Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Computer Law May Make Your Custom Software Vulnerable

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Computer Law May Make Your Custom Software Vulnerable

Article excerpt

As writing custom software has become easier, it is becoming much more common for even small companies to have software designed for their individual needs through the use of an individual or very small software development firm. Too often the arrangements between the businesses and the developer of the software are handled informally or with very little documentation as to rights, which leads to serious problems down the road.

Although it is preferable for the party commissioning the software system to own it, the only arrangement with the developer is all too often only a license agreement under which the developer retains ownership. For example, in one situation a company thought it had the right to modify the system that it had hired a software development firm to create. After using the program for several months, they decided to train one of their employees to make substantial changes. The development company would not reveal the source code, and so the needed changes could not be made.

This problem could have been avoided if an agreement with the software development firm had not included language that granted the developer exclusive rights to source code.

The use of limiting devices within the software is another area of prime concern in any dealings with a computer software developer. It is very easy for anyone involved in software design to put a limiting device of some kind, or even a "virus" into a custom software design.

The biggest potential for this problem is with an entry-level type employee who is working for a system design firm. This is an area that presents many different possibilities for creating problems that could cause substantial damages to the company using the system, months or years down the road.

Although it may be impossible to prevent the problems from occurring, language can be used in your agreement to clearly identify the responsibility of the parties if such a device is in the software. …

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