Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Copyright in custom code: Who owns commissioned software?

Commissioned or bespoke software can raise difficult issues of ownership if there is no clear agreement in place between the client and the developer. Who will own the copyright? Can the developer reuse code written for a particular client? Is the client entitled to modify or update the code? Can the client resell the software? Might the client be limited to using the code in a particular market sector or in a particular jurisdiction? Who owns any database rights in bespoke software? Does it matter whether the client is given the source code? Does it matter how much the client has paid for the software? Can a client claim joint authorship on the basis of their role in providing detailed specifications and taking part in beta testing? Might the moral rights of the developer limit what the client can do with the software?

I discuss the legal issues involved in this article which has just been published in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice.

Update: Out-Law have a report of a recent case exactly on point.


  1. Anonymous08 June, 2007

    Hi TJ,

    Nice paper, I like it. Going to be most useful. This topic is a notoriously problematic area and you have managed to cover most if not all of the bases.

    Am now working a bit with Prof Clark.


  2. Superb article, I am in a similar dispute in that I worked for a company, got some sofwtare commissioned, then hosted the software on my own server. The company got rid of me once the software was complete and then demanded the software from me! I explained that the developer owned the IP rights and that they never paid a penny towards developing and hosting the site and that it was not mine to hand over. They still are threatening court action unless i hand accross somthing I do not own!