Monday, January 25, 2010

How Do I Copyright My Mobile App?

Dear Rich: How do we copyright an app and do we need a marketing firm to help us once it is developed? Are we locked into Apple once it is published or can we sell it elsewhere as well? Will you send me an answer here or do I have to look on your webpage for your response? We assume you're asking how to file a copyright application since as you should know from following the Dear Rich blog, you get a copyright automatically once you finish your app--even an alpha version. 
Form CO. (BTW, we explain the procedure for registering an app in our new mini manual for app developers.) To file an application, you first need to determine which elements of the app are your original authorship. For example, if you only contributed some text and software code, and you licensed the rest, then you would only claim copyright (and seek registration) for what you created. You indicate that information in Form CO -- the all purpose copyright application -- in the section under 'authorship.' Later, in Section 4A of the form you must list the items for which you are not claiming copyright. 
Pick Your Category. As with any copyright application you must establish what "category" of work you are registering. Most software programs are registered as 'literary works' - an anachronism dating back to the fact that source code is written in letters and numerals. However, if your app is primarily pictures, choose 'visual arts' work, and if it is a graphics-heavy product like a game, choose 'performing arts' work. Don't worry if your app seems to straddle two categories -- just pick the one that seems best.
Do You Need a Marketing Firm? The Dear Rich Staff doesn't know whether you should use a marketing firm. That's not our bailiwick. In any case it sounds expensive
Can You Sell it Elsewhere? We don't see anything in the iPhone Developer Agreement that prohibits your porting from one mobile OS to another. 
Will We Send You the Answer? No, we won't send you the answer so if you were hoping for an email response, it's going to get very Godot-ish waiting by your inbox. Sometimes, if we're not  overwhelmed with managing our Netflix queue, scrutinizing credit card statements (Did we Skype to Czechoslovakia?), and monitoring our TransLink card, we do write back to people