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  1. #1
    SitePoint Addict bronze trophy vectorialpx's Avatar
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    Copyright question - copyright.gov

    I have a web application (some CMS system) and I want to sell it under a commercial license and, I want to own a copyright over it.
    I did make a simple research and found www.copyright.gov but looks like they don't support PHP files.

    Did anyone use: www.copyrightwitness.com/register
    Can you recommend some international registration entity?

    Thanks!
    Last edited by vectorialpx; Dec 18, 2012 at 03:22. Reason: copyright.gov does not accept PHP files

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    Your question raises several points.

    First - and most important - you already own the copyright to your application. You don't need to register it in any way. The link you gave was to the US Copyright Office, which states quite clearly that registration is not required. There are some advantages in registering with the US Copyright Office if you want to bring a case in the US courts for copyright infringement. But that's not a pre-requisite. You own the copyright from the moment the work is created.

    A more important issue for you is enforcement. Even though you own the copyright, that won't stop people from trying to steal your work - assuming it's likely to be of value to them. You mentioned PHP. If your application is written in PHP, then it's less likely that anyone will steal your source code, as it's not easy for unauthorised people to access the code (assuming your server is secure).

    Leaving aside the code, you might also be worried that someone will see your app on your website, and copy the idea. Unfortunately, there's no way of preventing that through copyright law. Copyright applies to the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.

    I hope this answers your question.

    Mike

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    SitePoint Addict bronze trophy vectorialpx's Avatar
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    If your application is written in PHP, then it's less likely that anyone will steal your source code, as it's not easy for unauthorised people to access the code (assuming your server is secure).
    I'm selling it so, what I want to achieve is that if I spot my application (some particular design elements, because I cannot read sources) somewhere on the web, I will be able to prove that it's mine and make that entity pay for it. Once it's sold, I cannot control those sources, it's only a legal issue. If it's not copyrighted it can look like I'm the thief

    Copyright applies to the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.
    I know and, I think this it's trademark (still not convinced about differences copyright vs trademark). I don't want to trademark the business because it's a bit generic and, I don't care. I own a DNS for it and that will remain mine, no matter what.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vectorialpx View Post
    I know and, I think this it's trademark (still not convinced about differences copyright vs trademark). I don't want to trademark the business because it's a bit generic and, I don't care. I own a DNS for it and that will remain mine, no matter what.
    Trademarks cover names, logos and other marks. The only protection afforded to ideas is patents which [theoretically] only applies to those which are unique, novel and not in the path of logical discovery. Short of having an army of lawyers, you retain an idea by executing it best.
    - Ted S

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    Quote Originally Posted by vectorialpx View Post
    I'm selling it so, what I want to achieve is that if I spot my application (some particular design elements, because I cannot read sources) somewhere on the web, I will be able to prove that it's mine and make that entity pay for it. Once it's sold, I cannot control those sources, it's only a legal issue. If it's not copyrighted it can look like I'm the thief
    Let me get this right. You are selling copies of the application, for your customers to use? You are concerned that someone might get hold of a copy, and then re-sell it? Is that what you are saying?

    And where does PHP come into the picture? If the app is written in PHP, then it's presumably a web-based app. So, are you selling the source code, or what?

    I'm sorry to labour this, but you need to explain your situation more carefully in order for us to advise you.

    Also, on your point about you looking like the thief: are you saying that someone might steal the work, then accuse you of stealing it from them? I think they'd have a hard time proving that.

    Mike

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    SitePoint Addict bronze trophy vectorialpx's Avatar
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    Let me get this right. You are selling copies of the application, for your customers to use? You are concerned that someone might get hold of a copy, and then re-sell it? Is that what you are saying?

    And where does PHP come into the picture? If the app is written in PHP, then it's presumably a web-based app. So, are you selling the source code, or what?
    Yes and, yes. I must sell the source code... there's no other option.

    Also, on your point about you looking like the thief: are you saying that someone might steal the work, then accuse you of stealing it from them? I think they'd have a hard time proving that.
    I was exaggerating a bit. The problem is that I cannot prove that it's mine, unless it's copyrighted. PHP might be edited in a text editor. It's not like a C# app, which it's compiled and, you cannot access sources.

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    The problem is that I cannot prove that it's mine, unless it's copyrighted
    But it is copyrighted. That's what I said in my first reply. You automatically own the copyright.

    But I take your point about protecting the source code. Ultimately, if you distribute source code, you leave yourself open to someone ripping it off. You can take measures to show that it is your copyright, but that won't stop someone stealing it - or, more likely, stealing bits of it and using it in their own applications. That's always going to be a danger with source code.

    That said, the danger is rarely as bad as people fear. Remember, for someone to actually profit from your work in this way, they not only need the source code, they also need the time, energy and skills to make use of it in their own product, and they would still need to put the same effort into marketing, support, and all the other things that a successful software vendor needs to do. Is your application really so valuable that people would be willing to do that, and also risk the legal consequences? (I'm not denigrating your product. I'm simply questioning whether it would really be worth the time and effort to rip it off.)

    So, my advice would be to display prominent copyright notices in your source code (and also your promotional material), but not to get over-anxious about it. If you genuinely believe that you are open to theft of the source code, then, as a last resort, switch to using a compiled language like C#.

    Mike

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    SitePoint Addict bronze trophy vectorialpx's Avatar
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    It's not that someone will start a business from my code, it would be a stupid thing.
    It's about using it, without buying.

    So, my advice would be to display prominent copyright notices in your source cod
    I will also do this.

    If you genuinely believe that you are open to theft of the source code, then, as a last resort, switch to using a compiled language like C#.
    Just my opinion: I hate Microsoft web development - talking about .NET and MSSQL. I had some experiences and I was not happy at all. C# is not an option... I have a web-based cPanel that must stay on a web-server.

    Thanks for you replies and time!

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    One way to help prove that the code is yours, is to print a copy, seal it in an envelope, sign your name across the seal, then post it to yourself - or, better still, your lawyer, if you have one. Leave the envelope unopened. If, at a later date, there is a dispute about the origin of the code, you have a sealed envelope, with the date in the postmark, to prove when you first used that code. Anybody who has copied it will be unable to show that they used it prior to that date.
    Don't be arrogant. Be kind to a koala that thinks it's a bear.

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    It's about using it, without buying.
    I take your point. But that's one of the perils of selling software. You can never completely safeguard yourself against piracy, and the more you do so, the more you'll inconvenience your honest customers.

    I hate Microsoft web development - talking about .NET and MSSQL
    I was just using C# as an example. Aren't there any other web-based compilable languages around? (I assume you'd rule out VB.NET for the same reason.)

    Whatever you decide, good luck with the product.

    Mike



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    Quote Originally Posted by TechnoBear View Post
    One way to help prove that the code is yours, is to print a copy, seal it in an envelope, sign your name across the seal, then post it to yourself - or, better still, your lawyer, if you have one. Leave the envelope unopened. If, at a later date, there is a dispute about the origin of the code, you have a sealed envelope, with the date in the postmark, to prove when you first used that code. Anybody who has copied it will be unable to show that they used it prior to that date.
    http://womeninbusiness.about.com/od/...w-selfmail.htm

    http://www.copyrightauthority.com/poor-mans-copyright/

    More of a tale than actual value. When you save the file the copyright starts, and the document holds that data. Registering will insure it's both documented and affords you far more damages if you do ever sue someone and win... but that's the big question: protection means nothing if you won't pursue it.
    - Ted S

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    Quote Originally Posted by vectorialpx View Post
    Just my opinion: I hate Microsoft web development - talking about .NET and MSSQL. I had some experiences and I was not happy at all. C# is not an option... I have a web-based cPanel that must stay on a web-server.
    If you develop a popular, open source app you can insure it will be pirated, hacked and shared. That's simply reality and the bigger it gets, the more people will do to strip out whatever protection you put in it.

    There are of course options to make it harder like Zend Encoder but for each step forward you limit the utility of your system. Can't see the source? That means I can't have my developers extend it so now you're no longer a choice for my business. Compiled? Now it's going to use an entirely new set of server requirements more hosts won't have. And even after all that the biggest software companies in the world are cracked.

    Protection has to be weighed against impact.
    - Ted S

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    SitePoint Addict bronze trophy vectorialpx's Avatar
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    I did read about the "Poor Man’s Copyright" but I'm not so sure about it.

    As a simple example, if someone steals my app and I observe this, I will send him an e-mail.
    Should this be:
    - Hei, I have a letter that was delivered 2 years ago and I will sue you
    OR
    - This application is copyrighted and you have to buy it [attached the copyright] or I'll take down your website.

    I think we know what version will scare him more and, even if I will or not sue him, he'll know it's a serious business and think that it's better to loose $25 now than to have his website offline.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted S View Post
    Protection has to be weighed against impact.
    That's true and I don't want to add protections like code-encoding because
    what I have it's a start-up and it's like killing my own business.

    Also, I know it will be stolen and then I'll know it's famous indeed

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    Quote Originally Posted by vectorialpx View Post
    I did read about the "Poor Man’s Copyright" but I'm not so sure about it.

    As a simple example, if someone steals my app and I observe this, I will send him an e-mail.
    Should this be:
    - Hei, I have a letter that was delivered 2 years ago and I will sue you
    OR
    - This application is copyrighted and you have to buy it [attached the copyright] or I'll take down your website.

    I think we know what version will scare him more and, even if I will or not sue him, he'll know it's a serious business and think that it's better to loose $25 now than to have his website offline.
    If you want your email to actually have an effect you'll need more than a home written one liner. Consult an attorney, get your rights lined up, and you'll be in a much better spot for down the road.
    - Ted S

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    Vectorialpx,

    Neither of the emails you suggested would be sensible, for several reasons.

    The main reason is that the person might not have deliberately set out to steal your software. A lot of people are ignorant about intellectual property, and don't know they are doing wrong by infringing it. That doesn't excuse their action, and it doesn't mean you should ignore it, but you should give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead of going straight in with a threat, you should politely explain the situation, and give them the chance to rectify it. Only follow up with threats if they don't respond.

    Secondly, you should never threaten anything that you are not able to carry out. You mentioned "taking down their website". I assume you don't really intend to do that. But you should also consider all the cost and effort of taking legal action before threatening to sue someone.

    The third reason is that any letter or email you send them should be much more carefully written than the examples you showed. If you ever do get to court, the letter might be produced in evidence, so you need to be careful what you say. If nothing else, it must make you look professional. As Ted says, it will pay to consult a lawyer - but be aware that the lawyer's job is based on treating the other person as an adversary. If the guy really did infringe your copyright inadvertently, then you don't want to alienate them straight away.

    When I started selling my own software, one of the my customers phoned me to tell me how great he thought my product was. He had bought a copy for personal use, but was so impressed with it that he took it to his office, and made 25 copies and put one on each of his colleague's computers. When I politely explained to him that he was not supposed to do that, he was amazed. He had never heard of the concept of copyright in regard to software. At least, that's what he claimed, and I didn't argue with him. The next day his company sent me a cheque for 25 copies of the product.

    Mike

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    SitePoint Addict bronze trophy vectorialpx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mikl
    any letter or email you send them should be much more carefully written
    Quote Originally Posted by Ted
    If you want your email to actually have an effect you'll need more than a home written one liner.
    Of course... that was just a simple example. I know that an email it's an official document so, I will take care of it.

    My idea is that if I just send a mail with a paper, I cannot prove something within an e-mail.
    A copyright service will allow me to "sign" my app as copyrighted.

    I don't know how www.copyrightwitness.com works (or other service like that) so, you're saying it's not a reason of why pirates to be scared?

    I know that if you own a copyrighted content and you see it on some website, the hosting may turn the website down due to some copyright reasons. I don't know how this works (where could I claim this) but I'm sure it's possible because a friend of mine got such a warning - he had some portfolio websites (previews into the portfolio section) that where not owned by him so, he got a warning and the hosting automatically removed those images.

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    I'm not convinced that Copyright Witness provides anything of value. Essentially, all it does is to give you a certificate to say that they have seen your work, and, as of a certain date, they know the work exists. While this could be useful evidence in court, it doesn't mean you will necessarily win a case, and it does nothing to prevent the infringement in the first place.

    Regarding your friend who received a warning about infringement: in the USA, they have something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which provides a way for copyright holders to get hosting companies to remove infringing content. Outside the USA, responsible hosting companies will also respond to such requests. It could be that is what happened in your friend's case. More information here.

    Personally, I've found the DMCA quite effective in dealing with copyright infringements of articles I've written, but I'm not sure how well it would work in the case of software.

    Mike


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