Skip to main content

15. A free-lance programmer has written a program to keep track of my company's inventory. I have paid him in full but we have never discussed the ownership of the program. Am I the copyright owner of the program? If not, do I have any rights in the program?

In the absence of an agreement on ownership, the basic rule applies i.e. the author of the program is its copyright owner. Thus it is the free-lance programmer, rather than you, who owns the copyright in the program.


However, by virtue of section 15(2) of the Copyright Ordinance, you have an exclusive licence to exploit the program for all purposes that could reasonably have been contemplated by you and the free-lance programmer at the time the program was commissioned. This should include at least the following: installing the program on your computer, using the program to keep track of your company's inventory, and making a backup copy of the program. In addition, you have the right to restrain any exploitation of the program for any purpose, which you can reasonably object to, such as forbidding the free-lance programmer to sell the program to another party or your competitor.