Software claim dismissed

The High Court has held, in a claim for infringement of copyright in certain software, that the copyright was owned by the defendant who had commissioned software from the claimant software development company, and not by the claimant. The reasons given were as follows. The software was the foundation of the defendant’s business and an informed bystander would judge that no one should have a veto over the way it was exploited. An assignment to the defendant was the only way full rights could be secured in multiple jurisdictions. The defendant should be able to dispose of the copyright freely without the purchaser having to negotiate with the various claimants. As the software was a collaboration there was no sense in individuals retaining rights in what each produced. There could be no implied term that the consultant behind the claimant retained copyright on the basis that he was using the software covered by it for other software developments. Only the consultant knew that he was doing this and an implied term could not be created out of secret knowledge known by one party alone. Despite this case, it is still advisable to get an assignment of copyright when commissioning software. It provides certainty as well as being much cheaper than going to court!

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