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  • 1.1 Copyright Requirements
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Computer Program Copyright Requirements


Computer programs are protected by copyright as written works, if they exceed the required level of originality [1]. In other words, the program must be the product of the author's creative and original work. According to the legislative history of the Copyright Act, creativity and originality are primarily expressed in the choices made by the program's author (programmer) when implementing programming methods to resolve a data processing problem. Thus, the level required to achieve copyright can be considered to be relatively low. However, if there is only one solution to the data processing problem that is dictated by mechanic requirements, the program is not considered to express the author's creative and original input [2].

Copyright offers inexpensive and simple protection. It does not require registration or a copyright mark (©). This means that copyright is created automatically by law when work that exceeds the required level of originality is created. In certain cases, registration is possible and even recommended.

For example, the United States has a voluntary system in place for registering computer program copyrights. A computer program that has been created in the United States must be registered before a copyright infringement lawsuit can be filed [3].  In addition, statutory damages for copyright infringement can be awarded pursuant to legislation only if the program is registered [4]. Therefore it is recommended to register the copyright at the US Copyright Office, e.g., when marketing a computer program in the United States.

Notes and References

[1] KM 1987:8

[2] KM 1987:8

[3] US Copyright Office web pages

[4] US Copyright Office web pages