Copyright Vs. EULA

By Tom Streissguth

End-user license agreements or EULAs protect the creators of computer software. While copyright law also protects the creators of software from infringement or pirating of their work, there are important differences between a copyright and an EULA, which is a legally binding contract between the software maker and the user. Before agreeing to a EULA and downloading new software, you should be aware of how the agreement works and how it legally protects the manufacturer.

EULA Format

When you buy software, you are purchasing the right to use that software as you wish, within the limits of the EULA. Companies that sell digital games, accounting or design software, word processing programs and the like include a printed version of the EULA with the discs, or present the EULA in a pop-up window on your screen, allowing you to read and accept the EULA by clicking on an “Agree” button. A key code then allows you to open the software proper and download it onto your computer. If you decline the EULA, you are not allowed to download the program.

Copyright Basics

Copyright laws protect an original created work, such as a software program, from illegal infringement by anyone who attempts to copy and resell the work as their own. Copyright law protects writers, artists, composers and programmers; it also extends to the code that makes up a software program. Copyrights can be owned by an individual or a company. It violates copyright law to pirate the work as your own. An EULA is an extension of copyright protection, which grants only a single person – the purchaser – the right to install and use the software. With or without an EULA, software can be easily copied and distributed without the knowledge or permission of the creator; thus software companies are diligent in suing anyone they find reselling their products or information derived from their products.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now

Infringement of EULA Contract

An EULA is a legal contract and can be enforced in court, just as a registered copyright can. The first case reviewing this principle was ProCD v. Zeidenberg, decided in 1996. A software user went online to sell database information obtained from a program that he bought, and for which he agreed to an EULA. The software company sued him, and he was found to have violated the EULA contract and was liable for damages.

Resale of Software

Although federal law allows you to sell a copy of a book that you purchased, ProCD v. Zeidenberg establishes that you may not sell any information you obtain from a piece of software. The “First Sale” doctrine in federal law -- which allows you to sell the book -- is trumped by the EULA license, which keeps the software company as the owner of the work, and the end user as only the user – without legal rights of ownership or the right to resell the software in any form. That is why it is not legal to resell used software, unless you have declined the EULA and have not downloaded the program.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
Who Owns the Copyright on Wedding Pictures?


Related articles

How Can a Company Check for Infringement of Its Copyrights?

Copyright infringement is a big concern for companies that want to protect their photos and text. The law protects original works that are fixed in a tangible medium, such as written works, photos, movies, software, and songs. It's important to remember that a copyright protects original works but it does not protect mere ideas, such as a plot idea for a novel, or facts. Infringement generally occurs when an original work is reproduced without permission or citation. Companies can access a variety of online tools to check for copyright infringement.

Are Commercials Copyrighted?

With the free accessibility of information and creative content over the Internet, it can be hard to know what is legally available to take and enjoy for free. It can be confusing to realize that something that may be free and legal to enjoy in one context may not be in another context. Most people think of commercials as a free bit of advertising that they are subjected to when they watch television or listen to the radio. Just because a commercial is broadcast for free through certain media does not mean that it is legal for anybody to upload the commercial on YouTube or post it for download on a website. Commercials are copyrighted, and only authorized parties may broadcast, copy or distribute them.

Are Company Slogans Copyrighted?

Federal copyright law grants exclusive rights to the use of “original works of authorship,” whether or not they are published. Copyright law protects a broad range of works, including books, poems, songs, paintings and even computer programs. However, copyright law normally does not protect short phrases, such as a company slogan. Trademark law, on the other hand, specifically protects slogans that companies use to identify themselves as the maker of a product.


Related articles

Can Students Draw a Cartoon Character or Is It Copyrighted?

The laws of copyright protect original created works, including graphic images such as cartoon characters. Any person ...

Copyright Laws & Video Games

Video games form the heart of a vital economic industry that relies on the creativity of game designers and innovative ...

Software Copyright Issues

A copyright protects an original work of authorship by giving the copyright holder a monopoly on the right to ...

How Do I Copyright My Music?

Original music is protected by copyright law as soon as it is written or recorded, but enforcing music copyrights can ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED