According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian aspects of works of craftsmanship.” Copyright therefore only applies to the artistic, rather than functional, aspects of a product’s design. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently addressed this principle in a decision reinstating a copyright infringement lawsuit involving perhaps the most utilitarian of objects: a USB flash drive.
Direct Technologies LLC, v. Electronic Arts, Inc.
Computer code is a work of authorship subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. This is easy to forget in the open source community where software is freely licensed and re-distributed. But “license” implies the existence of a valid copyright. And software authors who fail to properly establish their copyrights will have a hard time enforcing any purported licenses in court.
Employee Assumes He Has Ownership of Code A recent decision by a federal judge in Alabama illustrates the problems that a software developer can face in enforcing copyright against their employer–or in this case, a former employer.