I have recently read your Kitaab, “Copyrights and the Shari’ah”, so my line of questioning is a result of its content, InshaAllaah.
1) A computer program is downloaded for free, but after 2 weeks, you have to purchase a “software license” key in order to use all of its features. The purchase involves the buyer receiving a unique personal password that permits access to all of the free program’s capabilities after it is entered into the program. Is the purchase of a “software license” in order to unlock the full benefits of free software a valid transaction?
2) It is my impression after reading “Copyrights and the Shari’ah” that I would be the owner of the actual software (i.e. it is my “mielk”) but the license would be something similar to a bus ticket or voucher that has no intrinsic value of its own aside from the access to the benefits that it represents. Is my understanding correct here?
1) Purchase of the software licence per se is not a valid sale in terms of the Shariah. However, due to the need it will not be sinful. It is just like paying for a licence for a vehicle or paying a fee for so many other haraam products and services. Without the fee which is imposed, one will be unable to operate, hence it will not be sinful.
2) Yes, you will be the owner of the software for which you have paid. Your understanding is correct.
3) There is no Shariah incumbency to abide by the baatil conditions.