Software licenses govern the use and distribution of computer software. Software is usually protected by copyright, with the exception of public domain software.
There are generally three types of computer software licenses: proprietary licenses, free licenses and open source licenses. Proprietary licenses grants the use of the software to the end user yet maintaining ownership of the software. Free software licenses grant, by default, all rights according to copyright law to the software copy’s owner yet still maintain the copyright to the software itself. Open source licenses grant permissive licenses, which offers the user freedom to use it in almost any way they please, including modifications or reverse engineering.
When proprietary computer software is purchased, licensing is often an essential contracting term of agreement between the publisher and the user of the software. This contract is often referred to as the End User License Agreement (EULA).
Computer software licensing protects its copyright. For example, for proprietary, licensing prevents the user from duplicating the software (other than for backup purposes), installing it on multiple computers, editing the code, or significantly modifying the program. Licenses may also make statements that attempt to prevent pirating by restricting reverse engineering.
In addition, computer software licensing is used as a disclaimer. The majority of EULA contracts state that the software publisher will not hold liability for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise from the use of the software, including data loss, time or usage, or computer breakdowns.
Most software licensing agreements are embedded into the software itself and can be accepted or declined during installation. Should the EULA be declined, the computer software installation is aborted. However, some publishers hold the agreement that once the software’s outer casing has been broken, the end user automatically accepts the license. This has been highly debated in courts to various measures, with the argument that a user does not have the ability to review the EULA until the product has been opened. However, in certain cases where an open product is not returnable, the agreement has been known to be forced upon the user by some courts.