What is copyright on software?
Copyright on software basically means a protection granted in law to software that can be read and executed without any human intervention.
For instance, when you build a website (in any language), it is usually read and delivered in a meaningful format to the end user without any human intervention.
Or, when you write a word processing or speech to text software, it is deployed on the cloud or on Compact Discs and used by multiple users keying in commands that the software responds to on its own.
Can you get a copyright on machine readable software?
Yes, as per the law, you can get a copyright on software. While Section 3(k) of the Indian Patent Act states that you cannot get a Patent on software per se, you can get a copyright as per the Indian Copyright Act.
What is copyleft?
Copyleft refers to the movement that exists worldwide that is against the copyrighting of software. It is an extension and corporatization (ironic but somewhat true) of the open source movement.
Copyleft and CreativeCommons, (which is a fruit of copyleft) ask writers of code to give their code for free to the community of users at large. In exchange, the user gets recognition and the pleasure of having his/her code used by large numbers of people across the globe.
To make the deal even sweeter, Creative Commons issues its users Creative Commons licenses, which they can use as a mark of their contribution and to display their not for profit motive for all to see.
Should you apply for copyright registration?
As per the Indian law, you do not need to get your copyright registered. The moment you produce something that is original, you automatically get a copyright over it just by virtue of having produced it.
At the same time, the option for registration exists, wherein you can get your copyright registered by sending some information, along with the original of your copyrightable work to the copyright registry.
Is copyright registration necessary to sell the software?
Absolutely not; As a matter of fact, the copyright registry takes around 12 -14 months to grant you registration in respect of the software, by which time the software might even have become obsolete.
Given the level of churn in the software industry, it would become impossible to do business if you needed to get a copyright registered for software.
So, what can I do to protect my software against pirates?
If you use version control, then you will have an idea of when the software version which has been copied was created.
Today, as per Section 65 of the Evidence Act, even electronic communication is valid evidence so you may be able to show that the software was created on a certain date if you have electronic records.
Those electronic records will be sufficient to get you protection because they will prove that you had created this
software code on or before that date.
In most cases, it may not make sense to get a copyright on software. If you carefully save the versions of your code and have documentation to show when it was created (auto-generated documentation, not user generation documentation because that can be manipulated), you can enforce the copyright even if you do not formally register the copyright.
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Also, read an article on International Trademark by VakilSearch