Why do we need software law?

Technology has given us many advantages but it has also exposed us to dangerous and illegal activities.

In order to limit the inappropriate use of computer software we need laws that regulate and protect users.

Software has become an integral part of our daily lives. It is used in everything from business to consumer products, says Andre Marshall, attorney and course presenter at UCT [email protected]

“Computer software of some kind lies behind almost all the advanced technology that increasingly dominates our lives.”

As a result software use must be governed by law.

“In the same way that the law serves to protect our rights and to ensure that we perform our obligations generally, so too this principle applies to software.”

However not many laws have been written specifically for software, instead laws have been developed to deal with the consequences of the technology that software enables.

Marshall highlights some of the areas where software law helps to protect user rights.

Copyright law

“If you write software you would have your ownership of the software code protected under copyright.”

This is an important part of software law as it provides security for software writers and developers.

“Breach of copyright is always an issue – software is less of a concern now that more and more software is offered on a software as a service basis, but there is still an issue with the illicit copying of source code.”

Copyright and other intellectual property laws have had to be developed to take account of rights in software code, explains Marshall.

Personal Damage

“If you rely upon software and that software fails and causes damage you may wish to recover damages against the owner of that software.”

As with any product or service, the client has the right to receive what was promised by the supplier.

When that promise is not fulfilled software law enables clients to claim back on their expenditure.

Privacy law

“Privacy law has become an issue due in large part to the great quantities of personal information that can be processed and stored as a result of software.”

Accessing or using personal information illegally is considered to be a cybercrime.

According to Marshall criminal law has been amended in many jurisdictions to deal with cybercrime and other crimes made possible by modern software.

What is the future of software law?

“As long as human beings have a financial interest in software, we will require software law to regulate their rights and duties in it.”

“Perhaps when software becomes clever enough to write its own software then we would be able to do away with law in this area.”

Read more about the Software Law Course presented by UCT [email protected]

By Cindy Payle - Portal Publishing

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