Software License Types

Undoubtedly, one of the points where most computer users are confused is in the issue of software licenses. These licenses are essentially a contract between the author and the user program and include a number of terms and clauses that the user must meet to use the software.

This applies to all commercial, or free programs, but in the latter case, the conditions are always in favor of the end user. This article will try to throw some light on the matter, which will allow us to know the different types of license the software we use daily.

Software license types

Free Software

This is a type of software license that allows to anyone use, copy and distribution of the program, even with modifications. The possibility of changes implies that the source code is available. If a program is free, it can be also included in a free operating system. Do not confuse software free of charge with free software, because free software is associated with the freedom to copy, modify and redistribute, but nevertheless does not mean gratuity. There are free programs that cannot be altered or redistributed. And there are payment programs.


Most of the licenses used in the publication of free software allows programs to be modified and redistributed. These practices are generally prohibited by international copyright law, seeking to prevent modifications or copies made without the authorization of the developer. The licenses that come with free software make use of copyright law to prevent unauthorized use, but these licenses clearly and explicitly define the conditions under which copies, modifications and rearrangements may be made, in order to guarantee freedom to change and redistribute the software registered. To this version of copyright, is given the name of copyleft.

Software license types


The Debian license is part of the contract made between Debian and the community of free software users, and is called Debian Free Software Guidelines (DFSG). In essence, this license contains criteria for software distribution that include, in addition to the requirement to publish the source code:

  • the free redistribution; (b) the source must be included, and must be able to be redistributed; (c) any derivative work must to be redistributed under the same license of the original; (d) may be restrictions on redistribution of the source code, if the document was modified; (e) the license must not discriminate against any person or group of persons, nor any form of use of the software; (f) the rights granted not depend on the site where the software is located; and (g) the license cannot ‘contaminate’ other software.


The GNU General Public License, or GPL, is the license of the packets distributed by the GNU Project, plus a wide range of software that includes the core of the Linux operating system. The GPL formulation is such that instead of restricting the distribution of software that protects, prevent that this software is integrated into proprietary software. The GPL is based on the international law of copyright, which must guarantee legal cover for the GPL licensed software.

Software license types

Open Source

The Open Source Initiative license derivates from Debian.


The BSD license covers distributions of Berkeley Software Distribution packages, and other programs. This is considerate as a ‘permissive’ license because imposes few restrictions on how to use the software, the modifications you can make to the software, and the redistribution. The software can be sold and there is no obligation to include the source code. This license grants credit to the software authors but does not attempt to ensure that future amendments can remain free software.

The X Consortium distributed the X Window System under a license that makes it free software, though without adhering to copyleft. There distributions under license from the which are free software, and other distributions are not. There are some non-free versions of the X11 windowing system for workstations and certain IBM-PC devices, but few. Moreover, there are no X11 third party free versions.

Software license types

Public Domain Software

This type of license, Public Domain Software, is software without copyright. Some types of copies or modified versions may not be free if the author imposes additional restrictions on redistribution of the original or derivative works.

Semi-free software

Semi-free software is software that is not free, but nevertheless allows to others use, copy, modify and distribute this type of programs. Examples of semi-free software are the first versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, or some versions of Netscape browsers.


The term freeware does not have a widely accepted definition, but it is used for programs that permit redistribution but not modification, and include source code. These programs are not free software.

First we have to keep in mind is that It a freeware. But nevertheless, it is not free. In this type of license the author can restrict your developing to business use, also avoid unauthorized redistribution, modification by users and other restrictions. (Example: Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash Player, Windows Live Messenger)

Software license types


Shareware is a type of software available with permission to be redistributed, but its use implies payment. Generally, the source code is not available, and therefore it is impossible to make changes.

It is a freely distributed program, but for a limited time or with some restricted resources. Through the payment of a defined value the program’s author, you can get the program log or the full version with all the resources. It covers adware, trial and demo licenses.

Proprietary Software

The Proprietary Software is one whose copying, distribution and modification are, to some extent, prohibited by its owner. To use, copy or redistribute must request permission from the owner or pay.

Software license types

Commercial Software

Commercial software is software developed by a company in order to profit from its use. Note that “commercial” and “proprietary” are not the same. Most commercial software is proprietary, but there is commercial free software, and there is non-free software that is not commercial.


The software developed under this model shows advertising on the home screen or in some of its windows, which disappears when we pay for a key or serial number. Besides eliminating advertising, usually some features not available in the free version are unlocked. Currently, this license type is rare.


It is called Trial to software that offers all functions without cutting, but which expire after a certain period of time. It’s like a freeware program, which after a certain time stops working. To continue using the program, you should buy the registration key and enter it into the license section of the interface, to be run again. Example: Nero, Alcohol 120% and Photoshop.

Software license types


The Demo software is a version released by the author, which contains all the features of the original program. It is distributed free and has no expiration date, but has few resources and functions.


It is a program with fewer resources and functions. Well known as “lite version”. Ideal for use on older computers. Example: BurnAware Free.


In this type of software, the developer requests a donation to cover the cost of program development. It is not mandatory, but if requested. Note that the software works with all its functions even if we do not make the requested donation.


The abandonware is a type of software whose development has been abandoned long ago. A key feature to become abandonware is that the author must publicly announce that it has abandoned its development. If the discontinuity is announced, the program can be distributed and modified by any user or developer. However, the program still is protected by copyright.

Software license types

Rare or underutilized licenses


License program that enlists the help of donations to charitable funds and humanitarian aid organizations.

Postcardaware (or cardaware)

Software license type in which the author asks to send a card or postcard. The user is only asked to do that. Very similar to Emailware, when users send e-mails to the software author.