Copying software and copyright
Copying software and copyright

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

  • Copying software and copyright
  • Brexit
  • 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
  • More...

IP COMPLETION DAY: 11pm (GMT) on 31 December 2020 marks the end of the Brexit transition/implementation period entered into following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. At this point in time (referred to in UK law as ‘IP completion day’), key transitional arrangements come to an end and significant changes begin to take effect across the UK’s legal regime. This document contains guidance on subjects impacted by these changes. Before continuing your research, see Practice Note: What does IP completion day mean for TMT?

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.


On 31 January 2020, the UK ceased to be an EU Member State and entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law and remains part of the EU internal market. For further guidance, see Practice Notes: What does IP completion day mean for intellectual property? and Brexit—introduction to the Withdrawal Agreement.

The legal framework

Computer programs may be eligible for copyright protection as ‘literary works’ under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988).

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