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Software License Comparisons

Software Licenses

The information on this page provides a brief description of the options available in licensing software.  See sidebar for a graphic representation of the advantages of these license types. 


Early Release Licenses

  1. If software code is released in conjunction with publications in order to disseminate academic findings, a permission statement that establishes use of code can be added in the form of a few sentences on your website or a more formal license.
  2. Open Source (free) and Research Only Licenses:
    1. software available for peer review as a companion to publications;
    2. encourage experimentation and validation of the code;
    3. establish an early response that may shape the future direction of the research;
    4. encourage development and extensions by third parties;
    5. increase demand for follow-on, complementary software products;
    6. allow creators to control integrity of the code and re-distribution; and
    7. open source licenses permit external entities to use code internally and charge for re-distribution of code.



Research-Only License


  1. Allows distribution of source code or executables for research use only:
    1. available to both non-profit and for-profit institutions; and
    2. distributes the source code as widely as possible without allowing others to incorporate it into their commercial products.
  2. When distributing early versions of software through a website, it is a good idea to request voluntary or mandatory registrations from anyone downloading the source code:
    1. A list of names can be useful to demonstrate the popularity of your software when marketing the software or submitting research grants.
    2. Office for Technology Transfer and Licensing (OTTL) can assist university employees with a privacy policy statement, which alerts people who register how their information will be used and under what circumstances they will be contacted.



End User Licenses


  1. Specifies the cost and terms of use with a maximum number of users.
  2. Executable or web-based software is not intended to be used in source code form.
  3. License and payment system allows software to be sold from a website.


Distribution Agreement


  1. Establishes a distributor’s responsibilities for packaging and delivering a  product.



Start-Up License


  1. A start-up company typically develops raw code into a market ready product.