Copyright Law; Software is considered a literary work in the principle act in Ireland covering copyright, the copyright and related rights act, 2000. Software copyright is a form of intellectual property law that exists to protect rights associated with tangible property of people and groups. Copyright therefore cannot exist over ideas alone. and protected works must be recorded with an authors consent to have copyright protection. The protected material does not require registration and the rights are only waived explicitly through written notice, but the rights are retained by “the person whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken”, and includes preparatory design materials . Although the bar is set low over what can be protected, it usually must involve a minimum amount of work and be non-trivial and original. So what rights does copyright protect and why does it protect it and why is a law necessary to do this?. Copyright prohibits:
Punishment for infringement can be pecuniary or custodial and reflects the seriousness of the infringement from personal hacking to commercial piracy. Since coding, requires the investment of considerable human, technical and financial resources while programs can be copied at a fraction of the cost this offers an uncompetitive advantage to those who would copy products for commercial reasons. The theoretical basis for copyright includes to reward labour as described by Locke, to encourage expression of the will as discussed by Hegel, and for utilitarian and economic efficiency as treated by Bentham. Copyright is not an absolute right but is a fundamental right and in Ireland its possession is in keeping with the principles of social justice espoused in article 43 of the constitution of Ireland and within the European parliament directive. Indeed the constitution of the USA in 1787 recognised the authors rights for “Limited Times” showing the universal recognition to limit the benefit to the individual for the sake of scientific progress.
A utilitarian sense of fairness provides for “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” of people and although an economic analysis will often keep copyrighted works with a few people to benefit greatly sometimes the need for social justice outweighs these reasons. Recently there was a feature of a high profile case in the European courts between the European commission and Microsoft, where Microsoft were found to have purposefully kept competing software from inter-operating with their products and this was facilitated by the derivative work restrictions of copyright law. For under a normal economic analysis of law if a party is willing to expend more of their resources in securing the protected rights, all things considered the right should reside with them.
In the case of Microsoft EU the damage done to the EU’s interests by excluding competition and thereby to maintain full control over its own information was judged to be of greater value than the investment by Microsoft in its development costs and the decision went against them. Presumably in the information age the premium placed on stores of information is very high and proprietary software will not be allowed to block this path. A subsequent European directive clear includes measures to allow interoperability to be achieved even to the point of de-compiling software, provided sufficient measures have not been taken by the original author of the work. By creating protection for works through copyright personal expression of the will is encouraged. This is one of the moral reasons for copyright law and is a feature of Irish copyright laws greater harmonisation with European law such as through the 2009/24/EC European directive. By these moral rights the copyright owner may assert their right to be recognised as the author in so called “paternity”. Also to prevent protected items from having work derived from them by maintaining the right to “integrity” and to prevent false attribution for cloned or non supported distributions even where software is redistributed with the authors consent for instance with GPL code disclaimers .
This Lawsuit started with a complaint from Novell, Inc. Which is an Americanmultinationalsoftware and services company headquartered inProvo, Utah, over Microsoft’s licensing practices that happened in 1993, it stated that Microsoft was blocking its competitors out of the market through anti-competitive practices, this complaint focused on the license practices at the time which required royalties from each computer sold by a supplier of Microsoft’s operating system, with or without the Windows operating system and this led to Microsoft reaching a settlement in 1994. This ended some of its license practices leading to the EU ordering Microsoft to disclose certain information about its server products and release a version ofMicrosoft WindowswithoutWindows Media Player, the European Commission made more focus on the interoperability issue.
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