Code makes the digital world go round.

 Code is the set of  instructions that makes digital things work - smart phones, ipods, software, aps, games, websites, computers, computer devices in cars, washing machines, planes etc. - all sorts of digital stuff.

 Code is written.

 Code comes in lots of different 'languages' to suit particular purposes: e.g. C++, Visual Basic,  Javascript and XML. These 'languages' are continually updated, improved and added to by their users. 

The example above is written in Javascript.

The image of an example of code above is by Dr. E.F. Tymac, issued under a CC-BY-2.5 license and made available through 'Wikimedia Commons'.

Source Code

 Source code is the underlying programming that generates the software and applications we use on all computers, laptops and mobile devices and in the drivers that control fridges, washing machines, digital recorders and cameras - in short almost all the electronic devices we use today .

Code and Intellectual Property

 Now you might think being digital and a very 21st century thing code would have it's own special category in Intellectual Property ... but 'No!' ... because code is written it is classed as a Literary work (!) the same as books, plays and song lyrics.  It is protected for the life of the creator plus 70 years - which is a very long time.

 If you write the programme for an application, either electronically or in writing - in copyright speak that means you have 'fixed' it, nailed it down if you like - your application will automatically be protected by copyright - provided of course it is original and not copied from somewhere else.

 However some software can be patented if it is original and designed for a demonstrable industrial purpose like controlling a brake system. This is a very complex area for developers and industrialists to work with. Patents, unlike copyright, are not automatic. Potential patents have to be checked to make sure that there isn't an existing patent covering the same 'idea' in 'the same way' before they can be registered in the UK.  While the Intellectual Property system for code works the same for countries in the EU, different systems apply in other countries, making work in a global market even more complex even though there are international trade agreements that most, but not all, countries subscribe to.

Code and Licences

Code can be licenced as either:

  • Free
  • Proprietary


'Free means' the code is open so anyone can look at it to understand how it works or develop it. However, it can be used in a product that can sold; so free doesn't necessarily mean 'no charge'.

This is the famous GNU icon. The GNU General Public License or GNU GPL, was first made available in 1989 - in the very early days of the digital world. It provides the developer with a way of asserting their copyright and obtaining, without charge, licence documentation to use. The GNU licence requries other users to keep things open - someone else can't take your codes and make it 'proprietary' - they can use it but must keep it open. It also provides the developer with the opportunity to join a world wide network of other developers interested in sharing. 

GNU is associated with the idea of 'copyleft' - i.e. reseving some rights while allowing others to be shared openly.


'Proprietary' means the code is 'locked down' - kept secret.

Proprietary software, such as 'Microsoft' and 'Apple' systems and applications and software rely on copyright, trade contracts and patents. The person, company or school who purchases them signs an 'end user licence agreement' (an EULA) undertaking to keep the source code 'closed'.

Open Source

Open source is a developer movement using the Internet for people to work easily together by belonging and contributing to an online network who share their experiences and knowledge and build on each others results.This means that many different people could have helped to develop the software you are using without ever having met each other, let alone working for the same organisation.

 Open Source application software includes 'Open Office', 'Blender' and the 'Mozilla Firefox' browser.

 Open Source operating systems or OS, include: 'Android' and Linux'.

 Open Source server software includes: 'Apache' (widely used by many education and local authority networks).

 Open Source content managment systems (CMS) include 'Moodle' (used for VLE by some Colleges and Schools), 'Word Press' (software for blogs and websites) and 'Joomla' (software for websites).  

 Open Source education products include 'Scratch' software and the 'Raspberry Pi computer'.


'Scratch' is an open source product design by MIT Media lab for school-aged students to learn and experience programming. The software behind the 'Scratch' website uses a GNU GPL. The projects and support materials in the website have a Creative Commons CC BY-SA-2.0 licence to direct how new work is to be acknowledged and licenced.  

The source code is open and is freely available under a 'Scratch Licence' and you can work on it within the 'Scratch' project ... BUT ... if you change or develop the source code to make a brand new application you can't put your new application back into the Scratch' project as it would be 'non-standard'.  HOWEVER you have to acknowledge the source AND you can't use the 'Scratch' logo, the 'Scratch' cat or the project name to imply any endorsement for your new ap of the 'Scratch' project.


The 'Copy Rights and Wrongs' website is built using an open source content management system called 'Joomla'. You build the basic site and then add 'plug-ins' - sets of code which do specific jobs - for instance,  there's a plug-in to upload video and one to create an image gallery for your website. This website also uses an open source extension called K2. Both 'K'2 and 'Joomla' are 'free software' licenced under GNU GPL Licences.

 You are now reading the output of the HTML code for this website which you can see in the image above.

Although the code may be open source and freely available the name and services that provide it - the product - may not be. For instance the 'Joomla' name and logos are registered trademarks which can not be used without permissions. The Joomla logo is published here under a 'limited licence' which requries the following written statement to be included: 'Copy Rights and Wrongs' is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Joomla! Project or Open Source Matters. The Joomla! logo is used under a limited license granted by Open Source Matters the trademark holder in the United States and other countries."


More information ...

 More on Open Licences in Section 2: Open Licences and Creative Commons Licences