Feeds

Programmer granted royalties from commissioned software

Despite no copyright agreement

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A computer programmer has been granted royalties in systems he developed even though no proper copyright agreement existed when the material was commissioned. The programmer was awarded more than £45,000.

The case was fought between programmer Stephen Landamore and the man who commissioned the software, Laurence Wrenn. The High Court ruled that though there was an implied licence for Wrenn to use Landamore's material, it stopped short of a full assignment of copyright to Wrenn.

Wrenn ran a business in which he produced interfaces for cars and audio equipment, and hired Landamore to produce interfaces which he sold. There was no agreement at the time regarding the ownership of copyright in the works.

In the absence of agreement, the law in the UK says that copyright rests with the author, although when material is commissioned there is an implied licence or even, in some cases, an implied transfer of copyright to the commissioner.

As their business progressed, Landamore and Wrenn fell out over the rights to the software. They formed a company in which they each held a 50 per cent stake, but they still ended up in a court dispute about rights to the software that was created before the company was formed.

Wrenn argued that his hiring of Landamore should have implied an assignment of the copyright in the works from him to Wrenn. Landamore said that only a non-exclusive licence should have been implied, though his lawyers later accepted that it should be an exclusive licence.

Robert Englehart QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the Chancery Division of the High Court, said that an implied exclusive licence did exist, but that Wrenn was not entitled to an assignment of copyright to him.

He used as his basis a previous judgment in a case involving Robin Ray and Classic FM in which the trial judge said that the lightest remedy in such cases should be used, meaning that if the need to imply licence terms could involve either a licence or a transfer of copyright, courts should opt for a licence.

The two parties also clashed over royalty payments. Landamore claimed that he had been promised a royalty payment for every unit sold by Wrenn which used his technology. Wrenn admitted in court that he promised a results-based payment but said that he was "uncomfortable" with the word royalty.

Englehart said that "when giving evidence Mr Wrenn came across as a short tempered person very dismissive of anyone who did not say or do as he wished".

"Where there was a disagreement in evidence between Mr Wrenn and Mr Landamore and the documents did not shed much light on a matter, I should say that I formed the view that in general Mr Landamore was a more reliable witness than Mr Wrenn," said Englehart.

He awarded the royalties that Landamore claimed of £45,324.24, plus interest.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
China hopes home-grown OS will oust Microsoft
Doesn't much like Apple or Google, either
Microsoft refuses to nip 'Windows 9' unzip lip slip
Look at the shiny Windows 8.1, why can't you people talk about 8.1, sobs an exec somewhere
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Linux kernel devs made to finger their dongles before contributing code
Two-factor auth enabled for Kernel.org repositories
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?