Copyright Protections For Software Code - A Complete Guide
As a software developer, protecting your creations from copycats is a priority. The best way to ensure your creations are safe is by registering them for protection under intellectual property law.
The most applicable IP protection for software codes is copyright protection which covers artistic creations and literary works. If you are concerned about protecting your software code but have limited understanding of how copyrights apply to software code, this post is an excellent read.
What Is Copyright Protection, and How Does it Relate to Software Code
Copyright protection is a legal concept that gives the creators of literature and music exclusive rights to control the use and distribution of their work.
IP laws treat software code as literary work meaning the creator of the code has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and create derivative works based on the code. The copyright owner also has the right to modify their code or translate it into a different programming language.
Ownership of Copyrights to a Software Code
Typically copyright belongs to the original creator of a code by default. But there are rare circumstances where it may belong to another entity. For example, if a developer creates code as part of their scope of work, the copyright to their creations will belong to their employer.
On the other hand, independent contractors will own the copyrights to the codes they create on behalf of their clients unless there is an express agreement to transfer the copyright in the contract agreement.
Scope of Copyright Protection
While copyrights apply by default, proving ownership in the event of a dispute can be a challenge. Therefore applying for copyright protection with the relevant body is necessary. In Canada, registration of IP rights is under the purview of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).
Upon successful registration, copyright protections are enforceable through the creator's lifetime and 50 years after death. However, there are situations where the protections may extend for up to 70 years from the date of death.
For instance, copyrights for works of art with unknown authors last 50 years from publication or 75 years since the creation of the work, whichever is shorter. However, if the identity of one or more creators becomes common knowledge, the authors assume ownership of the copyright for a lifetime and 50 years after the last author's death.
Once copyright protection expires, the work becomes public domain and can be used freely by anyone. Copyright protections in Canada only guarantee protections within Canadian borders. If you want to enjoy similar protections in other countries, you must apply for protections under the countries' laws.
Enforcing Your IP Copyrights
Registering your software code for copyright protection cannot guarantee that other entities will not try to profit from your creation. This means you have to watch out for an infringement. If you are aware of a case of infringement, you have a right to take legal action against the infringer.
Before dragging the offending party to court, your lawyer can issue a cease and desist letter, a legal document informing the offending party of your knowledge of their actions and demanding that they stop their infringement.
If the infringer is reasonable, you can have an amicable resolution. If not, you can file an infringement case to recover damages suffered from the infringement.
Understanding the various software copyright laws and regulations can be complex, but developers and users must be aware of these protections to ensure that software is used and distributed legally.
While this article may not be exhaustive, its insights can be a good starting point on your journey toward protecting your software codes. If you need more information on copyrights for software codes, it would be best to consult an IP expert.