Software licenses: Stay honest!

Do you recall our article about copyright violation in the last issue of the CERN Bulletin, “Music, videos and the risk for CERN”? Now let’s be more precise. “Violating copyright” not only means the illegal download of music and videos, it also applies to software packages and applications.


Users must respect proprietary rights in compliance with the CERN Computing Rules (OC5). Not having legitimately obtained a program or the required licenses to run that software is not a minor offense. It violates CERN rules and puts the Organization at risk!

Vendors deserve credit and compensation. Therefore, make sure that you have the right to use their software. In other words, you have bought the software via legitimate channels and use a valid and honestly obtained license. This also applies to “Shareware” and software under open licenses, which might also come with a cost. Usually, only “Freeware” is completely free. Of course, software installed from the central CERN repositories (i.e. CMF for Windows PCs and SWrep for Linux) are 100% legal and come with an appropriate license. Some engineering applications, however, have restricted usage. Please check the corresponding website for details.

Quid pro quo. CERN also produces lots of software (and hardware!). We don’t charge for this, as knowledge sharing, dissemination and ensuring the ware is used outside CERN is in the spirit of the Organization. However, we hope you agree that we deserve credit if third parties use our products, and that we ensure that this usage remains within spirit of the Organization (e.g. they are not used for dubious purposes). Therefore, all CERN software is supposed to be published under one of the recommended Open Source licenses, such as GNU GPL v3. CERN has initiated a similar scheme for hardware, the CERN Open Hardware Licence, in order to facilitate the exchange and reuse hardware design. There are also dedicated terms of use for CERN audiovisual media.

For further information, please contact the Computer Security Team or check our website.

Access the entire collection of Computer Security articles here.

by Computer Security Team