Copying software and copyright

The following TMT practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Copying software and copyright
  • The legal framework
  • Which parts of computer programs can be protected?
  • How long does copyright last?
  • Who owns copyright in software?
  • What is a software owner entitled to do with it?
  • Types of copying
  • Authorised copying
  • Resale of second-hand software
  • Unauthorised copying and other related conduct
  • More...

Copying software and copyright

This Practice Note examines legal and practical issues relating to the copying of software. It sets out software copyright protections under copyright law to combat unauthorised copying of software and explores the extent to which software can be copied lawfully. It further explores developments planned in the area of copyright protection that are likely to have an impact on the copying of software.

The legal framework

Computer programs may be eligible for copyright protection as ‘literary works’ under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988). Other regulations relevant to the protection of rights in software include:

  1. the Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992, SI 1992/3233—these amended CDPA 1988 regarding copyright protection of computer programs

  2. the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997 (CRD 1997), SI 1997/3032—these amended CDPA 1988 regarding copyright and measures relating to the prevention of unauthorised extraction of the contents of a database and unauthorised re-utilisation of those contents

  3. the Electronic Commerce Directive (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, SI 2002/2013—these were brought into force in order to implement an EU directive regarding information society services, in particular electronic commerce

  4. the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003, SI 2003/2498—these amended CDPA 1988 to implement Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society and related matters

  5. the Intellectual Property (Enforcement, etc) Regulations 2006,

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