Licenses and IP

in open-source and academia

(and potentially start-ups)

Created by Lucas Beyer



  • I
  • Am
  • Not
  • A
  • Lawyer
  • This is not legal advice
  • Details vary by country

What a mess




Derivative work

(And trademarks ™ protect a name or brand.)


  • Grant an exclusive right to
    • make,
    • use,
    • sell, or
    • import
  • directly or indirectly an invention


  • Is a...
    • device,
    • method,
    • process, or
    • compound
  • which is
    • novel,
    • non-obvious, and
    • detailed such that it is reproducible

Not a secret!

Patent vs copyright

Patent protects an idea.

Copyright protects a specific expression of the idea.

Roughly speaking:

  • patent ‹-› algorithm
  • copyright ‹-› implementation


  • Protects your «original work of authorship» from being
    • reproduced,
    • distributed,
    • displayed or performed in public, and
    • derived.
  • Automatically!
  • And for a long time

Except in «limited scope», for «fair use».

Original work

  • Original
    • Needs a minimum amount of creativity
  • Work
    • Needs to be tangible
    • An idea, strategy, algorithm is not tangible.

Derivative work

Is considered a copy

def percentize(amount, total):
  # Ignore signs.
  amount = copysign(total)

  return 100.0*amount/total
def percentize(amount, total):
  # I need the sign!
  return 100.0*amount/total


No need to declare ©

No need for a date

Even if you don't want to

For a long time

Until 70 (EU) or 95 (US) years after your death.

Copyright owner

(Almost) never the author

The employer

Even for side-projects

This is a big problem for open-source projects

Many open-source projects originate from companies


(Software) licenses

  • Are used for...
  • granting rights! (Open-Source)
  • imposing additional restrictions. (Commercial, "EULA")
    • Restrict number of machines,
    • forbid disassembling/reverse engineering,
    • allow software to collect data,
    • ...
    • Changes from software to software

Subtle differences: (not) prove acceptance.

Licences might be torn apart in court.

Open-source software licenses

  • Are plenty (>50 on
  • But orders of magnitude more projects
  • We'll go from least permissive to most permissive

Least permissive: Restricted source

  • Examples:
    • Sun Community Source License
      • Used in J2EE
      • Pay fees for commercial use
    • Microsoft Shared Source
  • General motto: look, but don't touch!
  • Problem?
  • «Open-source», but not «free as in freedom».
  • New term: FLOSS (Free and Libre Open-Source Software)


  • If you change (or include) it, you must publish the changes.
  • Examples: GPL (strong), EPL, MPL (weak)
  • Sounds good but...
  • Viral
  • Good for programs, not libraries.
  • You make something during research and then...


  • Do whatever you want but...
    • ... don't claim it's yours
    • ... don't blame us
    • ... don't get us blamed if your changes suck
  • MIT, BSD, Apache
  • Getting very popular for libraries

Creative Commons

  • Previous licences are mainly for source-code.
  • Recently, FLOSS philosophy has spread to artsy domains.
  • Creation of CC licences for non-source-code material:

Stellar Links


BY Lucas Beyer