5.1.6 The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
Candidates should be able to:
- describe what is meant by software copyright;
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act
Copyright is a legal concept, giving the creator of an original work
exclusive rights to control its distribution for a certain time period.
Copying computer software is therefore a breach of copyright and a criminal offence. The Act covers stealing
software, using illegally copied software and manuals, and running purchased
software on more machines than the license allows.
The legal penalties for breaking the copyright law include unlimited fines
and up to two years in prison.
All the software that you use should be fully licensed. When you purchase
software you usually are licensed to use it on just one computer. It is illegal
to make copies of the software to use on other computers, even if they are your
Software licences can be:
- Single user - licensed for installation on
- Multi-user - the license allows you to
install the software on a named number of computers
- Site-licence - the licence lets you install
the software onto an unlimited number of computers, as long as they are on one
distinct site such as a school
Software companies try to prevent illegal copying of
their disks using the following methods:
- Copy protection - the disk (or
CD-Rom) may be formatted in a special way so it cannot easily be copied.
- Restricting the number of installations
- each installation is recorded on an installation disk and only a certain
number are allowed.
- A registration key - a unique series
of letters and numbers that is asked for when running the program. The
software will not run if the registration key is not typed in correctly and
online multiplayer games will not to run if another user is online who has
used the same key.
- A phone or Internet activation code -
this requires the user to call a number or go online to register the
product. They then receive a unique computer-specific serial number.
- Encryption - data can be scrambled up
and cannot be read without the correct software.
- A Dongle - a piece of hardware that
must be plugged into the computer to run the software. Each one contains a
unique electronic serial number and as they are expensive to produce they
are mostly used to protect high-end software packages.
- Details of the user are built into the software
when the software is run it displays the original users name. This does not
prevent the copying but it makes is obvious that the copy is illegal.
- A Keyfile
- a small file with a unique code that is placed in the same directory as
the program. If the code is not valid then the software will not run.