About EUPL - the free/open source software licence of the European Union

Created in 2007, OSI approved in 2009 and updated in 2017 (v1.2), the EUPL is a legal interoperability solution that is proposed for use by software licensors across the EU (and abroad, as the case may be). The EUPL is used in more than 15000 projects.  

Why is the EUPL a good vehicle to help European public services and business distributing reusable software solutions?

  • It is "copyleft" for protecting the covered work from exclusive appropriation;
  • It is compatible and business friendly, for reusing the code in a great number of other projects even licensed differently;
  • It enters in a circle of licences that are created by public services and that are reciprocally interoperable: CeCILL, Licence Libre du Québec , EUPL

What would be the advantage for a startup/SME to use the EUPL?

The advantage is to adopt a legal framework that is clear and consistent, which is especially needed if the targeted customers are primarily located in the EU or includes public services.
In addition, the licence can be produced with working value in all EU languages, which is a necessity in many Member States.

Is the EUPL compatible with other licences, like the GPLv3 or the AGPL?

Yes, it is. The EUPL has a compatibility list, covering 10 other licences. In mist cases, compatibility is reciprocal. However in the specific cases of the GPLv3 and AGPL, compatibility is not reciprocal: the EUPL is compatible with the GPLv3, but the GPLv3 is not compatible with the EUPL, because it has no compatibility list. If you merge GPLv3 code with EUPL code, the result become covered by the GPLv3.

Does it means that anyone can RE-LICENSE your project under one of these compatible licences?

Certainely not: “RE-LICENSING” is a really unfortunate term, because it lets think that someone can change the license of your project and replace it by another licence. According to the EUPL, someone can RE-USE (copy and merge) your code in ANOTHER project, and in case this other project is licensed under a compatible licence (i.e. the GPLv3), this compatible licence will continue to be applicable to this merged/combined work. This is for avoiding licence conflicts. In the meantime, your own project will stay licensed under the EUPL.

Is the EUPL more "business friendly" than other copyleft licences?

The reason why business actors, and also some public services, have been reluctant to accept/integrate copyleft software in their solutions is the fear for legal issues resulting from some hypothetic “viral character” of the covered software, especially in the case of linking. By using/accepting the EUPL, you clearly accept that the licence shall be governed by the law of the European Union (art 15 EUPL) and this law (Directive on the protection of computer programs – recital 15) states that reproducing third party code needed for linking or making two programs interoperable is authorised without requesting the authors’ permission or licence, as an exception to copyright law. Therefore, the EUPL cannot be “viral” in case of linking.


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European Commission
Supra-national authority
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