Feeds

Programmer granted royalties from commissioned software

Despite no copyright agreement

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
ONE MILLION people already running Windows 10
A third of them are doing it in VMs, but early feedback focuses on frippery
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Do Moan! MONSTER 6-day EMAIL OUTAGE hits Domain Monster
Customers freaked out by frightful service
Ploppr: The #VultureTRENDING App of the Now
This organic crowd sourced viro- social fertiliser just got REAL
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.