All products seem to be released with a license, I'm curious to know how one would go about finding out the license of technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript?

  • 1
    The HTML spec links to this license page – but note that this is the license for the specification text, not for the HTML markup language itself.
    – amon
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


HTML, CSS, and Javascript as you are thinking of them are implementations of particular standards of the W3C (HTML and CSS) and ECMA respectively.

The actual implementations are licensed depending on the implementer. Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, the Mozilla Foundation, and Opera Software are the most prominent of these.

Each will have their own licensing, Mozilla for instance uses MIT.

If you wanted to do your own implementation for your own from scratch web browser, then you'd have control of the licensing as they would be your implementations of the standard.

Otherwise, I'd go with whatever license the base implementation you're using uses. That is, whatever layout engine and JS VM you're building on. For instance, node.js is built on top of Google's V8 engine.

  • So what license is W3C's "standard" released under?
    – anon
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 16:19
  • w3.org/Consortium/Legal/2002/ipr-notice-20021231 - W3C legal info.
    – user28988
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 16:32
  • I did look around before asking this question, just didn't quite understand what I was reading, hence the question.
    – anon
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 16:35

When considering licenses for programming and markup languages (such as HTMP, CSS and Javascript), there are two copyright licenses to consider:

  1. The copyright license of the language specification. This license covers the actual text that describes the definition of the language. The licenses can vary between languages, but they typically do not allow modification of the text and sometimes do not even allow copying (especially if the organization that publishes the specification tries to make money from selling copies).

  2. The copyright license of the language's implementation. This license covers the program that interprets/compiles programs written in the language or renders a document. In the case of HTML/CSS/Javascript, this would be the browser and Javascript engine. Any (software) copyright license can be used here, varying between closed source, copyleft and permissive open source.

The two licenses under 1 and 2 are not related to each other in any way and for any specification you can have multiple implementations using a variety of licenses.

In a sense, the language itself is considered to be no more than an idea, which can't be copyrighted. The specification and implementations are different expressions of that idea and are independent as far as copyright is concerned.

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