What Qualifies as Joint Authorship of Software?
Author(s): Richard Stobbe
Disputes can arise as to authorship of software where more than one author is alleged to have made contributions. This article reviews how Canadian courts will treat the concept of “joint authorship” of software by looking at Canadian, American, and UK decisions. This issue is important because the determination of authorship will have an effect on a range of issues, including copyright ownership, infringement, and licence rights. Various common scenarios are reviewed, including the contribution of ideas and suggestions, contributions through software testing, contribution of original content, the role of interviews, the importance of software coding, and the postpublication conduct of the parties. The law appears settled that authorship of software must involve the original expression of ideas by actually writing or authoring computer code, through the application of skill and judgment of the author. For the purposes of joint authorship, the role of intent under Canadian copyright law is yet to be finally settled.