European IP Helpdesk

Bulletin No. 2 Go-to-Market


With digitisation increasingly penetrating our everyday lives, the question of how to efficiently share and (re)use novel software and IT solutions has gained momentum over the past years. Open source licensing plays an important role in this.

However, given the variety of different and sometimes vague software and data licence models to choose from (more than 300) and given the broad range of different tools helping to choose among these for free/open licences available it can be difficult for businesses, research groups or public administrations to identify the licence to best fit their individual solutions and needs. It is against this backdrop that the European Commission (EC) started working on a “European Union Public Licence” (EUPL) in 2005 with the first version officially launched in January 2007 and an updated version released in 2017.

The European Union Public Licence & Joinup Initiative: Promoting Collaboration and (Re)Use of IT Solutions and Software in Europe

Provided by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Informatics, DIGIT.D2 Interoperability

The European Union Public Licence: a unique instrument that everyone can use

While initially conceived as an open source software licence to facilitate the sharing and reuse of software developed and owned by the European Commission itself and other European Institutions, the EUPL can in fact be used by anyone who holds the copyright to a piece of software. It has been further developed and significantly extended over the years.

Responding to the specific requirements of the European Commission, the EUPL features some unique characteristics, as Georges Lobo from the Directorate General for Informatics of the European Commission underlines: “The EUPL is a truly European licence. The latest version published in 2017 is the only one available in all the 23 official languages of the European

Union. Moreover, it is compatible with most common open source licences and is compliance with EU law, which means that it is compliant with the EU copyright legislation of all 28 member states.”

The fact that the EUPL is available in various European languages and also compatible with the different national laws makes the EUPL an attractive and adequate legal interoperability instrument to be used across Europe especially for SMEs and start-ups: “For many European SMEs it is important to have the possibility to use a licence written in their own mother tongue simply for reasons of understanding. Another advantage is, that they know there will less risk for interpretation with the legislation of their country, as there is no translation issue”, Lobo explains.

The licence makes the covered software accessible for everyone, in a royalty-free mode. Since it is open source, meaning compliant with the Open Source Definition (OSD), not only the software, but also the licence can be used by everyone (and MUST be used by everyone in case the covered software is re-distributed). In addition, the EUPL provides more warranties to recipients, in particular a warranty of copyright from each contributor.

The EUPL was certified by the Open Source Initiative, and there are currently tens of thousands of projects licensed under the EUPL. Plus: it is widely used by public administrations in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, Bulgaria, and other Member States.

However, it has to be underlined that the EUPL is not a goal in itself and does not aim to take the biggest possible part of the open source market.

For this reason, the EUPL compatibility rules authorise, when needed, the licensing of derivatives under a compatible licence: sharing and interoperability is the goal, not enlarging the licence coverage.

Joinup: sharing and reusing interoperability solutions

Alongside the EUPL the European Commission created the platform Joinupin 2011 to provide a common venue that enables public administrations, businesses and citizens to share and reuse IT solutions and good practices, and facilitate communication and collaboration on IT projects across Europe. Joinup was the EC’s response to the challenge that information on IT solutions for the public sector used to be scattered across numerous repositories and websites, making it hard to find data and to reuse already available tools.

By integrating other platforms and their functionalities over the past years, and due to the active involvement of the user community, Joinup has been steadily expanded and enriched with additional features. Today, the platform contains thousands of news, events, discussions, and interoperability solutions ready to be accessed and used. Joinup users can share information about new developments, guidelines, events or studies with others. News items are also provided by a professional team of journalists.

More specifically, Joinup offers a meeting place and a collaborative working environment for the development of interoperability solutions. It hosts communities of practice and provides a catalogue helping to find open source software solutions, interoperability assets and models .

The Joinup Licensing Assistant: A New Tool to Better Navigate the Open Licences Landscape

As from June 2019, Joinup offers a new solution: the Joinup licensing assistant, an innovative tool allowing everyone to compare and select open licences based

EUPL in a nutshell

The European Union Public Licence (EUPL) is the first European Union Free Open Source Software licence. It was specifically designed to be fully compliant with the EU law.

It enables the widest possible software dissemination while maintaining the source code open. The EUPL protects the covered software from third party appropriation and has equal value in all member states. It offers people the right to freely use and distribute software, including modified versions, with the stipulation that the same rights be preserved in all copies or adapted works.

Key Characteristics of the EUPL




It enables the EC to distribute its own software for free, with a guarantee that it will remain available for everyone.

It is now approved by the European Commission in oficial languages of the Europe Union.

The EUPL is compatible with most existing licences and ensures compliance with EU law.