The newsLINK Group - Copyright Law and Licensed Software
Editorial Library Category: Automobile Topics: Copyright Law, Licensed Software Title: Copyright Law and Licensed Software Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: As a dealer, how could copyright law possibly impact you? After all, you sell cars, not words. But software is covered by copyright laws. And unless you live in a time warp of some kind, you probably use software throughout your dealership offices. Editorial: Copyright Law and Licensed Software 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ thenewslinkgroup.com │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 As a dealer, how could copyright law possibly impact you? After all, you sell cars, not words. But software is covered by copyright laws. And unless you live in a time warp of some kind, you probably use software throughout your dealership offices. What’s the most common way for dealerships to open themselves up to liability for copyright infringement? Suppose you found a particular software package to install on your home computer. It’s good, you decide. Just the thing the office could use. So (being the proactive sort) you take it to work and install the software on every computer in sight. Guess what: You just became a software pirate. Why is that a bad thing? It is dangerous. If you downloaded the software from a disreputable source on the internet, you might have also downloaded security problems such as malware and viruses. It is illegal. You might end up being forced to pay a fine. More seriously, you could be sent to prison. You would have benefited from professional help. An IT supplier who is good can help you to buy just the right amount of software in the most efficient and legal way possible. Buying software is confusing because you usually have to sign licensing agreements with all manner of terms and conditions that are (face it) too long, too confusing, and that are also written in a style that could cure insomnia. Do you read it carefully? Does anyone? Of course not; people just want to get the software up and running. Unfortunately, though, these agreements do mean something. You need to understand the basics of what they say or you can cause yourself painful legal problems. It is illegal to make or sell illegal copies, but it is also illegal to use illegal copies even if you don’t know they are illegal. You can also be held accountable for what your employees do, or what a consultant may do. The licensing agreement is more formally called an End User License Agreement, or EULA. It contains the terms of the deal you have made with the software developer. Developers sell two kinds of software: Traditional desktop software that you buy for a one- time fee. One trend, however, is renting it through a monthly subscription. Cloud software that you access for a regular fee in order to use it. The fee is often monthly. People refer to it as SaaS (Software as a Service), hosted applications, or hosted software. When you buy software and sign agreements, those agreements determine the legal rights you have to use the software from that point forward. Violate the agreement and it becomes copyright infringement. Since copyrights are protected by federal law, that’s why infringement is such a big deal. What are some ways you might unintentionally infringe the copyright? Software comes in home editions and business editions. It is against the rules to install a version designed for home at work. If the agreement says the license can only be installed on a single computer, you don’t have the right to copy it to other computers. If you have outdated software and the licenses have expired, that means you can’t use them legally anymore. Once software has been installed on a particular computer, you probably don’t have the right to move it to a different computer without buying a new license. Financial penalties for violating copyright laws accidentally can be as much as $30,000. That is calculated per device, per infringement, per software, and per violation, so liability multiplies fast if you have many copies in many different places.
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