TUCoPS :: Cyber Law :: copyr1.txt

Copyrighting software and other intellectual works, 1 of 5

                        COPYRIGHT INFORMATION
                       COMPUTER SOFTWARE HACKS

                   June B. Moore - Attorney at Law

     Writers of software programs that are being placed on the
various bulletin boards with permission to users of the board to use
the pro- grams for non-commerical purposes should mark those programs

          (c) 1981 John Smith

     It is not necessary to register the work with the Copyright
Office in Washington, D.C. to get copyright protection.  In fact, it
is not necessary to put the copyright notice on to get protection,
but the notice is required if you want to sue for infringement, as is
regis- tration with the Copyright Office.  If the omission of the
notice was inadvertent or distribution was for a limited purpose only
(like to one's family or a friendly group getting together) the lack
of notice does not cause any harm.  However, the absence of the
notice will allow anyone who copies your program to claim it was
placed in the public domain for all to use for any purpose.  Only the
copyright can be licensed and if the other fellow doesn't know you
are claiming a copyright, he can claim innocence in this copying.

     Registration is simple.  Just send a note off to the Copyright
Office, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. and ask for the forms
needed to register a computer program.  They will send you a package
of stuff which will include the forms and instructions on how to file
for registration.  Fill out the form, send it back with two copies of
your printout showing the copyright notice on it and $10 and soon the
Copyright Office will send you a certificate saying the program is

     That's all there is to it!

     Copyright should not be confused with patent.  Patents have to
be original invention and protect the idea embodied in an object or
machine.  Copyright protects any kind of a literary, musical, or
artist work, including all kinds of graphics and sculpture.  It also
protects recorded audio and visual works such as phonorecords and
videotapes and films.

     Neither type of protection guarantees no one will steal your
effort, any more than the police department guarantees no one will
burgle your house.  The law against burglary and the law against
copyright infringement, however, give the owner of the house or the
copy- right a kind of right to recover from the thief.  Better
chance, too, in the case of a software thief who copies for
commercial purposes!

     A copyright will not protect your fine idea for bit-twiddling -
it will protect your expression of it - that is, no one can copy your
program directly although they can do some bit-twiddling themselves
to accomplish the same purpose you aimed at.  For example, no one can
copyright the idea of the play "Romeo and Juliette" of a pair of
lovers whose families are feuding.  But Romeo and Juliette could have
been copyrighted by William Shakespeare and anyone who used his lines
in another play about the same thing or a similar thing would have
infringed his copyright.

     Is that clear? Or just confusing?  Well, Einstein's theory, E =
mC*C could not be either patented (it is a natural law) or
copyrighted (it is an idea) but Albert's book about his theory could
be, was, and is copyrighted!

     If it comes down to protecting you program through a lawsuit, it
is necessary to have the notice and the registration.  The
registration is prima facie evidence of the validity of your
copyright.  And should you succeed in proving your copyright, the
court will issue an injunction against a copier without permission,
will ultimately give you either his profits, your losses (should you
start selling the program yourself), and your attorney's fees if he
was an intentional infringer.  It could be a good deal for you, if
your program is really great - and some that I have seen on the
CBBS's are great!

     If I can help with advice - but not filing lawsuits- drop me a
note on the Mill Valley RBBS (415-383-0473) or to the above address.
I don't practice law - I write about it and copyright is one of the
areas I write about.

For additional assistance, please contact:

                             June B. Moore
                            Attorney at Law
                           32 Salinas Avenue
                         San Anselmo, CA 94960
                   Phone 415-456-5889 (after 5:30 pm)

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