A Quick Guide to Software Licensing for the Scientist-Programmer

Vol. 8, Issue 7, e1002598 (July 2012), (peer reviewed)

UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2339749

7 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2013 Last revised: 21 Jul 2016

Andrew Morin

Harvard Medical School

Jennifer M. Urban

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Piotr Sliz

Harvard Medical School

Date Written: July 1, 2012

Abstract

Computing is ubiquitous in every domain of scientific research. Software is the means by which scientists harness the power of computers, and much scientific computing relies on software conceived and developed by other practicing researchers. The task of creating scientific software, however, does not end with the publication of computed results.

Making the developed software available for inspection and use by other scientists is essential to reproducibility, peer-review, and the ability to build upon others’ work. In fulfilling expectations to distribute and disseminate their software, scientist-programmers are required to be not only proficient scientists and coders, but also knowledgeable in legal strategies for licensing their software.

Navigating the often complex legal landscape of software licensing can be overwhelming, even for sophisticated programmers. Institutional technology transfer offices (TTOs) exist to help address this need, but due to mismatches in expectations or specific domain knowledge, interactions between scientists and TTO staff can result in suboptimal outcomes.

As practitioners in the scientific computing and technology law fields, we have witnessed firsthand the confusion and difficulties associated with licensing scientifically generated software. Together, we offer a primer on software licensing with a focus on the particular needs of the scientist-software developer in choosing a software license and engaging with TTOs.

Keywords: software licensing, innovation

Suggested Citation

Morin, Andrew and Urban, Jennifer M. and Sliz, Piotr, A Quick Guide to Software Licensing for the Scientist-Programmer (July 1, 2012). Vol. 8, Issue 7, e1002598 (July 2012), (peer reviewed); UC Berkeley Public Law Research Paper No. 2339749. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2339749

Andrew Morin

Harvard Medical School ( email )

250 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Jennifer M. Urban (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

342 Boalt Hall, North Addition
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
(510) 642-7338 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.samuelsonclinic.org

Piotr Sliz

Harvard Medical School ( email )

250 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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