I'm analyzing the "Cea Cnrs Inria Logiciel Libre License, version 2.1 (CECILL-2.1)" software licence and don't clearly understand something. This licence has the following definitions:

Software: means the software in its Object Code and/or Source Code form and, where applicable, its documentation, “as is” when the Licensee accepts the Agreement.

Initial Software: means the Software in its Source Code and possibly its Object Code form and, where applicable, its documentation, “as is” when it is first distributed under the terms and conditions of the Agreement.

Modified Software: means the Software modified by at least one Contribution.

Source Code: means all the Software’s instructions and program lines to which access is required so as to modify the Software.

Object Code: means the binary files originating from the compilation of the Source Code.

Holder: means the holder(s) of the economic rights over the Initial Software.

Licensee: means the Software user(s) having accepted the Agreement.

Contributor: means a Licensee having made at least one Contribution.

Licensor: means the Holder, or any other individual or legal entity, who distributes the Software under the Agreement.

So, for me it is not clear about Author rights due to this licence. Can Author distribute the source code with this licence and be able as it said in Licence's condition be the holder?

The Holder owns the economic rights over the Initial Software. Any or all use of the Initial Software is subject to compliance with the terms and conditions under which the Holder has elected to distribute its work and no one shall be entitled to modify the terms and conditions for the distribution of said Initial Software.

The Holder undertakes that the Initial Software will remain ruled at least by this Agreement, for the duration set forth in Article 4.2."

The full licence agreement is here: https://opensource.org/license/cecill-2-1/

I suppose that it is a very tricky license because, in accordance with the 5th Article of it, the Licensor grants to the Licensee that he or she may sell the software. Citing this license: "Article 5 - SCOPE OF RIGHTS GRANTED The Licensor hereby grants to the Licensee, who accepts, the following rights over the Software for any or all use..." " 5.3 RIGHT OF DISTRIBUTION In particular, the right of distribution includes the right to publish, transmit and communicate the Software to the general public on any or all medium, and by any or all means, and the right to market, either in consideration of a fee, or free of charge, one or more copies of the Software by any means. The Licensee is further authorized to distribute copies of the modified or unmodified Software to third parties according to the terms and conditions set forth hereinafter."

1 Answer 1


It seems to me that the license is written that way in order to deal with two complications: works for hire, and moral rights.

Work for hire is a doctrine in many copyright jurisdictions that says that when copyrightable content is created by an employee in the course of his or her employment, the rightsholder is the employer unless special arrangements are made to the contrary.

Moral rights are rights affected by copyright other than economic-exploitation rights, which have varying degrees of recognition across different jurisdictions. The use of the term "economic rights" in the definition of Holder seems to be intended to sidestep the issue of moral rights.

So, is the author the holder? It depends, but unless the issues above, or other issues, interfere, yes, (s)he probably is.

  • thank you for the answer. You're right about two sides of the author's rights: when he\she is hired the economic rights belong to the employer, but author has moral rights and when the author is a freelancer he\she has full moral &economic rights. But may be I cheat myself and due to this licence the Holder is a person who uses the open source software at the moment? Not the Author? May 18, 2023 at 10:54
  • 1
    The person who uses the software is the licensee, by the definitions above.
    – MadHatter
    May 18, 2023 at 11:16

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