A license (or licence) allows someone to do something that they otherwise are not allowed to do. A person usually has to pay some money, and maybe pass a test to get a license. A license is usually written but it does not have to be. Most kinds of licenses can only be used by the person they were given to. Licenses may be temporary or permanent. Some licenses can not be taken away once they are given. A person with a license is called a licensee.
For example, John has a license to sell vegetables in the market for 10 years from 2010 to 2020. John grants an exclusive license to Jane to sell vegetables for 4 years from 2012 to 2016. Here, John will be referred as licensor and Jane will be referred as licensee.
Examples of licenses
There are many different types of licenses.
The laws of most countries say that people are only allowed to drive cars if they have a driver's license. If a person does not have a license, they may have to pay a fine if they are caught by the police. In many countries, a person must take a test and pay money to get a license. The test would check that they know the road rules, and have the skill to drive a car.
Other licenses give permission to shoot animals (often called a hunting license). The hunting license usually says when a person may hunt. A hunter may have to pass a test to show that he understands the rules about hunting.
Copyright is a law that gives the owner of a creative work the right to decide what other people can do with it. A person or a company can give a license to a copyright that they own. So in order for another person to use an owner's copyright they need permission from the owner. For example, when someone buys computer software, they also need a license from the creator of the software (a copyright owner) allowing the buyer to use the software.
Difference between license and licence
In American English there is no difference in spelling between the verb "to license" meaning to give permission, and the noun "a license" meaning the permission to do something.
Distinction between a licence and a qualification
A degree in medicine is a qualification showing a person has successfully studied medicine. It is awarded for life. A licence to practice medicine is a legal permission to do so within the territory covered by the licensing authority. The licence may be taken away under certain situations.