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1 a permission given by one person to another to do some act that, without such permission, it would be unlawful for him to do. In relation to land, a licence may arise gratuitously, or by contract, or by estoppel. Licences arising from a gratuitous act may generally be revoked at the will of the grantor unless some question of estoppel arises; licences arising from a contract are capable of specific enforcement. Licensing is at the heart of the exploitation of INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. A software developer will normally grant a licence of copyright to the end user which will permit copying (often necessary to use software) and impose restrictions on use.
2 an official document authorizing a specified activity that would be unlawful for the licensee to engage in without such document (e.g. a liquor licence authorizing the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquor; a driving licence authorizing the holder to drive a motor vehicle on the public highway).
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006