User Agreements outline the ways in which people may use your software. They are important as they set out specific guidelines in relation to what use of the software is permitted and what kind of use is not permitted, what your responsibilities are in relation to the provision of the software and how your intellectual property rights in the software can be protected.

Due to the fact that user agreements are so important in protecting the interests of software developers, it is a good idea to get an IT solicitor to create a user agreement for you. An IT solicitor can also assess the nature of your software, like the risks involved in allowing people to use it, and use this information to draft your agreement.

What provisions can be included into a user agreement?

As stated earlier, the provisions that you should incorporate into your user agreement will depend on the type of software that you are developing. However, some general provisions include:

  • What the software is and what it has been designed to do;
  • A description of the licence that you are granting users in order to use the software;
  • A description of the fees that you may charge those who use your software;
  • Permitted and prohibited uses of the software;
  • Your intellectual property rights in the software and how they are protected against infringement;
  • If the user can republish content from your software and what limitations apply if they are provided a licence for republication;
  • Limiting your liability by clearly setting out what you are and are not responsible for in the software;
  • What will happen if a user breaches this agreement; And
  • How and when this agreement can be terminated.

What does licensing mean?

It is important to keep in mind that when you allow people to use your software, you are not necessarily passing on ownership rights of the software to the users. Rather, you are giving them a licence to use the software. Under a licence, people can only use the software in a way that you have stipulated in the agreement, so that use of the software in any other way would allow you to revoke the licence from them so that they cannot use it. Licensing software generally provides software developers with greater control over the use of the software. However, the option of selling or licensing software greatly depends on the particular software and how you intend to provide it to users.

For this reason, you should make sure that you have discussed your thoughts and concerns with an IT solicitor who can then draft a user agreement for you that reflects exactly what you need.

Conclusion

User agreements are useful legal documents that allow you to set out users’ rights and responsibilities when using your software, thereby minimising the risk of your software being used inappropriately.

Lachlan McKnight

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