Software copyright issue

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Norman Bailey, Nov 10, 2015.

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  1. Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    We are a small company that writes good software.

    When someone started producing software which operated much the same as ours and some of the screens were extremely close to our designs then we started getting a little annoyed. We mentioned the magic word of copyright.

    In return we were quoted Navitaire Inc v Easyjet Airline Co Ltd (no.3) [2004] and SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd C-406/10.

    These appears to say that as long as you have not had access to the original code and were not using original code then you can copy virtually anything else.

    It all seems wrong to me as if I bought a copy of Sage Accounts and then made my own version that operated virtually the same then I'm sure they would be kicking my door down.

    Has anyone had anything similar?
     
    Posted: Nov 10, 2015 By: Norman Bailey Member since: Aug 12, 2015
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  2. Solicitor

    Solicitor UKBF Regular Free Member

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    Tricky area of law.

    The artistic features of your software IS protected. Navitaire won those parts of their claim. Your code is (I believe protected). What is not however, is the concept or more to the point, the end result of your software.

    So for example, if you produce software which allows users to logon and file their annual accounts - you could not stop anyone from producing software which had the same result.

    You could however protect against them copying your artistic features, and coding. The Court came to this decision it appears due to the fact that if it were possible to protect the actual concept (what the software sets out to do) then the user would be tied into the one developer who would have the monopoly.

    Richard
     
    Posted: Nov 10, 2015 By: Solicitor Member since: May 21, 2013
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  3. Alan

    Alan UKBF Legend Full Member - Verified Business

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    As a general principal, in my layman's understanding, copyrighting stops the production of physical copies. So if you take a file of code or an image and copy it then you breach copyright.

    But you can't copyright concepts or ideas or inventions. Thats what patents are for. Patent law varies between countries, for instance I don't believe you can pated a concept in the UK but you may be able to elsewhere.
     
    Posted: Nov 10, 2015 By: Alan Member since: Aug 16, 2011
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  4. obscure

    obscure UKBF Ace Free Member

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    Copyright law isn't designed to protect against competition and it doesn't protect ideas, it is designed to protect against theft (infringement). There are lots of software packages that accomplish the same or similar tasks. Look at web browsers for example. Add a specific skin and they even look much the same as well as doing much the same thing - but "Much the same as" isn't enough. Their code is different, written from scratch so while they do the same thing the code (which is protected by Copyright) is different.

    Unless you can show that they took your actual code and used it. Or they had access to your source and copied it to create theirs you don't have a case.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: obscure Member since: Jan 18, 2008
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  5. MikeJ

    MikeJ UKBF Big Shot Free Member

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    Lotus 123, Supercalc, Excel, plus a hundred other spreadsheets....
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: MikeJ Member since: Jan 15, 2008
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  6. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

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    Norman,

    Your website is full of borrowed scripts and the general layout is similar to many other websites. And I'd put money on your software containing downloaded scripts and stylesheets. If you are going to claim copyright infringement against your competitor thern the owners of the scripts could claim copyright theft against you.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
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  7. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    We all 'borrow' from one another. Every rock song that features a middle eight and a guitar solo, borrows from Muddy Waters (who 'borrowed' from others) and when Chuck Berry came up with the idea of putting 4:4 blues time to a C&W beat and speed, he borrowed from Muddy Water. Compare then a Jimmy Hendrix guitar solo to a Chuck Berry solo and tell be he didn't 'borrow'!

    Apple v. Microsoft! Apple claimed that the idea of a cancel button (etc., etc.) and a GUI was their idea. The courts found that ideas and concepts cannot be protected.

    As a software company, you have to innovate. You are in a race to the front. Each and every year, you must come up with something totally new - a must-have! As soon as that annual 'must-have' is missing, people start to look elsewhere.

    People outside of graphic design wonder why Adobe seems to totally dominate the market. One year, it is colour replacement, next year it is object removal, then it's 3D animation tools and depth creation and so on.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
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  8. Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    I get all of that, but what if it's a custom and bespoke internet-based application where the customer tells you that they now want to do the software themselves and completely replace what you have done.

    I actually agreed that provided they designed from the ground up and didn't simply clone it then it was not an issue. You have to appreciate that some of it will be similar because of the way the business works and that's fine, but some of it is a bit close to the knuckle.

    A few 'naughties' on the way, like hooking into our program for some reason, but then you discover nearly a year later that they are still having to use your software (without offering payment) because their replacement only does 90% of the original and they haven't written the 10% yet. This then implies that they must be using the original database behind it as well.

    All the stuff we use is properly licensed to ourselves and the original programming was done from scratch. We had nothing to copy from originally.

    Rather than just looking at legalities, for me this is actually more about ethics and honesty which appear to be sadly lacking these days. It's the kind of thing that a simple phone call and discussion could have easily resolved.

    And they are no longer on my Christmas card list.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: Norman Bailey Member since: Aug 12, 2015
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  9. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

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    I agree what they have done isn't necessarily ethical but taking them to court will just make the lawyers richer and you poorer.

    Make sure you feed back courrupt data when they connect to your database.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
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  10. Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey UKBF Contributor Free Member

    75 7
    Not allowed to do that under the provisions of the Data Protection Act. And I am not allowed to turn it off either because it could affect their operation and we could be sued. I can't even name or hint who they are either.

    Frustrating isn't it? I wrongly thought the laws were here to protect people.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: Norman Bailey Member since: Aug 12, 2015
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  11. fisicx

    fisicx It's Major Clanger! Staff Member

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    If they aren't paying for the data then how can you be sued?
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: fisicx Member since: Sep 12, 2006
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  12. Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    It's called loss of business. There is a technical Latin term for it that means two wrongs do not make a right. A bit like telling your landlord that you are not going to pay the rent unless he replaces the broken windows.

    I look at it in a similar way to renting a car. They are still running around in it after it should have been returned.

    Amazingly, all those organisations that you think are supposed to stop this kind of thing are only interested if your name is something like Microsoft.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: Norman Bailey Member since: Aug 12, 2015
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  13. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    Er, well, actually if the landlord is responsible for the windows the tenant did not break them, then, assuming that broken windows make the rooms uninhabitable, then that would be a perfectly legitimate thing to do.

    Deliberate non-return is theft!
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
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  14. john1989

    john1989 Guest

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    If they haven't offered payment, despite using the software either raise an invoice to them for the use or cut off access.

    Surely your terms cover this in the event of non-payment anyway??
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: john1989 Member since: Jan 1, 1970
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  15. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    The only principle I can think of that could apply here, would be a case of damages and I would have thought that using somebody else's property without their permission would incur some degree of a voluntary assumption of the risk, that you might prevent the further use of your property, i.e. software.

    For example, I might use a software krack, but hidden in that software is a secondary routine that uninstalls it after a couple of years. If my business depends on the SW, I have to buy or license it - but I can't claim damages for not having access to that which was never mine to use!
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2015
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
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  16. Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    Believe it or not you cannot withhold your rent payment because the property needs repairs. It's on the Citizens Advice website.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: Norman Bailey Member since: Aug 12, 2015
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  17. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    You are allowed as a tenant, in the case of the landlord's refusal to honour his obligations, to withhold rent to make repairs.

    If repairs are not possible for the tenant and the property is subsequently uninhabitable (e.g. roof collapses!) no rent is due and the landlord may have to make good any damages the tenant has incurred.

    I am a landlord!
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
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  18. Norman Bailey

    Norman Bailey UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    I have raised invoices. These are ignored. They deny that the systems are in operation and say that I am breaching their confidentiality by checking their use. Checking shows that they are in operation today.

    Yes, I have the ability to turn the systems off but the legal people say that I must not do it. You can repossess property but not software it seems.

    You can probably see why I am frustrated about it. Many thanks for chipping in though.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: Norman Bailey Member since: Aug 12, 2015
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  19. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

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    I would love to read the logic behind that one! If they are using your property without your permission (that is the key here!!!) I cannot see any grounds for a case of damages.
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
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  20. john1989

    john1989 Guest

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    I'm with The Byre.

    They are just taking the p1ss.

    If they deny using the systems, then being cut off can't possibly hinder their business, can it?
     
    Posted: Nov 11, 2015 By: john1989 Member since: Jan 1, 1970
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