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Legal Dictionary

license

Legal Definition of license

Noun

  1. A special permission to do something on, or with, somebody else's property which, were it not for the license, could be legally prevented or give rise to legal action in tort or trespass. A common example is allowing a person to walk across your lawn which, if it were not for the license, would constitute trespass. Licenses are revocable at will (unless supported by a contract) and, as such, differs from an easement (the latter conveying a legal interest in the land). Licenses which are not based on a contract and which are fully revocable are called "simple" or "bare" licenses. A common example is the shopping mall to which access by the public is on the basis of an implied license.

Definition of license

Alternative forms

  • (British and Canadian) licence (noun)

Usage notes

In British and chiefly in Canadian English, licence is a noun and license is a verb.

Etymology

    From Old French licence < Latin licentia (“license”) < licens, present participle of licere (“to be allowed, be allowable”); compare linquere, Ancient Greek λείπω (“leave”).

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /ˈlaɪsəns/, SAMPA: /"laIs@ns/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Hyphenation: li‧cense

Noun

license (plural licenses)

  1. A legal document giving official permission to do something; a permit.
  2. The legal terms under which a person is allowed to use a product, especially software.

    Even if you bought this product, it does NOT belong to you. You have a license to use it under the terms of this agreement, until you breach this agreement.

  3. Freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable rules or practices (especially in behavior or speech).
  4. Excessive freedom; lack of due restraint.

Verb

license (third-person singular simple present licenses, present participle licensing, simple past and past participle licensed)

  1. The act of giving a formal (usually written) authorization.

    It was decided to license Wikipedia under the GFDL.

  2. Authorize officially.

    I am licensed to practice law in this state.

Further reading

The verb license or grant licence means to give permission. The noun license (American English) or licence (British English, Canadian English, Australian English) refers to that permission as well as to the document recording that permission.

A license may be granted by a party ("licensor") to another party ("licensee") as an element of an agreement between those parties. A shorthand definition of a license is "an authorization (by the licensor) to use the licensed material (by the licensee)."

In particular a license may be issued by authorities, to allow an activity that would otherwise be forbidden. It may require paying a fee and/or proving a capability. The requirement may also serve to keep the authorities informed on a type of activity, and to give them the opportunity to set conditions and limitations.

Intellectual property

A licensor may grant a license under intellectual property laws to authorize a use (such as copying software or using a (patented) invention) to a licensee, sparing the licensee from a claim of infringement brought by the licensor. A license under intellectual property commonly has several component parts beyond the grant itself, including a term, territory, renewal provisions, and other limitations deemed vital to the licensor.

Term: many licenses are valid for a particular length of time. This protects the licensor should the value of the license increase, or market conditions change. It also preserves enforceability by ensuring that no license extends beyond the term of the agreement.

Territory: a license may stipulate what territory the rights pertain to. For example, a license with a territory limited to "North America" (United States/Canada) would not permit a licensee any protection from actions for use in Japan.

- Mass licensing of software

Mass distributed software is used by individuals on personal computers under license from the developer of that software. Such license is typically included in a more extensive end-user license agreement (EULA) entered into upon the installation of that software on a computer. Typically, a license is associated with a unique code, that when approved grants the end user access to the software in question.

Under a typical end-user license agreement, the user may install the software on a limited number of computers.

The enforceability of end-user license agreements is sometimes questioned.

- Trademark and brand licensing

A licensor may grant permission to a licensee to distribute products under a trademark. With such a license, the licensee may use the trademark without fear of a claim of trademark infringement by the licensor.

- Artwork and character licensing

A licensor may grant a permission to a licensee to copy and distribute copyrighted works such as "art" (e.g., Thomas Kinkade's painting "Dawn in Los Gatos") and characters (e.g., Mickey Mouse). With such license, a licensee need not fear a claim of copyright infringement brought by the copyright owner.

Artistic license is, however, not related to the aforementioned license. It is a euphemism that denotes approaches in art works where dramatic effect is achieved at the expense of factual accuracy.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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