A soft­ware licen­se is a legal con­tract, which spe­ci­fies the terms of use and the redis­tri­bu­ti­on of the soft­ware. Apart from the public domain soft­ware, all other soft­ware is copy­right pro­tec­ted. A typi­cal soft­ware licen­se defi­nes the rights and impo­ses restric­tions on the end users. The­se licen­ses also defi­ne dif­fe­rent lia­bi­li­ties and respon­si­bi­li­ties of the par­ties ent­e­ring into the agreement.

Every soft­ware is requi­red to be legal­ly licen­sed, befo­re it is actual­ly instal­led. The­re are dif­fe­rent types of soft­ware licen­ces. The soft­ware manu­fac­tu­rers often come up with dif­fe­rent terms for their licenses.

Types of Soft­ware Licenses

Free­ware soft­ware is usual­ly avail­ab­le free of cost. Such soft­ware is usual­ly crea­ted by indi­vi­du­al aut­hors and are put into the public domains. Most of them do not have copy­rights and can be used for unli­mi­ted peri­od of time. Some of the­se soft­ware may have cer­tain restric­tions on their func­tio­n­a­li­ty; howe­ver, the true Free­ware soft­ware do not have any restric­tions, on dis­tri­bu­ti­ons, modi­fi­ca­ti­ons or use.

This kind of soft­ware is also cal­led demo­wa­re or tri­al­wa­re, as it is avail­ab­le for using free of cost on a tri­al basis. The per­mis­si­ons are clear­ly sta­ted in the docu­men­ta­ti­ons. For examp­le, a soft­ware can be avai­led for free, for a tri­al peri­od of ten days. The user will be char­ged for the full licen­se of the pro­gram. After paying the char­ges, he will get the full func­tio­n­a­li­ty of the soft­ware and will not face any kind of restric­tions app­lied to the free tri­al. The user will also get all sorts of updates for the soft­ware. This kind of soft­ware is gene­ral­ly down­loa­ded from web­sites. The tri­al ver­si­ons are often dis­tri­bu­t­ed along with maga­zi­nes and newspapers.

Limi­ted License
This kind of soft­wares is gene­ral­ly inten­ded for non-com­mer­cial use. Only limi­ted num­ber of copies of this soft­ware are made avail­ab­le for the users. Limi­ted licen­ces, or LL, are often restric­ted to the desi­gna­ted num­ber of com­pu­ters, i.e. only cer­tain num­ber of users can avail it at the same time. This type of soft­ware is gene­ral­ly used by edu­ca­tio­nal insti­tu­ti­ons or rese­arch cen­ters. In edu­ca­tio­nal cen­ters the­se are restric­ted for using in on-cam­pus com­pu­ters, so that it can only be used for class­room inst­ruc­tions and rese­arch facilities.

Unli­mi­ted Site License
The­se soft­ware agree­ments do not set any limi­ta­ti­ons on the num­ber of copies that can be dis­tri­bu­t­ed. The­se can be avai­led by dif­fe­rent groups of peop­le at the same time. For examp­le, the government employees and the facul­ties of a uni­ver­si­ty can use the same soft­ware at the same time. The users will not have to bear any extra cost apart from buy­ing a burn­ab­le CD or the docu­men­ta­ti­ons. You can even check out the tri­al ver­si­ons for one or three days or down­load them through the Internet.

Volu­me Purcha­se Agreement
This type of soft­ware is purcha­sed in lar­ge num­bers for redu­ced pri­ces. The­se are usual­ly sold to lar­ge com­pa­nies in vary­ing amounts of dis­tri­bu­ti­on. They may also be sold to schools or col­le­ges in sets. Volu­me Purcha­se Agree­ments also allow to buy addi­tio­nal copies at redu­ced pri­ces after the initi­al copies are distributed.