Copyright is the right, created in law, granting a creator of an original work the exclusive rights to decide how that work is used and distributed.

Copyright is granted, immediately and by default, to the person that creates a piece of work, when they create it. If you write a song, write a book, or write some software - you are the creator of that work. And you have the right to decide how that creation will be used.


Traditionally, copyright was granted to give a creator exclusivity to sell copies of their work. The expectation was that people would license copies of their work in exchange for payment.

But in the early 80s, the Free Software Foundation engineered a very clever legal hack. They wrote a software license that, rather than defending the rights of the creator, they defended the rights of the recipient.

The result was copyleft. Copyleft is not a replacement for copyright. It's a very clever legal hack that uses copyright law to enforce the exact opposite to what copyright was intended to provide. Without copyright law, copyleft couldn't exist.

Why is a license required?

If you don't provide a license, the default licensing terms on your creation are "ALL RIGHTS RESERVED" - even if you don't say that. This means nobody can legally use your code. And if you see code with no clearly offered license, you cannot legally use it.

This applies to any creation, no matter how big or small - every patch you submit to a project for inclusion is a creative work; and that means a license is required.

Public Domain

This probably sounds like a whole lot more trouble than it's worth. Why can't you just say "Well, I'm giving this away to the public domain".

As the creator of a work, in some jurisdictions, certain rights cannot be transferred.

Issues of copyright are closely associated with a concept known as Moral Rights - rights that are considered innate to the human experience. The problem is that the area of Moral rights is very jurisdiction dependent. Moral rights recognized by European - and, in particular, German courts - are much stronger than the moral rights recognized by US courts.

So - a declaration that you've released your code into the public domain is actually illegal in Germany. German courts won't recognize that transfer of ownership - any more than they'd recognize a legal agreement to sell yourself into slavery. Your moral right to fair compensation for your creative effort is a moral right that is considered unalienable. And so, your work reverts to it's default license: All rights reserved. So Germans then can't use your code.

Developer Certificates of Origin

There are a number of ways to manage the process of licensing contributions, but the BeeWare project uses a mechanism known as a Developer Certificate of Origin. For more details on what DCO is, and what it means, see our explanatory guide. If you've need help configuring your system to comply with our DCO we've got some step by step instructions to help you out.