Open Source Software Licenses

Releasing software under open source licenses

Software is created every day at the University of Washington by students, staff, and faculty. Software is protected by copyright law and provided to others under a license. Licenses can be commercial, free and open, or some combination of the two (e.g. free and open to academics only, under money bearing licenses for other users). There are many open source license types.

‘Open source’ is a term that seems to mean different things to different developers. Generally, it means releasing source code for others to view, and in many cases to be able to modify and distribute it without compensation to the owner of the code.

Employees of UW are bound by the University’s Patent Invention and Copyright policy. If University software is going to be licensed for any type of compensation, the code needs to be disclosed via a Record of Innovation to the University, and CoMotion has authority to negotiate those licenses on behalf of the University.

Who can decide to release code under an open source license?

The UW development team can choose to release their software under a no-cost open source license provided the software or any related patents are not under management at CoMotion and meets the conditions below in ‘What do I need to do before releasing’. If the software is under management or related to a patent under management at CoMotion, CoMotion licenses the code with input from the developers.

How to prepare for release

  1. Check for third party code incorporated in your code and make sure that you are complying with all the terms of those third party code licenses. Consider whether such third party code is integrated into your code, or a module or library called by your code; also consider whether such third party code is necessary for operation of your code, or whether it could be removed.
  2. Check the funding obligations (sponsored research agreements) for the funding that supported the development. UW and sponsors may have agreed to conditions that would prohibit licensing under an open source license. Funding conditions would have to be satisfied before any open source release would be allowable.
  3. Discuss with the Principal Investigator(s) and the developer team the wishes and goals of the team regarding release of software.

Commercialization

Teams that want to develop a commercialization strategy for their code should contact CoMotion to develop a strategy that meets the team’s goals before releasing code. If you do not have a CoMotion innovation manager, request a consultation (this requires a UW NetID). 

Recommended licenses

BSD

BSD is a permissive very open license. Recipients of the source code can do anything with the code, including incorporate it in products, and have no obligations except to retain the copyright notice and attribution and to include the license when they redistribute the code in original or modified form.

Research use only

This is a custom UW created license that allows any researcher to use the code for free for noncommercial use. This license allows company researchers to also use the code under this license, but requires them to come to UW for a discussion if a commercial use license is desired. A conversation with CoMotion is recommended if the strategy is for later commercial release.   

Prohibited licenses

Apache, GPLv3, other licenses that include a grant of patent rights which can impact the IP rights of the authors and other researchers at the University even if not involved in the project.  

Advising

For projects that do not involve commercial licenses, contact your department or college administrators. 

For project that do involve commercial licenses, CoMotion will help you manage the technology and choose the most appropriate license. Request a consultation or call your innovation manager. 

Sample License Text

Modified BSD License

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

Neither the name of the University of Washington nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

[Attribution requirement, see below for suggestions]

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Attribution Examples

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

Neither the name of the University of Washington nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

[Attribution requirement, see below for suggestions]

We will acknowledge in our publications contributions we make to each other’s research involving or based on the Software.

You agree to acknowledge UW and the developers on splash pages on start-up of your research software and in publications for research involving Software.

You can also modify the copyright notice to be something like this:

Copyright (c) 2009-2014 University of Washington. Developed in the Center for Global Health by (list developers names)

Non-Commercial License

[insert name of project] Non-commercial License

© insert year(s) over which code developed University of Washington.

Redistribution and use for noncommercial purposes in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

1. The software is used solely for noncommercial purposes. It may not be used indirectly for commercial use, such as on a website that accepts advertising money for content. Noncommercial use does include use by a for-profit company in its research. For commercial use rights, contact University of Washington, CoMotion, at license@uw.edu or call 206-543-3970 and inquire about the [insert name of code] project.

2. Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

3. Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

4. Neither the name of the University of Washington nor the names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON AND CONTRIBUTORS “AS IS” AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.