Software and the law
Software and the law

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Distribution and communication of copies

The right to distribute also belongs exclusively to the owner of the intellectual property rights, and distribution and communication have a broad interpretation covering anything that enables members of the public to access the intellectual property at a time and place of their own choosing.

Thus distribution and communication includes the performance of plays, the reading of poetry, and the on-demand transmission of film and audio across communication networks. But it also includes the display of material where the public can access it, particularly on the internet.

‘Communication to the public’ is a new right under the Geneva Convention and is contained in the EU harmonisation directive, though it may not yet be incorporated into law. This complicated right includes concepts such as ‘performance’ and ‘broadcasting’ and is inconsistent or incomplete with regard to electronic publishing.

The exercise of the right of distribution and communication may involve, but does not require, sale or hire. It also includes the right to prohibit unauthorised distribution and communication. These rights normally cannot be ‘exhausted’ except by transfer of the ownership of the right to some other party. The concept of exhaustion – whereby some particular action by the owner then terminates his or her right – has existed in certain jurisdictions.

In linking from one website to another it is very easy to embed material from some other site within your site, and pass this off as part of your own site; however, to do this would be a breach of copyright.

The usual advice is to make any such links to the home page of the site being linked to. This may make the link much less useful, since you then have to find the part of the site you need, but it does avoid breaching distribution and communication rights.

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