Software law

Software law

Software law refers the to legal remedies available to protect software-based assets. Software may, under various circumstances and in various countries, be restricted by patent or copyright or both. Most commercial software is sold under some kind of software license.

A patent normally covers the design of something with a function such as a machine or process. Copyright restricts the right to make and distribute copies of something written or recorded, such as a song or a book of recipes. Software has both these aspects - it embodies functional design in the algorithms and data structures it uses and it could also be considered as a recording which can be copied and "performed" (run).

"Look and feel" lawsuits attempt to monopolize well-known command languages; some have succeeded. Copyrights on command languages enforce gratuitous incompatibility, close opportunities for competition, and stifle incremental improvements.

Software patents are even more dangerous; they make every design decision in the development of a program carry a risk of a lawsuit, with draconian pretrial seizure. It is difficult and expensive to find out whether the techniques you consider using are patented; it is impossible to find out whether they will be patented in the future.

The proper use of copyright is to prevent software piracy - unauthorised duplication of software. This is completely different from copying the idea behind the program in the same way that photocopying a book differs from writing another book on the same subject.

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