This chapter discusses protection under the law of copyright. Topics covered include copyright basics; obtaining copyright; forms of protected work; the requirement of originality; copyright ownership; copyright infringement; the nature of copying; other rights belonging to the copyright owner; the development of software copyright; and literal and non-literal copying. The law of copyright is perhaps the major branch of intellectual property law relevant to computer software. Virtually every piece of software will be protected by copyright. The main issue concerns the extent of the protection that is offered. Computer programs are generally protected as literary works. This was appropriate in the early days where computers performed essentially functional tasks – often associated with mathematical calculations. It is arguable that modern software, which often makes extensive use of graphical images, is more akin to an artistic work than a literary one. Regardless of categorization, the courts in the United Kingdom have applied a narrow interpretation of the scope of copyright. Reproduction of the underlying code will be unlawful but replication through independent work of the effects produced by the code (often referred to a non-literal copying) will not.
This chapter first examines the subject matter in which copyright subsists and the criteria for copyright protection as set out in the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988). This centres on the concept of the ‘protected work’ and makes use of a distinction between what are sometimes known as ‘author works’ (literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and film works) and ‘media works’ (typographical arrangements, sound recordings, broadcasts, and adaptations). It then considers the identification of the first owner of copyright when it comes into existence. It discusses the concept of joint authorship and ownership of copyright works when created in the course of employment. The final section discusses the duration of copyright.