Software - Ownership & Copyright


Software is a set of instructions that tells a computer how to process information and display that information on a screen or through a printer.  Software, like any other creation, is owned by the person who created it from the moment it becomes "fixed."  Go to the Copyright section of this website to read about how problems can arise over who owns software.  Most of these occur in where someone is hired to produce the software.  The creations of a salaried employee are the property of his or her employer but many software engineers can be independent contractors.  Without a written agreement, they may own the software they created..

Software, like other copyrightable materials, can be registered with the United States Copyright Office.  (Software may also be patentable.)  There are special rules for registering software but the principles are the same as for any other copyrightable work.  Of course, if register the software with the Copyright Office, of file a patent application, you will no longer have a trade secret which may be a better method of protecting your software.  On the other hand, if you register before an infringement occurs, you may get statutory damages and attorney's fees.  See the section of this website on reducing theft and unauthorized copying.

 


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