Is Computer Software Protected by Copyright?

Irene Olsen

When it comes to computer software, there is often confusion around whether it is protected by copyright. The short answer is yes, computer software is protected by copyright. In fact, it is one of the most important forms of intellectual property protection for software developers.

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of legal protection that gives the creator of a work exclusive rights to control how that work is used and distributed. This includes the right to make copies, distribute copies, and create derivative works based on the original work.

How Does Copyright Apply to Computer Software?

Computer software is considered a type of literary work under copyright law. This means that the source code, object code, and any other components that make up the software are protected by copyright.

Source Code vs Object Code

Source code refers to the human-readable instructions that programmers use to create computer software. Object code refers to the machine-readable instructions that computers use to execute software.

Both source code and object code are protected by copyright law. However, because object code is not human-readable, it can be more difficult to enforce copyrights on this aspect of a software program.

Why Is Copyright Protection Important for Software?

Copyright protection is crucial for software developers because it gives them control over how their creations are used and distributed. Without copyright protection, anyone could copy and distribute a developer’s software without permission or compensation.

Additionally, copyright protection can help prevent unauthorized modifications or adaptations of a developer’s software. This ensures that the developer has control over how their creation evolves over time.

What About Open Source Software?

Open source software refers to programs whose source code is available for anyone to view and modify. While open source licenses allow users to modify and distribute open source software freely, they still require attribution and compliance with certain conditions.

Even though open source software is freely available, it is still protected by copyright law. The copyright holder still has the right to control how their work is used and distributed, even if they have chosen to make the source code available for free.


In conclusion, computer software is protected by copyright law. This protection gives software developers control over how their creations are used and distributed, and helps prevent unauthorized copying or modification of their work. Whether you are creating proprietary software or contributing to open source projects, it is important to understand the role that copyright plays in protecting your intellectual property.