A license (American English) or licence (Commonwealth English) is a document or agreement giving permission to do something. more...
In law, the document is the evidence of a license to be distinguished from the underlying license which is the actual permission to an act in a way that would be otherwise unlawful. Originally in reference to property, a license was the right of an individual to enter upon the property of another to do an act that would have otherwise been considered illegal as a trespass, such as walking in the woods, hunting game or swimming in the lake. To be distinguished from a license coupled with an interest which is an irrevocable license that granted some interest in land or in a chattel. Such a license could be enforced with an injunction. Licenses can be gratuitous, revokable at will (sometimes called a bare license) or a type of bailment.
Licensing (or Registration) is required of a number of occupations and professions where maintenance of standards is required to protect public safety, for example physicians, psychologists, electricians are licensed in many countries.
The holder of intellectual property rights such as a copyright, trademark, or patent may (and often does) require that a license be accepted as a condition of being allowed to use, reproduce, or create an instance of the licensed work.
Computer users may think of licenses as in reference to end user licence agreements (EULA), which are claimed by vendors to encumber the user with extra restrictions besides the copyright, as a condition of granting permission under copyright law to use the work. The person who purchases a book normally owns the atoms and the right to resell or lend, but not the copyright to the text. In the United States this right to resell is part of the first-sale doctrine.
Software licenses are often highly restrictive, and most software users do not read them in full. So-called "shrink-wrap" licenses and "click-through" licenses are common. Most limit the number of computers the software can be installed on, the number of users that can use the software, and apply other limitations that are not inherent in the technology. As a result, huge fortunes have been made by selling goods that have a minimal cost of reproduction on a per-item basis.
In the U.S., the first-sale doctrine, Softman v. Adobe and Novell, Inc. v. CPU Distrib., Inc. rule that software sales are purchases, not licenses, and resale, including unbundling, is lawful regardless of a contractual prohibition.
So-called free software licenses and open source licenses are a reaction to what many see as the unfair restrictions of proprietary software licenses.
Character and artwork licensing usually is negotiated between the owner and a licensor and results in a licensing fee payable to the artist or creator based upon the licensor's limitations on use of the licensed artwork. Larger companies with properties that have a proven track record of success can guarantee up-front payments (the "guarantee", in marketing terms) of thousands or millions of dollars from licensors (for example: Looney Tunes by Warner Bros., Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse from Disney, etc.) before products are even manufactured or sold to the public.
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