Software Copyrights

Abstract

Software copyright is used by software companies to prevent unauthorized copy and use of their software. Under copyright laws computer software is governed by licenses that limit the number of computers that the software can be installed, and can be used. Some of these laws stated that one backup copy is allowed and cannot be loaded into another computer unless the software licensed stated to do so. Even the accompanying software manuals under these laws are protected and no individual can obtain a copy of these manuals under the software protection laws (Bouchoux, 2001).

A software patent is an exclusive rights granted to the software holder. This patent is given to the software holder in exchange of the disclosure of the software to the public use under certain rights granted to the software holder. The patent will give exclusive rights to the software holder over the algorithms written within the software, and any specifications used to write the software (Bouchoux, 2001).

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design or a combination of words, phrase, symbol, and design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the software from other software available in public domain (Bouchoux, 2001).

Bouchoux (2001) explained that to obtain a copyrights; company has to follow a registration process to obtain the rights to protect its software products. That registration will give any company the following benefits:

  • Right to sue in federal court.
  • Protection against infringing copies of the software.
  • A valid document of the copyright that will be valid in courts.
  • Establish a public record for the copyright claim of such software.

Why we need Intellectual Property Protection

Software is a great achievement whether it’s measured by the power it manages and operates hardware or by the useful tasks that can be done by such software to help us in our daily life. A huge effort most of the time is required to create software that can add values to businesses and other entities to carry its daily tasks. That effort required creativity, talent and teamwork; that will raise the big factor of manufacturing the software which is the cost. 

Software in the recent days adapts the hardware, and gives the computer its personality, and through the years, the software has changed dramatically since the software starts to be part of the commercial software in 1950. Today, it’s so hard to find a business that can run without having computer software implemented by the business to do tasks and help productivity within any organization. These organizations invested a huge amount of money for the software that can carry the future of that business. With the increasing demands of the software for any businesses, and increasing the independency on software, the software makers and industry leaders started to have fears of possible infringement of patent and copyrights that will lead to a huge lose of investment. Also the unfairness practices of business reduce the willing of creativity, invention, and shared learning where the future progress can be achieved. For all of the above reasons, software patent and copyrights protection exist in our life today (National Research Council Staff, 1991).

National Research Council Staff (1991) argued that the legal protection of the software such as copyrights and patent are legally well known to our society, and it’s not complicated for a normal person to understand. However, many concerns have been raised about issues that might violate the copyright laws. For example some of these issues are:

  • Is the copyright is violated if there’s another software has the same functions that emulate another product?
  • Is the copyrights is violated if a company came up with a reverse compiler that can recreate the source code from a product that is shipped in object code?

Some argued that applying the software patent within the industry will take some of the pressures that exist in the copyright law. However, fear exist that software patent might be a nightmare for software developers and other software makers since challenging the ideas in the software will be a high risk, and also a huge cost of legal processes. Other challenges that might be a problem in following such rules is the amount of software inventions that already exist in the public domain. National Research Council Staff (1991) also raised the concerns over the ability of the courts to keep up with the pace of the technical changes in the software industries.

Intellectual property is the product of the mind, and as such until it is presented in a tangible form, can not be seen by someone else other than the creator. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are the intellectual property rights that are recognized in law. A patent protects Inventions such as process or idea that is valuable to the society. A copyright protects original expressions of ideas such as paper, tape, disk, or software. A trademark protects a word, phrase, sign, symbol, shape, or label that is a distinctive identifier of the goods or service of the creator (Shippy, 2002).

A patent is an exclusive rights granted to the inventor to use and develop the invention. The type of invention that may be registered as a patent depends on the laws of the country where the patent is requested. To obtain a patent for an invention it has to be allocated with certain categories such as machine, process, software or adding improvement to an existing idea. The creative conception is very important for the inventor to obtain a patent for the invention. For example, if an inventor discovered a pre-existing substance, the patent for such discovery is unlikely to be protected. For that reason a lot of concerns have been raised in obtaining a software patent for an idea that already exists in the market. Once the patent is granted, its value becomes available to the public domain to be used with the permission of the inventor. Also, the inventor has exclusive rights to enforce that right against anyone who uses the invention without the inventor’s permission (Shippy, 2002).

Copyright is an exclusive right of the inventor to the original expression of the work. If the copyrights are based on a copyrighted work, to obtain a copy rights on that work, it has to have a sufficient original work added that recognize the new work. The copyright protects the expression of the invention not the idea or the thoughts itself as such; until the idea is expressed in a tangible object, no copyright exists (Shippy, 2002).

Trademarks are used to identify a product or a service as being produced by the owner of the trademark, and also to differentiate that product from other products already exist in the public domain. Also, the trademark indicates to the public domain that the product has certain characteristics or qualities which are set by the trademark owner. The trademark registration guarantees the originality of the product; and prevents others from using the same trademark for other product or similar products (Shippy, 2002).

Shippy (2002) stated that Intellectual property protection rights today protect many entities such as:

  • Trade secrets – Creative work that give a competitive advantage over other traders.
  • Trade name – Unique name that is used by the business owner to identify a business.
  • Brand names – the name given to a certain product.
  • Domain name – A URL that identify your web site and others.  

Culture preferences will affect the intellectual property rights and for that reason the culture difference of other people has to be considered when the intellectual property rights are developed. Culture recognition of the intellectual rights will effect the decision of how these rights will be implemented since the cost of enforcement of such laws can be different from one culture to another. Also, culture differences are definitely are indirect barriers to the international trade, and for that reason the trade barriers continue to shrink due to the awareness of the value of the intellectual property rights (Shippy, 2002).

With the internet technology exist in our life the global market start to grow, and the cost for companies to do business with other countries is reduced due to the communications via internet. With this approach, several international task forces are working so hard to protect intellectual property rights on the Internet. Also, international courts pursuing decisions to enforce laws in favour of the intellectual property rights (Shippy, 2002).  

Some companies fail to protect their intellectual property and their valuable information because they don’t understand that even the customers list, the name of the products, and even the forecasting for marketing plans are protectable items under the law of protection rights. If the company identified the protectable assets as part of its intellectual property it will be included as part of the protection. Some companies own other than intellectual property which it’s hard to understand since these assets are intangible. Some examples of these intangible assets are: the way companies are doing business, Internet domain, list of potential customers, or marketing materials used in business. Such intangible assets caused a loss of billion of dollars which can be caused by copyright piracy, stolen trade secrets and so forth. Intellectual property can be lost or compromised and it’s so hard to be recovered. For example, a license granted to another to use a trademark without verifying the quality of the products might cause a loss of the trademark. Similar to this situation is marketing an invention without seeking patent for such invention. Moreover, intellectual property can also generate revenue by licensing others or collecting royalty fees (Bouchoux, 2001).

(Bouchoux, 2001) pointed out that the four key type of Intellectual Property are:

  • Trademarks – the names, design, slogans, or other objects by which any company can identify its products and services.
  • Copyrights – Copyrights protection exists from the time a work is created, and registered. Copyrights protect the original authorship of the created work.
  • Patents – Is granted by the government to the owner of the invention to prevent others from making, using, or selling the invention without the permission of the owner.
  • Trade Secrets – Include any valuable information that gives the owner competitive advantages over the other competitors.

Copyright infringement occurs when work form another shows similarity to the original work, and for that reason all of the above intellectual property protections were created to prevent such incident from happening.

Conclusion

Intellectual property protections were created as an important weapon to prevent piracy and software copying. Such laws give exclusive rights to the owner over the reproduction, and distribution with permission. In applying such laws within any country, the culture preferences has to be considered to make sure that such laws will be respected, and followed. In addition, companies has to take every step to protect its intellectual properties by enforcing the four keys of the intellectual property, trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets.

References

Bouchoux, E. (2001) Protecting Your Company’s Intellectual Property: A practical Guide to Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents and Trade Secrets [Online]. Available from:http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/lib/liverpool/docDetail.action?docID=10005784 (Accessed: 27 October 2009).

National Research Council Staff (1991) Intellectual Property Issues In Software [Online]. Available From: http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/lib/liverpool/docDetail.action?docID=10055025 (Accessed: 27 October 2009).

Shippey, K. (2002) A short Course in International Intellectual Property Rights: Protecting Your Brands, Marks, Copyrights, Patents, Designs, and Related Rights Worldwide [Online]. Available from: http://site.ebrary.com.ezproxy.liv.ac.uk/lib/liverpool/docDetail.action?docID=10026326 (Accessed: 27 October 2009).

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