Personal Finance

How developers can protect mobile apps under the law

WhatsApp has had a big impact on communication. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO
WhatsApp has had a big impact on communication. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO 

Mobile apps have revolutionised daily life for those who own smartphones. One such app in WhatsApp which has had a big impact on communication.

There are a lot of copyright issues that come up when developing and commercialising a mobile app.

A copyright is an intellectual property right granted to creators of artistic works.

Other than copyright protection, app developers should ensure that they consider third party copyrights when creating their products.

Hence it is important to ensure that you are not in breach of another person’s copyright so as to minimise the risk of litigation over infringement.

It is advisable to protect your creation, for example computer codes qualify for protection as literary works.

The nature of an app also determines if it qualifies for copyright protection. For example if it contains videos, written materials or music it qualifies for copyright protection.

While the Copyright Act does not specifically provide for protection of digital works, they can still be protected by passing off an app as a literary or artistic work. Unlike Kenya, the United States has a specific law which caters for the digital aspect of copyright.

It is called The Digital Era Copyright Enhancement Act. Hopefully, Kenya will follow suit soon and enact a similar law.
While creating an app ensure that you do not breach another person’s copyrighted works.

Last week as I downloaded the NIV version of the Bible I wondered if creators of the app had sought permission from publishers of the holy book.

As an app developer you need permission from copyrighted content owners as they have rights over their works.

This means that nobody is allowed to sell, distribute or reproduce the works without permission. The right of reproduction also applies to a developer keen on including copyrighted works in an app.

You will need permission from the original owner to create your app using their content.

Interestingly, a lot of copyright infringement takes place through digital means, especially apps.

Some app developers believe that they are being innovative by converting existing works into app formats.

However, the true position is that it may be a breach of the original owner’s rights.

The owner’s rights supercede your right to convert their works into the digital format.