The Five C’s of Software Licensing

Software licensing can be a daunting combination where the perplexing realm of technology meets legal jargon. Defined as legal documents or contracts that govern the use and distribution of software, these licenses provide necessary protection for your business. Without proper licensing, you may be prone to someone stealing your intellectual property, or you may unwittingly commit copyright infringement. As a small business owner, it is essential to understand the importance of software licensing in order to protect your business’s brand or product and to avoid illegally using someone else’s. When the terms and contracts are beyond an IT issue, Attorney Elizabeth Lewis will help you work through it. Here are 5 essential areas of software licensing.

  1. Copyright
  2. Contracts
  3. Codes
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Compliance

1. Copyright

Whether you are a mom and pop store or an expanding enterprise, your intellectual property is as valuable as your merchandise. A lot of work goes into creating marketing concepts, a logo, a business plan, and overall operations/procedures. If you neglect to protect these assets through software copyright, you will be defenseless against others profiting from what you created. Registering your software copyright with the U.S. copyright office reinforces your copyrights, especially if you ever have to take someone to court. A small business attorney will help you determine what aspects of your business – a website, a product, or an idea – need to be protected by a software license.

2. Contracts

No one hires a disgruntled employee, but people can become dissatisfied over time and want to damage your business. There are contracts to safeguard your company from any employees who may try to exploit the knowledge they have accessed while working for you. Non-compete agreements are clauses under which employees cannot create businesses like yours while you employ them or start a similar one for a determined amount of time after they leave your employment; however they are only allowed in certain situations in Colorado so it is important to know if one will really protect you or if you need to use other means as well. Other employment agreements state simply that you own any work that your employees do for you. Confidentiality agreements protect your trade secrets and prohibit others from giving damaging insight into the operations of your business. An attorney will
help you take all of the necessary precautions to protect your intellectual property and represent you in the event of these types of theft.

3. Codes

Open source code licenses allow anyone to use, modify, and share your licensed software. You may not be able to govern every single user’s actions, but you are still protected as the original creator and are entitled to credit for your contributions. These licenses can make it easy for others to share, contribute, and build upon your project without having to obtain special permission. Issues with noncompliance and proper licensing can arise when using open source code licenses. An attorney will help you with these issues as well as any open-source versus proprietary software dilemmas.

4. Confidentiality

Your business’s success depends on your competitive advantage, something you can maintain by protecting your intellectual property. Keeping your trade secrets a secret takes measures, including confidentiality agreements and nondisclosure agreements. Software licenses keep some of your most valuable information – ideas, practices, applications, websites – safely guarded.

5. Compliance

We have all scrolled rapidly to the end of the terms of an agreement and clicked “I agree” without necessarily comprehending or even reading all of the words. As a software user, it is crucial to obtain your software through legal means, know precisely who is allowed to use it and how many copies are covered by the license, and read and understand the license agreement. Many small business owners do not purchase enough copies of software, thinking they can use one copy for everyone. This will inevitably lead to consequences from having your software disabled to facing huge fines or litigation. A small business attorney will ensure you have taken the necessary precautions and represent you in the event of a software licensing violation.

If you need help with software licensing, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email:

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