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3.5. Open licences and selecting a licence

To release the software source code under an open licence, the administration must choose appropriate licence text.

3.5.1. Context

It should be noted that the legislator, in drawing up Article 69, has clearly indicated that the objective is to encourage the reuse of the same software between several administrations. It is therefore important that the first consideration as regards the importance of the choice of the licence is to assess the impact that the licence text has on the possibility of reuse by other administrations.

Since the 1980s, the world of computer research and industry has produced numerous examples of licence texts for open source software, with the aim of creating a global software sharing model. As the complexity of applications increases, it has become increasingly important to work with ready-made components rather than to start developing code from scratch each time.

3.5.2. Open software licences

An open licence, as understood in Article 69 of the CAD, is a licence that grants the user of software the following freedoms:

  • Freedom to use the software as desired, for any purpose, without additional costs or restrictions;
  • Freedom to analyse how the software works and to modify it in order to adapt it to your needs;
  • Freedom to redistribute copies of the software;
  • Freedom to modify the software and publicly distribute the modified versions. [1]

Access to the source code, or equally to the format necessary to reproduce and modify the software, is a prerequisite for respecting these freedoms.

Open Source Initiative [2] (OSI) is an international organisation, recognised worldwide for the certification process of software licences that meet these requirements. An updated list of OSI-certified licences is available at the following address (in alphabetical order):

Compliance with Article 69 of the CAD, with regard to selecting the licence, must be carried out by choosing a licence from those certified by the Open Source Initiative. Alternatively, the administration that wishes to independently provide for the drafting of text for a licence, may only use this text following certification by the Open Source Initiative, to verify its adherence with the principles of open software. The process of sending a licence for approval is detailed at this link:

It should be noted that to uniquely identify licence text, SPDX categorisation [3] may be used, which associates each licence (or combination) with a unique identifier and full name. An updated list of identifiers and their licence texts is available at this link:

Attached to the guidelines (Annex C: Guide to open source licences) there is a guide that delves further into the topic of open source licences, which outlines the categorisation of the main types of licences and their features.

3.5.3. Choosing a licence

A free software licence allows for the free use of the source code to which it refers, while imposing certain constraints that must be respected. As such, the integration of multiple free software components released under different licences requires a compatibility analysis of the same. Such an analysis may be overly complex if there are multiple licences involved, leading to additional costs.

In other words, a proliferation of different licences makes it more difficult and costly to reuse software, contrary to the objectives outlined in Article 69 of the CAD.

Use of the following decision-making process is recommended for selecting an open licence:

  • If the software release refers to modifying existing open source software (i.e. software picked-up for reuse by another administration or owned by third parties), the administration will use the same licence with which the software was originally distributed, to facilitate maximum interoperability and reuse with other users of the same software;
  • If it is new software, apart from the exceptions specified below, use the EUPL v1.2 licence (SPDX identifier: EUPL-1.2): This licence, developed by the European Commission, has been selected as a ‘copyleft’ licence, guaranteeing maximum interoperability at European level, and has also been translated into Italian. There are only a few exceptions to this general specification:

This licence was chosen because, in addition to being compatible with most open source licences, it requires those who modify the code to release improvements even if it is used as part of a SaaS service.

  • if software components with a wide range of applications (e.g. ‘software libraries’ and ‘SDKs’) are being released, use the ‘BSD 3-Clause’ licence (SPDX identifier: BSD-3-Clause);

This licence has been chosen to ensure that all stakeholders use it as freely as possible, allowing applications to be created based on such libraries, which can be released under any licence. These types of software components are normally used to facilitate interoperability with public administrations, and benefit from the emergence of ecosystems that include third-party applications, including proprietary software.

  • For software technical documentation, use the Creative Commons licence CC-BY 4.0 (SPDX identifier: CC-BY-4.0) This licence was selected because it allows for easy reuse of documentation and code examples contained therein.

Please refer to Annex A: Guide to publishing software as open source for technical details on how to correctly embed the licence text to the source code at the time of publication.

Selected licences have a wide use in the open source ecosystem, therefore the ability to integrate third-party components released with compatible licences is maximised.

An administration that wishes to select a licence differently from that outlined here must justify their reasons, analysing the compatibility between the licenses adopted and those proposed here, ensuring that the choice does not limit opportunities for reuse and that it does not entail additional costs for administrations in the reuse phase.

Stallman, The Free software Definition -