Understanding International Copyright Laws

By: Richard Cunningham

Is there one governing law for international software copyright? According to agreements by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIP), any software written has an automatic copyright. This is a conclusive consensus as far as an international copyright goes.

An international software copyright should not, however, be confused with a patent. Copyrights provide creators with the ability to prevent others from directly copying the software code. A patent can actually limit the use of the software. Because of this, patents are a hotly debated topic when it comes to software.

The biggest thing to know about international software copyright is that your code is essentially protected the moment you create it. This is, unless you have some kind of contract through your employer that all code you create belongs to them.

The problem many companies face to enforce software copyright is that computers are not permanent fixtures in a company. Computers are disposable hardware. Because technology keeps evolving, software needs to be updated when new computers are purchased. Rather than purchasing new copies of software when the computers are replaced, companies are notorious for reusing old copies of the software. They are also famous for replacing 10 computers with the software installed with 40 new computers and installing the 10 copies of the software on all 40 computers. This is breaking software copyright.

There are no major differences between traditional policies for American copyright and international software copyright which make legal issues, troubles, and woes that much easier to deal with. By having a unified international front there are ramifications and legal actions that can be taken around the world without going through a great deal of international red tape. If you think dealing with the American government is bad, you should see how much fun it is to deal with the American government and another government for a legal action.

The agreement between nations for international software copyright is probably one of the soundest possible decisions that can be made as military secrets of all governments have some degree of software to keep them operating. While it isn't quite as simplistic as stealing a computer program to unlock the defense secrets of a nation, having access to certain source codes could be problematic in the absolute best-case scenario. Keeping secrets isn't the only thing that makes this agreement so valuable, it is however, one of the most vital.

Perhaps one of the greatest things to protect and honor software copyright is the peace of mind that is available to software developers in America and other technologically advanced countries. Their source code won't be allowed to be stolen and used against them at a later date by someone in a developing nation with cheap labor and other overhead costs that American corporations simply cannot compete with. This could be devastating to the economies of technological societies if it were allowed to happen. The agreement for an international software copyright prevents that from being allowed to occur.


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