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Copyright Protection Of Software And Copyright Notice: Why Is It Important?

Updated on :  

08 min read.

In the most basic sense, copyright is the right to copy. Ideally, what it means is that the owner/creator of a piece of intellectual property has the power to grant any other person the exclusive right to duplicate or use their creation or work of art for a specified time in the form of a license without assigning any ownership rights or permitting limited ownership rights. Therefore, a copyright is a form of protection given by law to a creator of such original work to ensure that the creator’s work is not made use of unless permission is granted. Copyrights cover works such as:-

  • Literary works (including those in a machine-readable form like computer programs)
  • Musical and artistic work
  • Cinematographic films
  • Sound recordings

Essentially, it is not the idea itself that is protected by the copyright. It is more focused on the form or expression of that idea.

Software Copyright

The Copyright Act, 1957 contains provisions that provide for the protection of computer software copyrights in India. Section 2(o) of the Copyright Act, 1957 states that “literary work” includes computer programmes, tables and compilations, including computer databases. Copyright on software can be obtained simply by the developer storing the program on any tangible medium including a ROM, hard disk, or any other digital storage device. By doing this, the software automatically is eligible for copyright protection.

Source Code and Object Code

The source code is the original code of the computer program written in program languages. This language can be read and understood only by someone specialised in the field of software or computers. The object code is the version of the program that is in Binary form (basically a series of zeroes and ones), and this version is directly usable by the computer. Humans cannot understand binary language unless it is decompiled, that is unless it is transformed into the source code.

Berne Convention

The Berne Convention, also known as the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, was initially adopted in the year 1886. It has been subsequently modified on several occasions to incorporate certain changes. The means to control how the works are used, by whom they are used, and on what terms may be decided by the owners of that particular work/creation. Under this, the contracting countries shall provide automatic protection for:- – Works first published in other countries that are member nations of the Berne Union. – Unpublished works whose authors are either citizens of/residents in such other countries.

Types of Rights

The Copyright Act, 1957 bestows copyright protection on the owner on two fronts:-

  1. Economic Rights: These rights enable the owner of the copyright to reap financial rewards through the grant of exclusive rights to such other persons for the use of their work or creation. The right owners can authorize/prohibit, amongst other rights, the following:
    • Right of reproduction of the work in various forms: As per the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957, the right of reproduction of the work includes storing it in electronic form. Unless classified under the “fair use” defence, copying would amount to infringement of copyright. The person copying the work must declare that he does not intend to obtain any commercial benefit out of it.
    • Right of distribution of copies of the work: The Doctrine of First Sale applies the exhaustion principle with regard to copyright law. Through this, the owner of the copyright controls the right to only the first sale of the works. The subsequent sale of the works does not require the authorisation or consent from the owner. The owner of the copyright has the right to retain some rights and assign those rights which he may choose to, at his convenience. However, in the case of computer programs, the owners have the right to sell or give it on commercial rent. This makes it an exception to the Doctrine of First Sale.
  2. Moral Rights: Moral rights are a special set of rights bestowed on the owners of the copyright, specified in Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957. These include:
    • Right of Paternity: The right of paternity is the right of the owner/author to claim ownership of his work. It is also called the Right of Attribution. Along with this also comes a right to prevent anyone else from claiming authorship of his work.
    • Right of Integrity: Under this, the author/owner has a right to prevent any modification or distortion of or any other derogatory action related to his creation or his works, which would result in something prejudicial to the owner’s reputation or his honour. In simple words, it means that he has a right to protect and maintain his integrity.

Benefits of Copyright Protection

  • Creation of an asset: Copyrights result in the creation of an intangible asset that can reap economic rewards to the owner.
  • Public notice of the ownership: Registering the copyright will entail the work being published in the Copyright Office’s Catalog, and hence information regarding the same will be available on the public domain.
  • Evidence in a court of law: The copyright can be used as prima facie evidence in a court of law, where there is a suit pertaining to the ownership.
  • Ability to file an infringement suit: It provides the owner with the right to file an infringement suit, if such a case may arise.

Copyright Notice

A copyright notice is a statement that is ideally a disclaimer informing the public that a particular piece of work is protected by copyright laws and is not meant to be copied without the owner’s authorisation, Copyright notices cover songs, books, blogs, software, films, websites, screenplays, artistic works and the like. Copyright notices are not made mandatory by law, but it does make good sense to have one written up. It helps protect your creative piece of work, hence always advisable to get it done right at the beginning just as a precautionary measure. It has four simple components:-  

  1. Copyright symbol: The word “copyright” or the universally accepted copyright symbol © is to be used, preferably at the beginning of the notice.
  2. Copyright date: It is written in terms of years only. The year of publication will be displayed in the notice. However, where the content is being constantly updated, containing content over a period of several years, then that entire time period will be displayed, for instance, in the case of websites.
  3. Name of the copyright owner: Whoever holds ownership of the copyright, it is only the name of such person that must be displayed. Such a person may include: – An individual – Multiple individuals – An organisation – A business corporate
  4. Statement of rights: This is to inform the public of what rights the owner holds over the creative work. The most common type is “All Rights Reserved”, stating that the owner holds complete rights over the product. However, in certain cases, there may also be a “Some Rights Reserved” statement indicating that the owner does not hold complete rights to the creative works.

The copyright notice can generally be found on display at the bottom of a page, in relatively smaller font, and in a short and concise manner.

Disclaimer: The materials provided herein are solely for information purposes. No attorney-client relationship is created when you access or use the site or the materials. The information presented on this site does not constitute legal or professional advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes or used as a substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your state.

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