both academic and public service objectives.
  • Retain update rights. It may also be desirable to retain control over updates and improvements of the work to ensure that the work maintains academic integrity and represents authors and the University appropriately.

UW TechTransfer Digital Ventures
UW TechTransfer Digital Ventures manages and pursues licensing arrangements if the University owns or has an interest in a copyrighted work. Licensing a work usually comes with some risk and entails University time and resources to negotiate with potential developers or users of the work, maintain the relationship, and manage the rights and financial arrangements. For more information about this process, contact UW TechTransfer Digital Ventures.

Public Domain
Works that have been released to "Public Domain" are available free of charge and have no restrictions on who uses them or how they are used. Anyone can create proprietary products from works that are in Public Domain. In addition, works in Public Domain can be edited, revised, or sold without notice to the author(s).

Works that are no longer within the statutory protection of copyright are in Public Domain. For information on statutory time limits under the Copyright Act, see Determine Copyright Status.

"Open Source" software code
Some software developers use an "Open Source" model for sharing their software with others. There are many varieties of Open Source licenses. Generally, an Open Source license requires free distribution of the software and distribution of the source code.

Open Source is not the same thing as Public Domain. Public Domain works are not copyrighted: Open Source works are copyrighted and the terms of their use are covered by a license.

Open Source licenses generally fall into two categories:

  • "Non-Copyleft licenses" require that the software be distributed for free and come with a permission to redistribute and modify the code.
  • "Copyleft licenses" require that in addition to being distributed for free, any modifications to the software are also distributed for free. The most common "Copyleft license" is the GNU General Public License (or "GPL").

GNU's homepage on Copyleft is located at

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