traverselegal - May 25, 2015 - Copyright Law
General Motors is currently before the U.S. Copyright Office regarding its software code in all their motor vehicles. They are stating that the software used is protected under copyright law. Therefore, they own the software, as well as the car, and drivers who purchase their vehicles only have a licensing agreement to use it. A copyright license is not ownership.
The current hearings being held will determine whether anyone other than GM authorized personnel will have the right to access and/or work on the car or its software. The crucial question that must be answered by the U.S. Copyright Office is “does GM have proprietary rights to the software used in their vehicles”. GM currently has their customers execute a licensing agreement for some of the extra software features, but not for all the electronic control units. General Motors feels that the licensing principle applies to the entire car even if it is not specifically outlined in their agreements. Those that oppose GM’s claim believe that if the U.S. Copyright Office agrees with General Motors and upholds their right for copyright protection of the software code, such restriction could be extremely harmful to the aftermarket repair and research industries.
Additional hearings are currently taking place and a ruling should be made sometime this summer. Traverse Legal will monitor and post the recent findings as soon as they are finalized with the U.S. Copyright Office.