A few words on software licenses

A few words on software licenses

free-software.jpgRegarding software licenses, many people think there are only two types of programs: the ones you get for free and the ones you have to pay for. But it’s not that easy.

Free programs come in two flavors: freeware (full functioning apps you can use for an unlimited period of time without paying anything) and GPL software, which means that not only the application itself, but also the source code is free. You’re therefore allowed to modify and redistribute the program, something that would normally be forbidden by copyright laws.

When dealing with free software, you may have come across a license definition such as “free as in free speech” or “free as in free beer”. This metaphor was developed by the Free Software Foundation to explain the concept of free software. If a program is free as in free beer, it means that you can freely use it (i.e. drink free beer at a party) but you have no other rights on it (i.e. take the beer with you or obtain the recipe). However, if the program is free as in free speech, you’re entitled the rights to use, modify or redistribute it any way you want. The only restrictions that apply here are credit be given to whoever helped you producing your version and that your new program is a free (as in free speech) piece of software too.

As for paid programs, they usually provide a shareware version, so that users can try it and see if it meets their expectations. Shareware apps can be time or function limited, the latter being sometimes also known as crippleware.

But that’s not all. In our years of software testing and reviewing, we’ve found some pretty funny and original software licenses such as cardware (send a postcard of your hometown to the developer), beerware (buy the developer a beer) and the almost unbelievable sisterware (you’re morally obliged to introduce your sister to the developer).

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