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European Union Public Licence

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Introduction to the EUPL licence

The EUPL is the first European Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) licence. It has been created on the initiative of the European Commission. It is now approved by the European Commission in 22 linguistic versions and can be used by anyone for software distribution.

Contents

  1. What is the EUPL?
  2. Why the EUPL?
  3. Objectives
  4. Who may use the EUPL?
  5. OSI certified

The EUPL is the first European Free/Open Source Software (F/OSS) licence. It has been created on the initiative of the European Commission. It is now approved by the European Commission in 22 official languages of the European Union and can be used by anyone for software distribution.

Following an intensive preparatory process and a public consultation, it was approved by the European Commission on 9 January 2007 in three linguistic versions.

By a second Decision of 9 January 2008, the European Commission validated the EUPL in 22 official languages of the European Union.

By a third decision of 9 January 2009, the European Commission adopted a revised version of the Licence while at the same time validated it in 22  official languages (EUPL v.1.1).

The EUPL is a unique legal instrument, as it has been elaborated in respect of European law requirements and has legal value in 22 European languages.

More than 100 other F/OSS licences exist. The purpose of the EUPL is not to compete with any of these licences, but to encourage first of all, a new wave of public administrations to embrace the Free/Open Source model to valorise their software and knowledge, starting with the European Institutions themselves.

The EUPL is compatible with some other copyleft licences, including the GPLv2. The first applications developed inside the European Commission or by national public administration have already been published under the EUPL.

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What is the EUPL?

EUPL is an acronym  for “European Union Public Licence”.

The first EUPL draft (v.0.1) went public in June 2005. A public debate was then  organised by the European Commission (IDABC). The consultation of the developers and users community was very productive and has lead to many improvements of the draft licence; 10 out of 15 articles were modified. Based on the results of these modifications (a detailed report and the draft EUPL v.0.2), the European Commission  elaborated a final version (v.1.0) that was officially approved on 9 January 2007, in three linguistic versions.

By a second Decision of 9 January 2008, the European Commission validated the EUPL in all the official languages of the European Union.

By a third Decision of 9 January 2009, the European Commission clarified specific points of the EUPL, publishing the version 1.1 in all the official languages of the European Union.

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Why the EUPL?

The purpose of the European Commission is first of all to distribute its own software under the licence. Some applications developed in the framework of the IDABC programme, such as Circabc, or Eusurvey have already been licensed under the EUPL in 2007. Other European Institutions are also interested in using the new licence.

But why creating a new legal instrument from scratch when more than 100 other F/OSS licences exist, such as the GPL, the BSD or the OSL? The reason is that in a detailed legal study no existing licence was found to correspond to the requirements of the European Commission:

  • The Licence should have equal legal value in many languages;
  • The terminology regarding intellectual property rights had to be conformant with European law requirements ;
  • To be valid in all Member States, limitations of liability or warranty had to be precise, and not formulated “to the extend allowed by the law” as in most licences designed with the legal environment of the United States in mind.

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Objectives

The main objective of the European Commission is to distribute widely and promote the use of software owned by itself and other European Institutions under an Free/Open Source Licence conform to European law requirements.

The EUPL is however written in neutral terms so that a broader use might be envisaged.

In addition, distribution of software should avoid the exclusive appropriation of the software even after improvement by a third party (therefore, the EUPL is a "copyleft" licence).

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Who may use the EUPL?

Although the potential users of European Institutions' software are mostly other public sector administrations, there is nothing in the EUPL preventing its broader use. The EUPL could be used by anyone who holds the copyright to a piece of software. It could become – in various languages - an adequate legal interoperability instrument across Europe.

Nevertheless, the EUPL purpose is not to compete with other licences. It might be used primarily by public administrations, either European or national, that would need a common licensing instrument to mutualise or share software and knowledge.

Is the EUPL compatible with the GPL and other F/OSS licences?

Yes, it is. The EUPL contains a unique compatibility clause and provides for a list of compatible copyleft licences. The GPL is one of them.

For example, how would the interaction between the EUPL and the GPL play out in the case of CIRCA, an application a already distributed  under the EUPL?

A developer may improve i.e. the Circabc software by integrating a GPL component in it, and then could license the improved or derivative work under the GPL. A developer will be also able to integrate CIRCA in existing GPL work called e.g. “MY-GPL-PROGRAM” and continue to license this improved work under the GPL licence that he had chosen originally.

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OSI certified

The EUPL v 1.1 is OSI certified as from March 2009.[top]

 

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