Finding The License

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Title Finding the license
Overview Student will review several pieces of software and find the licensing information.
Prerequisite Knowledge Should have had an introduction intellectual property as it relates to software and to open source licenses.
Learning Objectives Students should be able to find license information (in any of the places it might be located in a package)


This activity demonstrates that licensing information for a given piece of software can be found in a number of different places and gives students the experience of finding the license information for several actual projects/products. This is important because students need to know the license for any piece of code that they are working with.

Before attempting this activity, students need to understand the basic

  1. legal framework for open source and
  2. types of open source licenses.


This exercise can be done individually or in small groups. The goal is to identify which license applies to each of several pieces of software and where that license information is found (which varies). I've provided some examples, when demonstrate a variety of different license locations and types.

In each case, the student(s) should

  1. Find the site or software
  2. Locate the license information
  3. Record where the license information was found (for example, the URL of the page)
  4. Record which license(s) apply for each piece of software

Here are some good examples

  2. Wordpress
  4. Firefox
  5. | The Linux Kernel
  6. Instagram
    1. Bonus Activity: Identify the paragraph in which Instagram identifies what rights it has to your photos.

If possible, a classroom roundtable, discussing what licenses were found, where they were located, and how they were named would be a good wrap-up for this exercise. It's worth noting that there is no *rule* saying where a license must be put, although there are some conventions that are followed. (For a more in-depth look at whether licenses are contracts or "bare licenses" from a legal perspective, see Chapter 4, Rosen Law Open Source Licensing Software Freedom and Intellectual Property Law )


Students should turn in their findings -- I've provided an example format here.

Software License Where Found (URL or other location)
Apache OpenOffice 4 Apache License, Version 2.0, January 2004 Under the "Open Office" menu, I chose "About Open Office". That dialog had a License button, which is where I found the full text of the license.


How will the activity be graded?

How will learning will be measured?

Include sample assessment questions/rubrics.


If you are working with an open source project, you should first locate the license for that project.

Additional Information:

Knowledge Area/Knowledge Unit Social Issues and Professional Practice (SP) / Intellectual Property
Topic Intellectual property rights
Level of Difficulty Medium
Estimated Time to Completion Each license should take ~10-15 minutes to find, so the length of the activity can be changed based on the amount of time available.
Materials/Environment Internet access, editor or other tool for examining code
Author Gina Likins
Source n/a
License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Suggestions for the Open Source Project:

Suggestions for an open source community member who is working in conjunction with the instructor.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

CC license.png

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