When you prepare something creative and share it with the world there are many legal implications that you need to be aware of.
Moreover, I as a lawyer and tech enthusiast would consider it important for all the coders and software developers to understand the basics of copyright law.
So that they can circumvent any kind of infringement and legal complexities that arise when dealing with open source licenses and filing of copyright on software codes that are developed using these open-source codes.
Understanding Open source licenses
Open source code denotes a code for which the original source has been provided free to the public to be modified or enhanced further.
The famous source codes that are available as open-source are Linux operating system that is part of the 80% of the mobile device operating system. Open-source Initiative owns the certification mark for open source and anyone that complies with the conditions or terms of the licensing can use the said mark.
The definition makes it simple for the developers to know whether they can use the OSI trademark or not. The developers that distribute their code freely without any restrictions and the code so distributed can be further modified and enhanced by the person using the mark.
This although it doesn’t mean that if your code is available online for others to see it would be open-source code.
The source code must be available for others to see and it should have the possibility of being modified and the developer should have the authority to change the name of the code from that of the original source code.
Even though open-source software programmers can actually charge for the software service and support.
Although, Startups and some small companies have not yet come up with models where they can use the open-source interface to generate revenue like other major companies.
Legal Regimes Followed in Open source licensing
Every open source licensing has its own quirks that the programmer must be aware of while using them. Moreover, the open-source movement depicts the paradigm shift in software development that challenges the basis of intellectual property.
Even though the right of the copies of the source code is readily available in many repositories the right over the copy of the source code and the profit earned and the creation of derivative work for profit is available with the owner of the source code himself.
Your right would entirely depend upon the licensing rights that are granted by the owner.
You and your programmer must be aware of all the licensing possibilities that go into while dealing with such codes or using such source codes in their proprietory codes. These are the devils that will drown your entire company model or the product or service that you are developing.
The companies using the open-source code should have information regarding what was being taken from the source code and particularly license agreement that governed the open-source.
Copyright and Open Source Licensing
Copyright law is generated the moment the work is brought into a tangible form hence whenever source code is brought into existence and shared by the developer it is considered his property and the type of license that is generated by such a developer completely depends upon them.
Software protection is a unique protection that can be attained through both copyright and patent registration. Here copyright will protect the expression in which the code is written whereas the patent will protect the function of the code.
Based on the above I can draw a conclusion that patent is the only thing that will ensure the protection of one’s code as anyone can write the same code in a different way and come to the same functionality.
The positive fact about obtaining copyright protection is that any software developer that copies your code verbatim will be liable for penalty under copyright law. You can also obtain the attorney cand the damages if you have incurred any from such infringers.
Another positive thing while obtaining copyright protection for the code is that they are cheap even if there use is extremely limited.
My take on protecting your code would be to go for both copyright and patent protection.
How do open-source licenses affect patent rights in software?
Patent right or patent protection gives a complete protection to the user over his invention an, in this case, the source code function. Whereas the basic idea of the open-source is to provide free access to the source code that is readable for humans.
To distribute your source code in an open-source repository under the open-source license will affect your right to use patent right in the future as once you have given permission to use the source code filing patent infringement case to invoke your patent rights won’t be possible.
Author Archi Bhatia
Archi Bhatia is a lawyer and content curator helping small businesses and entrepreneurs by, helping them understand their legal requirements and is also creating an online presence for them through friendly and sharable blog posts.
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.