Why is licencing important?

Software preservation is not easy work, but intellectual property and copyright laws make it even more difficult. We have spent many frustrating hours trying unsuccessfully to trace copyright owners to get permission to undertake software conservation work. In many cases, companies from the 1980s and 1990s have disappeared, leaving few records on who owns what. In most cases, this early software will not be worth any money, given it runs on obsolete systems, but it is certainly of historical interest. Current commercial copyright laws, however, make preservation of such 'orphan works' difficult.

This is why we are suggesting that as people upload their early software works, they make their wishes about what they want to happen to the work clear. If they want their work to survive and are happy to have preservation work done on it, then selecting a licence that makes this possible at the time the work is uploaded will make the whole process much easier.

If you are uploading assets like images or sounds

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Different Creative Commons Licences and Choosing one to suit you

The following are some of the Creative Commons Licences that you might like to consider for non-software assets, or for specific assets within a piece of software (e.g., the music):

  • Attribution-noncommercial
  • Attribution-noncommercial-sharealike
  • Attribution
  • Attribution-Share Alike
  • Public Domain
  • Sampling Plus
  • Noncommercial Sampling Plus

There is a handy tool on the Creative Commons site here that helps you to choose a licence to suit your situation.

The GPL: A Licence specifically for Software

If you are uploading software, and you have and own the source code, we recommend you use the GNU GPL (General Public) Licence. Being a relatively mature software licence, the GPL has a number of benefits over other Creative Commons licences, which are not intended for software. The GPL is available here.

The GPL requires that source code be made available, so please remember to send this to us.

The GPL provides both recognition for the authors of software, and the freedom for others to study the software, adapt it and redistribute copies of the modified software. As such, we think it is the best currently available licencing option for historic software.

If you want to facilitate the preservation and archiving of your software, this licence gives latitude to allow the copying, format shifting and distribution that software preservation requires.

Public Domain

If you want to offer files you own free of conditions, choose the Public Domain. Public Domain means that anyone can use or adapt the works for any purpose, including for profit.

And if you don't like any of these options?

You can, of course, retain copyright (all rights reserved), choose a different (Creative Commons or other) licence if you want to, or just leave this box blank. Should you be interested, there is a list of open source licences here.

Once you have selected a licence

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