Software Licenses


What they are and how you can use them:

Traditionally Software Licenses were commercial in use – you paid a set price and you were allowed to use that software whether it be an Office Program, an Accounting Package or an Anti-Virus Program on one or more computers.

And there is big money in software licenses.

So big in fact, companies were licensing not just software but the actual tools of the trade for businesses, designers, and education departments. Somewhere along the way prices started becoming prohibitively expensive for companies and universities and began effecting productivity on a massive scale (that’s a whole other topic!).

All of a sudden the font that your company was using on your letterhead free of charge for 10 years now needed to be licensed for $140 US. The graphic program that you bought for $1,200 US all of a sudden had a requirement to be upgraded every 2 years at an additional $500. Your company grew from 3 employees to 6, well that’s a whole different category of software license so now you owe twice the amount you did the year before.

One of the main reasons I believe Western Productivity has stagnated is prohibitively expensive software licenses.

But need drives demand and with so many smart cookies out there people started taking matters into their own hands.

Organisations such as GNU began creating free software that could do what their commercial rivals did. Others followed suit and now we have some amazing products, many that are superior to commercial rivals. I am slowly adding a resources page of software that is either free or affordable. Some are open source, some are free, most are commercial and some are shareware.

Like with anything on the internet there is an oversupply of conflicting information regarding software licenses. When can you use them? How can you use them? Can you adapt them? Can you use them commercially?

Software Licenses: A Brief Overview-

  • Free Software GNU License: You are able to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software without hindrance. The easiest way to describe this is ‘Free’ as in liberty, so you are able to adapt them to your needs, they are also ‘Free’ as in price. The GNU Organisation has more in depth information.
  • Open Source: Open source means that you can use a font, program, or browser for free of charge generally without any conditions. Open Source as its name suggests means that its code is available in a free manner so others may distribute it under the condition that further developments and applications are put under the same licence GNU General Public License (GPL), is the most common license.
  •  Freeware: is commonly used for commercial products that are proprietary software. A company is allowing people to use their product without payment but you cannot adapt and modify the program as a company owns it. Free as in Free price, not Freedom to modify it. This is often tricky for artists and designers to understand as it is free for personal use, but if you use it for commercial reasons (even if its for your child’s local primary school fete you need to pay a fee).
  • Creative Commons (CC): Is a non-profit organisation that has allowed creative people to release their works whether it be art, fonts, code, manuals, video work, graphic design, photographs, with a license that suits the person creating the work. A creative person may be happy to give their work away for free no strings attached, give their work away for no payment but with recognition that they are the author of the product, or that it can be adapted only for non-commercial use etc. The Creative Commons is an amazing resource to share, learn and use works without payment and as a designer I find absolutely invaluable. It is often misunderstood, but if you want to understand it properly Jonathan Bailey at Plagarism Today has written the easiest to understand article on the topic I’ve seen so far- How to Correctly use Creative Commons.
  • Shareware: Really should be called Trialware. A company allows you to download their program for a set amount of time with the aim being that if you like their product you buy the software license.

Please keep in mind that this is really only a very brief overview of software licenses. Last time I checked there were well over 20 different types, all slightly different. There is a whole field of Intellectual Property dedicated to licensing software and I certainly don’t have the budget to pay for a lawyer to go into further details, besides you probably would have nodded off by now.

Below are a few organisations that have revolutionised the web through use of various software licenses.


WordPress has democratised the web by making it cost effective to create beautiful, effective websites. WordPress uses an Open Source GNU General Public License (GPL)


The Mozilla Organisation have created such great software as Firefox, Thunderbird and Firebug. They have been on the cutting edge of the internet for a long time now and have always created great software. Mozilla has created their own Open Source license called the Mozilla Public License (MPL)

The GNU Organisation began in 1983 and are best known for their Linux Operating system. They have never stopped creating amazing programs much of which has been adapted and copied by commercial rivals.

If you believe in a free internet then they are an organisation well worth supporting. They are always seeking assistance whether it be financial or actual coding through the Free Software Foundation.

Creative Commons began in San Francisco in 2001 and has the lofty aim of creating universal access to research and education to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity. They have a yearly fund raising drive. If you are a creative type then a donation should be right up your alley. Helping spread good design, freely.

Creative Commons Copyrighted Work Licenses:

We love Creative Commons and how you can license your original work such as images, text & code with different licenses so you can share with other people.


Other people can copy, use, display and distribute your licensed work provided they give you credit. They can also modify the work provided there is credit given. I have seen this used with great effect by photographers that have done a photo shoot and been paid for the best 20% of the photographs and they release another 20% with a Attribution License so other people can enjoy their work and they gain further exposure.


You allow other people to use your work only in a non-commercial way. Other people can copy, use, display and distribute your licensed work provided they give you credit but can’t make money from your work.

No Derivative Works. You allow others to distribute, display and copy your work  but they cannot modify or build upon your work.

Share Alike:

Others can share and distribute your work only if it is under a license identical to the license you’ve set.

The four Creative Commons licenses above all have various permutations relating the exact nature of how you would like to license your copyrighted product. For more information Creative Commons please see their website here…

Small Business Ideas - 19 Aug 2014 - by Rob Jennings

About Rob Jennings

When he found himself embroiled in a conversation with someone talking about their ‘customer-centric core competencies’ he realised it was time to create a Web Design Agency that was less about self promoting buzz-words and more about people and giving them the tools to understand the web.

The idea behind We Push Buttons was to create an environment where business owners can learn about building their organisation, whether it be with an outstanding website, SEO or any other marketing ideas. Coming from the art industry and online retail background he knows first hand the needs of growing a business in a tough environment.