A Software Copyright Statement Protects Current and Future Works
If you have a site that is dedicated to the sharing and distribution of open source software it is a great idea to have a software copyright statement that explains the limits of use for your software as well as the limits of your responsibility for those uses. I also recommend getting an attorney to look over the statement before posting it just to be sure there are no legal issues that you may be unaware of.
A software copyright statement doesn’t have to be a 10 page booklet on the law or the protections that copyright offers, it should be a simple short paragraph stating the basics and hopefully covering your rear from litigation and/or responsibility should someone use the software you are allowing them to use for something insanely stupid or frighteningly criminal while establishing your ownership of the material and expectations of those you are allowing to use your creation.
This for some is a no brainer because they’ve done it before and know the ropes. There are new software developers born and made each and every day and this type of software copyright statement may serve to save them a little grief of their own some day. If you are being kind enough to freely share the software you created with others, you’d like to think that they would at least return the favor of using it within the letter of the law or the manner in which it was intended. This, however, is rarely the case so protecting yourself, your copyright, and your future interests by posting a software copyright statement on your website is really the best way to go in a situation such as this.
Trust me I’m not trying to talk anyone out of sharing his or her software with the world. I rather like open source software and admit to using it freely (no pun intended). I love saving money almost as much as I love playing around with new technology. Software allows me to do that and find likes and dislikes about all kinds of programs. Issuing a software copyright statement is one way of protecting your investment of time, effort, energy, and sheer brilliance in the making and design of your technological masterpiece. Hopefully that flattery will keep you going a bit longer at any rate.
It is important to know that a software copyright statement is only part of the process required to protect your software but for the most part poses a significant deterrent to those that would abuse your copyright and/or your kindness in allowing the distribution of your software.
Even if you are charging people for the use of your software (we are a nation of capitalists after all) you still need to protect the labor you have put into making not only the software but the distribution method, the website, the payment method and the thousands of other things that are part and parcel of the business model for your software distribution. Your software copyright statement is a very small protection for your software don’t expect it to be the brunt of your protection.
By protecting all your work with a software copyright statement you are not only protecting current works but future works as well.