Warning dental practices commissioning software

Many dentists assume that when they commission a software developer to build a customised software program for them, that they own the copyright to that software.

In reality, however, the law states that copyright remains the property of the software developer unless they agree to a transfer of ownership to the commissioner in writing. This often comes as a shock to many dental practices that pay for software only to discover that they do not own the copyright to it. [see editor's note]

This was highlighted in a recent court case involving a healthcare firm, Infection Control Enterprises Limited (ICE) and developer called Virrage. Virrage was commissioned by ICE to develop a system that collated data, which would help identify and eradicate hospital-bred diseases. Whilst the Software Development Agreement that was signed by both parties clearly set out the specification of the software required and how payment was to be made, it failed to state who actually owned the software.

Despite making fixed payments totalling nearly £100,000 as well as agreeing to various royalty payments, ICE was horrified to discover that when they came to sell the software, they did not own the copyright to it.

Legal firm Sintons LLP, a member of the ASPD, therefore recommends that dentists ensure that they clarify this issue with a developer before paying out a significant amount of money for something that they do not, in reality, own.

For more information on the ASPD call 0800 458 6773 or visit www.aspd.co.uk

Note: This is normal practice - it is the way that the creative industries operate and the means by which they exist. Regardless of whether the commission is for custom software, a new logo, photography or an advertising campaign, it is the creators who own the copyright, or Intellectual Property, not the commissioners. Most will not consider transferring those rights without payment of considerable additional fees. -Ed