An often overlooked aspect of copyright relates to computer software. Section V of the UW Colleges' "Computing and Networking Usage Guidelines" strictly forbids the "violation of copyrights and software license agreements" on the part of students as well as faculty and staff. The UW Colleges purchases software for use in its classrooms, computer and science labs, and faculty/staff offices. Software titles are licensed for use for college purposes only, and the specific UW Colleges campus typically purchases enough licenses for a fixed number of workstations. Students, faculty, and staff should assume that under no circumstances that software can be copied for personal use or for use on machines other than the computer of original installation. Personal use copies of popular software and operating system licenses for both PC and Macintosh computers are available for UWC students, faculty, and staff at WiscSoftware. Additional information about appropriate software use is available at the UWC IT appropriate use policy web page.
Can I make a copy of a copyrighted work and use the original as an archival copy? How about back-up copies of software?
For most software, unless otherwise stated in the software license, the only copy you can legally make is one archival backup of the original installation disks or CD, to be used only if the original ones fail.
Can I copy software without obtaining permission?
Apart from making the one archival backup copy, you may not make additional copies of the software beyond what the license allows. Copying software is considered copyright infringement, and is subject to civil and criminal penalties. It is illegal to use copied software, sell it, or give it away.
- U.S. Copyright Office—Copyright and Digital Files
Answers questions about backing up computer software, selling backup copies, and downloading from peer to peer networks. Also discusses the copyright of websites and domain names.
- Cornell University—Copyright Infringement of Software
FAQs about software and copyright issues meant for students, faculty, and staff. Covers many common questions related to copying and sharing software.
- Nolo—Why You Should Copyright Your Software and Online Applications
Describes how and why software authors should secure copyright registration to protect their work.