Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Copyright holders of computer programs can trade their rights by either transferring or licensing them. "Transfer' refers to the permanent "sale" of the rights, which is common, e.g., with customer-specific projects. Rights can also be transferred permanently either fully or partially, where some of the rights remain with the author [1]. According to the Copyright Act, moral rights can be waived only to a certain degree, and so, in practice, copyright holders cannot waive all their rights even in case of full transfer [2].  Moral rights can be waived only with regard to a clearly identified use, e.g. in relation to a product advertisement. Economic rights, on the other hand, can be transferred fully [3]. In the software products business, full and permanent transfers would naturally not be in the interest of the right-holder in most cases. The most profitable and common option is to transfer clearly defined exploitation rights, or a license, to the program.


Full and Partial Transfer of Copyrights

For information on limited, open source and creative commons license strategies please view article 'License Strategies' .

License Agreements

License agreements have traditionally formed the foundation of the software products business. The purpose of a license agreement is to define the rights and obligations of the parties and the terms and conditions of use for the software product and related services [4]. Licensing is based on the Copyright Act that stipulates that the transfer of a copy shall not constitute a transfer of the copyright, unless specifically agreed to the contrary [5]. In other words, transfer is, as a rule, always partial and copyrights and other immaterial rights remain with the right holder.

With a license agreement, the copyright holder transfers to the license holder the limited right to use the copyrighted object according to the terms and conditions of the license agreement.  The agreement can limit the transferred right to a certain area, period or purpose. Thus, the right-holder can customize the license to meet the needs of individual license holders and price the right to use accordingly. License agreements seldom cover only immaterial rights. Often they are mixed agreements that contain other terms and conditions not related to copyrights or other immaterial rights. [6]


Service Agreement

Computer programs can also be licensed as online services. In this case it is not a license agreement but a service agreement. As with license agreements, service agreements define the right to use a software product, but the program is sold as a service. 

Regardless of whether the agreement is called a license agreement or a service agreement, the actual nature of the agreement is ultimately the decisive factor. The purpose of both service agreements and license agreements is to give one of the parties the limited right to use a copyrighted computer program in accordance with applicable legislation and the agreement.

Notes and References

[1] Haarmann (2005): Tekijänoikeus ja lähioikeudet, Talentum, Helsinki.

[2]Copyright Act

[3] Copyright Act

[4] Välimäki (2009): Oikeudet tietokoneohjelmistoihin, Talentum, Helsinki.

[5] Copyright Act

[6] Välimäki (2009): Oikeudet tietokoneohjelmistoihin, Talentum, Helsinki.