Understanding Software Copyright Laws

by : Richard Cunningham

Software copyright laws are among the most difficult to enforce among the masses. Many companies and corporations are well known for overlooking these laws, which were designed to protect the creation of software from not earning their worth. Perhaps one of the biggest hitches why many software businesses go out of business is they have difficulty enforcing software copyright laws and getting money that is owed to them from end users.

Software developers, particularly in the corporate world, design software that makes other companies run more efficiently. The software allows these companies to save millions of dollars each year. Software copyright laws protect the interests of the software developers who create these massive programs. These expensive programs are designed specifically for that one company. The copyright and license agreement often consists of a certain number of users with the company purchasing more licenses or copies of the software during expansions or paying some sort of royalties for the use of the software.

The purchasing companies agree to this and then often fail to honor that agreement. The agreement is what allows this company to use that software. When companies aren't living up to their end of this agreement, they are not only guilty of breaching that agreement, but also of breaking software copyright laws. The trouble always lies in proving they are not honoring the contract and the extent and duration of the breach.

Some ways companies will argue, in defense of not paying the royalties, additional fees, purchasing additional software, etc. is they had upgraded computers and reused the old software (they did actually purchase the rights to use the original software and by doing so feel that they have broken no software copyright laws). The problem lies in the fact that adding ten new computers and placing the software on those should mean you remove it from or get rid of 10 old computers. This is rarely how it works. The truth is they've stolen ten copies of software which can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Multiply this by 10, 20, or 100 companies doing the same thing and the offending companies are costing software developers millions of dollars in profits. This is when software copyright laws are not as far reaching in their scope as they really need to be.

Software copyright laws exist to protect the software companies from this type of abuse and misuse; however, the hands of the companies are almost unilaterally tied when it comes to proving that software copyright laws have been broken in court.

There are always exceptions to every rule. In this case big business software developers that abuse the software copyright laws make the exceptions rather than consumers who do not pay for the products they are consuming. The big boys are able to do this by offering licenses for their software and claiming that these laws do not apply to their situation because they are not actually selling the software, but only “renting" out permission for people or companies to use that software. The true irony is that these practices began as a response to the corporate irresponsibility mentioned above. It's amazing the very software copyright laws that were created to protect these companies can't protect their consumers from the greed of the developing companies.