License Agreements – A Guide For New Web Developers.
As a new web developer, I discovered that the web is jam packed with free resources to help me make websites. Some resources I've made use of are;
- Text Editors like Atom
- Languages like Jacascript and PHP
- Front End Frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation
- Code Snippets on Stack Overflow and personal blogs
- Stock Images, Photos and Logos
Free is good. In fact, free is great. Especially for newer web developers who may not be being paid for their work yet. However, it is important to understand that just because a resource is free, it doesn’t mean you are free to use it in any way you want. In most countries, the creator of any original work is granted an exclusive right to use and distribute that right under copyright law. A creator can however choose to also grant these rights to others using a license agreement, which is a standardised form of written permission.
Very often the website that hosts the free resource will include a license agreement for you to read before downloading. Even still, it's easy enough to hit download without reading the license. I mean, who reads terms and conditions anyway? Well, when it comes to license agreements we all should.
If we use a resource in a manner the license does not permit us to the best outcome may be a polite e-mail asking for the work to be removed from the web. At worst, we could be sued for damages.
So, what do we need to look out for to avoid falling foul of license terms? The key questions a license can answer for web developers are;
- Am I permitted to use this resource at all?
- Am I permitted to use this resource for personal use only, or in commercial projects also?
- Do I have to make my users aware that someone else made this resource by way of attribution of some sort?
To answer these questions it is best to read the terms of the licence in full, whether they are included with the resource, or linked to on another page.
By way of example here are some license situations I have come across recently;
Code Snippets on personal blogs without license information
It is important to know that the lack of any license information does not mean the content can be freely used, even if it seems that way in the context of the site. Many developers post code snippets to help other developers solve problems without realising that doing so without any license information has the legal effect of reserving all copyright in the work.
This means you cannot legally copy and paste anything from such places without first contacting the author to ask for permission. Be warned!
Code snippets found in Stack-Exchange answers.
Stack Exchange states in the footer of each page that user contributions are licensed under the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 3.0.
This license allows the code to be redistributed in any format, whether or not you make changes to it, and whether or not you are doing so commercially. However, it stipulates that appropriate credit must be given to the author, a link to the license included, an indication of any changes you have made and that you must release any new version you make under the same license.
The problem here is that including such attribution and/or license on your own site could look cluttered and unprofessional. A better use of Stack Exchange therefore is to use the examples as a study aid, following which you can write your own code without having to include cumbersome notices on your site.
Free stock photographs on Pexels.
Pexels photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license.
This license allows the images to be used for any purpose, private or commercial, in any way and without attribution or even a link to the original source. The only restriction being that any people who appear in the photographs cannot be depicted in a bad light or in an offensive manner.
This license is extremely unrestrictive and for most intents and purposes the images are free to be used as if they were your own. Thank you Pexels!
I hope these examples go some way to illustrate the variation of licenses that are out there, and have helped you understand your rights a little.
P.S. I hereby declare the article on this page to be... in the public domain! Do with it what you will.