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Eetu Kupiainen and Jussi Litja writing the code for the computer game Cold Blood
Photo: Anna Keune

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The author of a computer program is always the natural person who actually wrote the source code (the programmer). §40b of the Copyright Act contains special provisions relating to the transfer of copyrights to computer programs created in the course of duties in employment relations. [1]

According to §40b of the Copyright Act: "If a computer program and a work directly associated therewith have been created in the course of duties in employment relations, the copyright in the computer program and the work shall accrue to the employer." [2]

This provision relates to computer programs created during employment. The purpose of the provision is to facilitate cooperation and trading between software companies and to protect the interests of the program's users. [3] The characteristics of employment are detailed in the Employment Contracts Act. According to the Act, employment refers to an employee agreeing (in an employment contract) to personally perform work for an employer under the employer's direction and supervision in return for pay or some other remuneration. The section applies also to computer programs created during public service relationships. Another condition is that the computer program has been created in the course of fulfilling duties related to the employment (or public service relationship) [4]. It is clear that if, during vacant time, an employee creates duty unrelated computer programs that are not related to duties, any related rights are not transferred to the employer on the basis of this provision. Ultimately, employees' duties are usually determined in employment contracts. In practice it can be difficult to assess this aspect, for example, if the duties have been agreed upon verbally. Therefore it might be a good idea to explicitly agree to what extent copyrights of computer programs created during employment are transferred to the employer.

Notes and References

[1] Copyright Act § 40b

[2] Copyright Act § 40b

[3] Employment Act

[4] Employment Act