How to choose a protective license? (Data & Software)

De Communauté de la Fabrique des Mobilites

Short Description : This paper will help data producer’s and software owner's that want to share they product to choose a protective license

Description: DataBase and software are, like most of intellectual product, subject to copyright:

  • For software, the copyright covered the software structure/architecture, the source code (Human readable informatics’ language), the object code (produced by the compilers from the source code) and the interface.
  • For database, the copyright covered the data itself and the structure of the database.


The copyright gives to the producer of the data – or the owner of the software – the exclusivity on its reproduction, distribution, adaptation, and modification and allows him to concede, or not, some of this right via a protective license. A license is a contract by which the owner of the data/software concedes a part of his right provided that the re-user respect the term and conditions of the contract.

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Contributor: LEROY Tom

Tags: license

Category: Connaissance, Juridique

Theme: Données ouvertes, Logiciel Libre, Africa

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Communauty of interest: Communauté du Logiciel Libre, Communauté autour des données ouvertes

Type of common: Commun

Produced in the field of OpenChallenge ? Non
« Non » n’est pas reconnu comme valeur booléenne (vrai/faux).

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Database protection

The producer of a database (the person who takes in charge the constitution of the database) enjoys the protection right of the content and architecture of the database.
Firstly, in order to share a database, the producer should ensure that the data that will be shared doesn't contain any personal or sensitive data. Secondly, to be able to claim the property and the copyright of a database and to choose a data license, the producer of the database should be able to justify a human/financial investment.
Once the structure and the content of the database have been produced, the opening strategy and the protective license associated must be defined. It should articulate with the ambitions carried by the database production. Is it shared for a simple re-use or is it seen as a development issue for external actors? The choice of the license will principally depend on the nature of the data that will be protected and the strategy under this sharing. Following to the ambitions adjoining to the data shared, the producer will have to choose between license with a strong copy left (reciprocity obligations) or more permissive one’s.

Permissive licenses

They are widely used for public data sharing and are compatible with other existing licenses. They facilitate the compilation and the provision under other licenses. For example, the Open 2.0 License, from the French Etalab mission, is a permissive license that intended to allow users to freely share, modify, and use the database.

Permissive licenses applicable for database produced by public actors
Licenses Authorizations Conditions
Open License 2.0 Shraring (copy, distribute and re-use) of the data for commercial and non-commercial use.
Modification and transformation of the data
Mention of the paternity of the data (original source of the data base)
Mention of the modification date
License PDDL (Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication License No conditions
ODC-By (Open Data Common By) Mention of the paternity of the data (original source and license of the data base)

Copyleft License

Copyleft ones are used for their reciprocity obligation. In case of modification the modified database should be shared under the original license or compatible ones in order to keep it open for another user.

Copyleft licenses applicable for database produced by public actors
Licenses Authorizations Conditions
License ODbL Shraring (copy, distribute and re-use) of the data for commercial and non-commercial use
Modification and transformation of the data
Mention of the paternity of the data (original source and license of the data base)
Keep the data open
Distribution of the data under the same license
In case of sharing a modified database, the original data base should be provided too
CC By (Open Data Common By) Mention of the paternity of the data (original source of the data base)
Distribution of the data under the same license


Software licensing

The choice of the protective license will depend on the right that the producer wants to deliver to the contributor on the developed software.
Firstly: Do we want to share it under a proprietary license or under an open license? Will the source code be executable, modifiable and re-distributable by other users while they respect the term of the open license? Or will it be under a proprietary license and the software will be limited to its only re-utilization? Does the owner want to keep the financial, patrimonial and protective exclusivity?
This paper focus on open license, but here's a quick presentation of the different proprietary license:

  • Freeware license: Free download of the software;
  • Shareware: Free download for trying (limited access to function or in time)
  • Commercial: Paying access

If the choice stands for an open source license, that provide to the re-user the right to acess, modify and share again the source code, the redistribution conditions applicable to the software must be determined. This caracteristique is determinated by the force of the copyleft associated with the license. So we distinguish three type of license: copyleft license, permissive license on derivation and permissive license on derivation and on composition.

License with obligation of reciprocity

All non-permissive licenses – with a strong copyleft- that imposed to keep the original license (or compatible ones) on the software/database shared (modified or not). This license allows to ensure that the software will stay under an open license and that it won’t be integrated to another software with a proprietary license. (superior compatibility unaccepted except for other specific license)

Copyleft licenses (with reciprocity obligation) applicable for software
Licenses Authorizations Obligation in case of redistribution Tracability in case of redistribution Compatibility in case of redistribution Notes
License GNU GPL v3.0 Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
No commercial re-use
Modification of the original license unauthorized
Additional module license’s should be compatible with the GNU-GPL v3.0
Each modification shared of the content should be joined with a description of the modification, the date of the modification and the name of the contributor Superior compatibility:
No (except for GNU GPL oldest versions and GNU LGPL)
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
In case of sharing it’s forbidden to modify the “no update guaranty” condition and the modified source code should be fully provide (or joined with a proposition to ask for the complete code)
CECILL v2.0 Public Domain French version of the GNU GPL v3.0 from the Etalab’s mission
Superior compatibility with GNU GPL only


Permissive license on composition

All permissive license with a weak copyleft that allow the redistributor to add some component to the coide even if they are protect under another license. The aim of this license is to prevent the appropriation of the original code under a proprietary license and to allow a larger utilization of the code

Permissive licenses on composition applicable for software
Licenses Authorizations Obligation in case of redistribution Tracability in case of redistribution Compatibility in case of redistribution Notes
License GNU LGPL v3.0 Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
No commercial re-use
Modification of the original license unauthorized
Additional module license’s may be added but the original source code should stay under LGPL
Each modification shared of the content should be joined with a description of the modification, the date of the modification and the name of the contributor Superior compatibility:
Yes with GNU GPL v3.0
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
In case of modification, the modified code can be shared under GNU GPL v3.0
CECILL-C French version of the GNU LGPL from the Etalab’s mission
Superior compatibility with GNU GPL & CECILL only
MPL Mozilla Public License Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
Commercial re-use are allowed
Modification of the original license unauthorized
Additional module license’s can be added but the original source code should stay under MPL
Each modification shared of the content should be joined with a description of the modification, the date of the modification and the name of the contributor Superior compatibility:
Potentially with every other license
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
The accessibility to the modified code should be provided at least for 12 months


Permissive license on composition and derivation

Permissive license that allows the re-user to submit the modified/shared code under another license. Those license permit a larger utilization and diffusion of the source code with the possibility, for example, to use it for commercial issues and to keep the modified code under a proprietary license.

Permissive licenses on composition and derivation applicable for software
Licenses Authorizations Obligation in case of redistribution Tracability in case of redistribution Compatibility in case of redistribution Notes
BSD v3.0 Berkeley Software Distribution License Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
Commercial re-use are allowed
Modification of the original license authorized
Additional module with different can be added
Not required Superior compatibility:
Yes with all license that accept the BSD term’s
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
The use of the name of the original conceder is forbidden
No obligation for the code sharing
CECILL-B Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
Commercial re-use not allowed
Modification of the original license unauthorized (exept in case of derivation)
Additional module with different license can be added
Not required Superior compatibility :
Yes with all license that accept the BSD/CECILL-B term’s
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
The accessibility to the modified code should be provided at least with a simple access to the source code
Apach v2.0 Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
Commercial re-use allowed
Modification of the original license authorized
Additional module with different licenses can be added but the original source code should stay under Apache v2.0
Indication of the effective modification Superior compatibility:
Yes with all license that accept the Apache term’s
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
The use of the name of the original conceder is forbidden
Obligation to quote registred mark and adjoining patent
The contributor should give a free license over patent when they are necessary
MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Access to source code
Right to use and duplicate
No update guaranty
Integration and modification
Obligation of citation
Commercial re-use allowed
Modification of the original license unauthorized
Additional module with different licenses can be added but the original source code should stay under MIT
Indication of the effective modification Superior compatibility:
Yes with all license that accept the MIT term’s
Inferior compatibility
Yes with permissive license’s code on derivation and composition (or specified ones)
Obligation to mention the original license in case of modification of the license