How to protect your own copyright
In the UK there is no statutory copyright registration office as copyright is protected by means of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and its subsequent amendments. Under this Act, a computer program is included in the definition of a literary work and s11 of the Act states, subject to provisions, ‘the author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it’. This means that the author has the exclusive right to exploit their work, in other words, what can and can’t be done with their work, for example, who and how it may be used etc.
However, even though an author has the protection of the law it is wise to put certain things in place so that in the event of any dispute over ownership of the rights in a work, this can be proved.
Firstly, the law states that there is no copyright in an idea, only the expression of that idea in writing or otherwise, so there has to be some tangible evidence that you produced that work. When this is available we suggest that these steps are considered:
- Maintain and retain all the beta versions, logs and any other documentary evidence throughout the development of the software.
- Put a copyright notice and date with the words, “all rights reserved” on the opening screen of the work.
- Insert the copyright notice into hidden files so only you know they are there.
- Send a copy of the software to yourself or your lawyer by registered post (leaving it unopened on return and safely stored) thereby giving you an independent record of the date of its existence.
Additional areas that need to be considered are development, licensing and physical protection of the software.
- If you use a developer who is not an employee, make sure that you have an IP assignment of the copyright in the work in place before you hand over your work. Members of the FAST Legal Advisory Group (FLAG) would be able to advise on this. Details of members of FLAG may be found here
- Depending on the value of the software you may wish to consider some method of physical protection of the work such as application hardening, a dongle, software activation key or other device. The Federation has members who specialise in these areas and details may be found here.
- Before marketing the product you will need a licence which will clearly explain what users can and can’t do with the product. FLAG lawyers can assist with this – contact details as above.
The Federation works hard to protect the intellectual property rights of its members, has different membership levels and welcomes every publisher from the start-up company to the multi-national. Information about Membership of The Federation and the Benefits of Membership may be found here.
The information above is only for general interest and should not be taken as a complete statement of the law. The Federation cannot be held responsible for reliance on the information including any error or omission in the information.