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This page covers licensing and copyright issues as they pertain to the One Laptop per Child project.

For those already familiar with open licenses, our advice is:

  • Are you writing code for an end-user application? Use the GPL.
  • Are you writing a code library? Use the LGPL or MIT license.
  • Are you creating a text or media work? Release your work under a CC-Attribution or CC-BY-SA license.
  • Are you creating a purely factual or reference work? Release your work into the public domain (e.g., with the CC-PD declaration).

For a succinct introduction to open licensing, see the Open Knowledge Foundation's Guide to open licensing.

For a list of open licenses and information on how to apply them, see their licenses page.

OLPC is a strong advocate for and practitioner of open licensing, as the project is designed around the idea of the free sharing of knowledge. Our goal is to empower children to share and build on what they learn in every way imaginable. There should be no barriers to children who wish to recreate and build on the materials, software, and tools they are given; everyone should be free to use, redistribute, and produce modified version of and works derived from these things. For more on OLPC's specific views on this, see the OLPC on open source software and OLPC on free knowledge sections.

License setting on the XO

The methods and metadata for setting a license for material created on an XO network are under discussion. A group @ Creative Commons (nod to Asheesh L.) has mostly ported their liblicense package to integrate neatly into Sugar. See Talk:Licensing#Setting your license for details.

Q and A on licensing contributed for the purposes of OLPC content

Contributing software

Q1. I would like to contribute pieces of software and libraries to OLPC, so that they can be used on XOs around the world. What should I do?

A1. We recommend licensing material under the MIT, LGPL, or GPL licenses. For more on OLPC's specific views on this, see the OLPC on open source software page and Talk:Licensing#Setting your license.

Contributing content

Q1. I would like to contribute pieces of my work to OLPC, in order to use them incorporated into the XOs and school servers, which are going to be distributed to children in the emerging world. What should I do?

A1. OLPC is always looking to expand its content repositories with new ideas on quality educational content that could be included on the XOs or the school servers.

For more information on the process of contributing content to OLPC, please see the sections of “How to contribute” and “Submitting Your Content to OLPC” available at:

Q2. What forms of work I could contribute to OLPC?

A2. We are particularly interested in materials that are produced specially for children and teachers; designed for ease of localization, customization, and other reuse; available in many languages; and available under a free content license. Materials can include the following:

  • Texts – stories and poems; textbooks, workbooks, how-tos and lab manuals;
  • Reference works – encyclopedias, dictionaries, maps and atlases;
  • Images – symbols and fonts, blueprints, sketches, photographs and art;
  • Multimedia content – animations, audio books, songs and audio recordings, videos;
  • Software – games, tools, scripts, simulations, self-assessments and interactive tools.

For more information, please review the section of Content Ideas available at:

Copyright and OLPC

Q3. How does the international perspective of the content affect the licensing schemes, represented by OLPC?

A3. XOs are going to be deployed all over the world and in several jurisdictions. Each country has its own laws and regulations governing the distribution of content materials. Thus, there is a strong interest on behalf of OLPC to distribute educational content with proper attributions to its contributors, according to the licensing schemes, which OLPC represents, and to the rules and regulations of the countries, in which the XOs are delivered.

Q4. What can be considered as a copyrightable work?

A4. Copyright refers to a wide array of works, which includes poems; plays; theses; paintings; drawings; movies; musical compositions; photographs; software; and other literary and artistic works. It covers only the form or the manner in which ideas are manifested and not the idea that is incorporated by itself.

In addition, protection under copyright law is only provided to “original works of authorship.” However, the requirements of originality are generally low. Additionally, different countries impose different standards and tests of originality.

Q5. Which are some of the indicative categories of copyrightable works?

A5. The U.S. Copyright Act includes an illustrative list of the works, which can be protected by copyright laws.

This list includes:

  • Literary works; that is, works other than audiovisual works expressed in words, numbers, other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia, regardless of the note of the material objects, such as books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords, films, tapes, disks, cards, in which they are embodied. These works include computer databases and computer programs to the extent they incorporate authorship in the programmer’s expression of original ideas as distinguished from the ideas themselves.
  • Pictorial and graphic works; that is, two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic and applied art, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models and technical drawings;
  • Musical works and sound recordings; in particular, owners of a musical composition enjoy the full complement of rights, whereas sound recordings do not receive a traditional performance right (however, they now have a digital performance right). Musical works can be written on paper and pressed onto a phonorecord, recorded on audiotape, or otherwise fixed in a tangible medium of expression.
  • Motion pictures and audiovisual works; that is, series of related images which are intrinsically intended to be shown by the use of machines or devices, such as projectors, viewers, or electronic equipment together with accompanying sounds, if any, regardless of the nature of material objects, such as films or tapes, in which the works are embodied.

Q6. What is defined as a joint, a collective and a derivative work? Why are these kinds of works important in our case?

A6. The creation and use of joint, derivative and collective works is especially important for OLPC, as it embodies the significance of collaboration, sharing and continuity in education.

A joint work is a work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contribution be merged into inseparable or interdependent part of a unitary whole.

A collective work, according to the Creative Commons licenses, which OLPC is implementing, means a work, such as a periodical issue, anthology or encyclopedia, in which the work in its entirety in unmodified form, along with one or more other contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole. A work that constitutes a collective work will not be considered a derivative work (as defined below) for the purposes of a Creative Commons license.

A derivative work, according to the CC licenses, means a work based upon one or more pre-existing works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which the original work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.

Q7. What is OLPC’s position regarding the copyright and licensing protection of the works incorporated into the XOs and the school servers?

A6. OLPC strongly supports open licensing, as free content policy is pertinent to its mission to enable children’s access to knowledge without barriers by enabling them to share freely the materials and tools they are given.

Therefore, regarding materials, such as texts, reference works, multimedia content, or images, OLPC suggests to its contributors to make their works available to OLPC with a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution or Attribution – Share-alike licenses (CC 3.0 BY or CC 3.0 BY-SA).

Licensing appendix

Q7. What are the Creative Commons BY and BY-SA licenses?

A7. Citing the Creative Commons’ website:

  • a Creative Commons Attribution license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, as long as they credit you for the original creation.
  • a Creative Commons Attribution – Share-alike license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

Creative Commons apply to works that are protected by copyright. They give you the ability to “dictate how others may exercise your rights on the work” – such as, for example, the right to copy, to make derivative works or adaptations or to distribute your work. For that reason, they come attached to your work and authorize everyone who comes in contact with the work to use it consistent with the license.

Creative Commons licenses are all non-exclusive licenses. This means that you can permit licensees to use your work under a Creative Commons license and then enter into a separate and different non-exclusive license with someone else, even under different than the CC license terms.

Q8. What are not the Creative Commons BY and BY-SA licenses?

A8. Creative Commons licenses do not apply to things such as ideas, factual information or other things that are not protected by copyright. The case of non-protected by copyright works varies in different jurisdictions.

Furthermore, they do not give you the ability to restrict anything that is otherwise permitted by exceptions or limitations to copyright – as, for example, fair use – nor they give you the ability to control anything that is not protected by copyright law, such as facts and ideas, as we described above.

More information about questions 7 and 8 and the use of Creative Commons licenses, please see

Q9. How do Creative Commons 3.0 BY and BY-SA licenses apply in the OLPC case?

A9. Consistent with the open source policy of OLPC and the mission to enable the most expansive use and sharing of knowledge worldwide, Creative Commons Attribution and Attribution – Share-alike licenses enhance the ability of OLPC to succeed in these goals by giving to both OLPC and children - the users of the XOs – the benefit to the greatest extent from the educational value of its content. Creative Commons licenses let the users copy and distribute the materials, as well as create upon them, by making translations, adaptations or other innovative uses of them.

Q10. How can you use the Creative Commons licenses in the OLPC case? What is the process you should meet?

A10. Before applying a Creative Commons 3.0 BY or BY-SA, first of all, please make sure that you have the authority to license the work.

This means that you should be the owner of the work. Ownership of copyrighted works is governed differently in each jurisdiction. Mainly, you should make sure, if you are the sole author of the work, that there are no agreements (i.e. as an employee, et cetera) posing restrictions on the way you can use your rights on the work.

On the other hand, if you combined pre-existing works (i.e. texts, photographs, paintings, sketches, poems, stories, etc.) in your work or you jointly produced the work with others, you need to make sure you have the express and explicit permission to apply a Creative Commons license to the end result.

In addition, you should particularly define what you are CC-licensing, in terms of the work itself, its format, as well as its elements.

More information regarding the use of CC licenses you can find available at:

Q11. Where can I find forms that I could use in order to submit my works, certifying that I am licensing them to OLPC according to CC 3.0 BY or CC 3.0 BY-SA?

A11. Below you can find sample generic forms that you should submit to OLPC along with the submission of your content, which certify that you are licensing to OLPC your works for use, according to the purposes of OLPC and the Creative Commons 3.0 BY or BY-SA licenses:



The GNU General Public Licence (GPL) is a is a widely-used free software license, originally written for the GNU project. Software licensed under the GPL is free enough to be part of the default software platform on the OLPC laptops.

For more information, please see the Wikipedia article about the GNU General Public License.

GNU Public license. One of the many licensing methods for distributing software. Use template {{GPL}} or {{CC-GNU-GPL}} for placing a 'GPL badge' on your page.


The GNU Free Documentation License (GNU FDL or simply GFDL) is a copyleft license for free documentation, designed by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU project. It is the counterpart to the GNU General Public License that gives readers the same rights to copy, redistribute and modify a work and requires all copies and derivatives to be available under the same license.

The GFDL was designed for manuals, textbooks, other reference and instructional materials, and documentation which often accompanies GNU software. However, it can be used for any text-based work, regardless of subject matter. For example, Wikipedia uses the GFDL for all of its text.


The LGPL is a software license related to the GPL, and useful in particular for software libraries.

see also


For text of MIT license see

see also


Use template {{PD}}.

Material released into or available through the public domain. This applies to material whose copyright has expired, and that whose authors have explicitly so released it. The latter type of material may retain moral rights in various jurisdictions.

There is also a CC-PD badge which is sometimes used to denote material that has been confirmed or affirmed as being in the public domain.


Use template {{CC-BY}}.

The Creative Commons Attribution license. The preferred OLPC license for factual and educational material.


Use template {{CC-BY-SA}}.

The Creative Commons Share Alike license. Preserves attribution, and requires any derivative work to be made available under the same license; effectively preventing a derivative work from becoming rival.


The Creative Commons Non-Commercial license. Preserves attribution, and prohibits the work from being used or redistributed commercially.

This is not one of our recommended licenses, because of incompatibility with the above CC licenses, but material under this license is made available through our school libraries.

See also