Software license

Software licenses are becoming more important these days. This is because the world of tech as we know it, would not exist without appropriate software. As software has matured, so has the need to hold on to their licenses. So what then is a software licence?

Simply put, a software license gives a user the right to use software in an approved environment or platform. This means that if you have the license to a particular piece of software, you are legally allowed to use it. If you do not have the license, then it may be illegal for you to use it.

Software development has grown over the years from something that people did in their bedrooms as a hobby to a full blown industry. One that employs millions of people worldwide today. Software development is what puts food on the tables of millions of people. The programmers who write low and high level software are known as Software programmers or developers. They could either be individuals or entire companies.

When a software developer(s) write and release software, they own the rights to license that piece of software. They can choose to either make it free to use or proprietary.

Read: What is Software?

Propietary software

Proprietary software is software that is not free to use. Sometimes, such software are not even available for sale or for general use (unlicensed). If it is available, it usually requires payment or an agreement of some sort to use. These payments could be in the form of one time payments or periodic subscriptions.

With proprietary software, even after paying for the license to use the software, the user may not have the rights to modify or distribute the software.

There are several types of proprietary software. These include…


This usually refers to software that is offered for free. The publishers/developers may offer the software for free but some (if not nearly all) of the functionalities will be locked behind a paywall. Good examples of such software (freeware) include Microsoft Word, Adobe Lightroom, Printer Share, Netflix, Spotify etc.

Word app does not have a free software license

The ability to change orientation on the Word app is hidden behind a paywall


Shareware is a type of software that is available for free for a limited period of time. As soon as the specified time elapses, the user will be required to pay the required fee in order to access the software.

Commercial software:

This is also known as “software available for a fee“. This is software that can only be used after the purchase of its license. There are no paywalls here. You pay the license fee and get the full software. These include Grid Auto Sports, Football manager, Simplates flight simulator etc.

FM has a strict proprietary software license

You have pay the full fee before you can play

Closed sourced software

This is software that can only be used in a particular setting/circumstance, on a particular hardware, or by having special clearance. A good example here would be iOS and it’s accompanying apps that can only be used on iPhones.

iOS has a proprietary software license

iOS 15 (credit: Apple)

Read: Types of software

Free software

Free software is software that is totally free and available to use. The user is free to modify and distribute the software. Free software can also sometimes be open sourced. This means that different groups of people got together to develop the software for free. It could also mean that third party modders and devs can modify a particular piece of software and re-release it freely to the public. Most of the software available today are free to use e.g. eFootball PES, Google apps, Facebook, Twitter, GCam etc.

PES is an example of an app with free software license

PES is a free to play game

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