What is a License?

what is a license

By Dawn Wattie, Surrey Business Lawyer

When you purchase a video game, a computer program, a music CD, a DVD movie, a new book, download a song or photograph from the internet or pay for the use of information services from a website, you own the media on which the game or program is replicated but you do not own the game, program, song etc. The game, book, song, etc. are all intellectual property (“IP”) – when you make these purchases you are paying for a limited right to use or license the intellectual property.

The IP owner retains all ownership rights but has decided to develop those rights through a limited use license. The terms of this license are often captured by a shrink wrap or “click-agree” prior to your ability to open, install or download. In the online environment, the limitation on the right to use is becoming quite complicated. A good example of the complexity of such limited licenses is the Getty Images website that offers the right to use photographic images as “managed rights”, where the licensee gives specific permission to the buyer to use the content in a certain way.

It is important to note that the improper use of a license can lead to an IP infringement claim under intellectual property laws i.e. copyright laws, etc. of the jurisdiction and that many jurisdictions have IP laws that create statutory remedies for infringement to protect owners of IP.

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