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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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Intellectual property. In the strictest confidence, let me

Resolved Question:

Intellectual property.
In the strictest confidence, let me summarise:
I started, well before 1996, and as an academic, to write source code
that helped in the design of experimental apparatus.
That source code contained a few routines consisting of a few hundred lines
essentially copied from a well-known book on software routines. These routines
are far too efficient, specialised and clever to be able to write
replacement ones.
The book said that such copying is allowed provided that the resulting source
code is run on only one computer.
In 1996 the source code programs were commercialised with the help of a
colleague and with the agreement of my university, and have been sold around
the world since then.
It has therefore been used on many machines, in violation of the book's restriction,
although that did not occur to us at the time.
The copied lines comprise a very small but still important part of the overall source code.
None of the buyers of the commercial programs would have known about
the copied lines.
Now I am retiring and hoping to sell the source code, in which case the buyers
could become aware of those copied lines.
My main question is should I risk disclosing this to the book's publisher,
and what would be the likely cost, given that the turn-over of the past few years is
of the order of £500,000.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Alex Watts :

my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

Alex Watts :

Just to be clear, this code has been used 19 years?

Alex Watts :

Is anyone likely to deconstruct the software and see the code?

Alex Watts :

If they are, surely if its only a few lines within the main body, would they even find it?

Customer:

Yes, over 19 years, approximately 200 customers.

Customer:

Those who buy the source code can see the code without deconstructing.

Customer:

Yes it is possible since the copied lines are an important part and they might be curious about the copied routines, or much less likely they might have a malicious intent.

Customer:

I cannot see the 'faces' on my screen to rate your reply, which is OK.

Alex Watts :

I assume it wasnt the whole code you used, just part of it?

Alex Watts :

Yes don't worry about rating yet

Customer:

The book that I copied from has hundreds of routines (which are self-consistent sets of source code), of which I copied essentially 3.

Alex Watts :

Ok, so its not 3 lines, but 3 routlines.

Alex Watts :

As a % of the coding, how much did you use?

Customer:

Yes, each of about 100 lines.

Alex Watts :

Ok. As a % of the overall project>

Customer:

As a % of the coding in the book, say less that 1%.

Alex Watts :

Ok, in that case I would not be too concerned.

Customer:

As a percentage of the lines in the complete source code, say less than 0.5%.

Alex Watts :

Give you only used 3 routines that amount to less than 1%, I doubt anyone would recognise it

Alex Watts :

In any event your actually are permitted to use it. It would perhaps be different if it was subject to copyright that said you could not use it all together

Alex Watts :

In addition to this given the passage of time, I do not think you should be concerned.

Alex Watts :

If it has been a significant portion, just copied and formed a large amount of your code, done recently and you had been passing this off as your own work, that would be a different matter

Alex Watts :

Here, especially given the amount use and the passage of time, I do not think you should be concerned

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything about this today please?

Customer:

But a 'matrix inversion' is essential, and they might well be curious about which method I used, since they probably use other methods.

Alex Watts :

Yes, but there is the passage of time, 0.5% used and it didnt prevent you using it anyway

Customer:

OK, that's comforting, many thanks.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything else about this today please?

Customer:

I still can't see the rating 'faces', but I am satisfied with your answers and would like to save the conversation.

Alex Watts :

Yes once you rate the format changes and you can save it

Alex Watts :

If you try and rate now, the button should be at the bottom of the screen

Alex Watts :

If you need more help please click reply

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