Section 14 of the EUPL-1.2 states:

  1. Jurisdiction

Without prejudice to specific agreement between parties,

— any litigation resulting from the interpretation of this License, arising between the European Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies, as a Licensor, and any Licensee, will be subject to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union, as laid down in article 272 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

— any litigation arising between other parties and resulting from the interpretation of this License, will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the competent court where the Licensor resides or conducts its primary business.

Which seems well and dandy, "the competent court" being the court of wherever it is one resides. But section 15 follows this up with:

  1. Applicable Law

Without prejudice to specific agreement between parties,

— this Licence shall be governed by the law of the European Union Member State where the Licensor has his seat, resides or has his registered office,

— this licence shall be governed by Belgian law if the Licensor has no seat, residence or registered office inside a European Union Member State.

Which to me suggests if the licensor is outside of the EU "the competent court" has to interpret the license text from within the context of Belgian law, which seems like a lot to ask of a court in say, the U.S... Would the licensor have to get a resident or register an office in Belgium to bring forth a copyright claim?

  • 2
    The "competent court" is where the licensor resides, not the licensee. Forgive the question, but you're sure which is which, yes? I think there's a good answer to be made here, but I don't want to misunderstand the premise of the question.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 7:30
  • I believe I am, yes. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:28
  • Fair enough, so your principal concern is why someone not inside the EU would use this licence to release their content?
    – MadHatter
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 11:42
  • The concern is what challenges someone outside the EU might face in enforcing this license and getting prosecutions against license violators. Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 14:59

2 Answers 2


Most free software licences don't contain choice-of-law clauses; this question examines the whole issue in more detail, and sheds some interesting light on why the FSF, in particular, don't think it's a good idea. So you're not alone in thinking that language in the EUPL could cause problems for random licensors.

The EUPL was originally drafted for software written by EU public bodies as part of the IDABC (Interoperable Delivery of European eGovernment Services to public Administrations, Businesses and Citizens) program, and has since been taken up by a number of EU public bodies for free software they release in general. For them, the choice-of-law clause doesn't pose a problem.

The licence is not really intended for random developers to use, particularly those that aren't in the EU. To address the problem of downstream developers who want to release derivative works, the EUPL allows (in "Article" 5) derivative works to be relicensed under GPL, or nearly any other major copyleft licence, as listed in the Appendix.

So I think you're right that it would make life difficult for a developer in, say, Brazil, to release software under this licence, but I also think there's no good reason why (s)he should have to. If, despite this, (s)he chooses to, then we might reasonably conclude that (s)he's willing to endure the potential complications.

  • So without sections 14 and 15 it would be a license our hypothetical Brazilian could use comfortably, as the jurisdiction would be their decision? Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 13:17
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    I don't know about comfortably; Article 13 (which inter alia makes all the translations of the licence coequal in validity) makes me nervous, also. But without Arts. 14 and 15, it doesn't specify a choice of law, no, which means our Brazilian can file suit anywhere that suits him/her (and where a court agrees to hear it).
    – MadHatter
    Commented Nov 17, 2023 at 17:33

There is indeed a distinction to do between the venue (competent court) and the applicable law. In case the licensor is in Rio - Brazil, and has no office in EU, the compentent court (according to the EUPL) will be Rio. But if a specific point requests interpretation, the judge will have to consult the (Belgian) law. Knowing that all Member States copyright laws applicable to software transpose exactly the same Directive 2009/24/EC, that both the EUPL itself and the Directive have working value in portuguese, this is not "overcomplicated"! It is probably less complicated, for a written-law country like Brazil, to find in their native language these two explicit sources from the Internet than having to look for "precedents" in a common law country (like US).
Just my two cents...

  • What do you mean by "working value" in this context? Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 19:55
  • "working value" just means that you can produce the EUPL text in the local language (i.e. portuguese in the case of Brazil) without having to support the cost of a sworn translator. In most "non-English-native" countries, jurisdictions request sworn translator intervention. This adds not only costs, but also risks because translations vary depending on translators that are not always "free software experts". Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 20:44

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