No Changes are Necessary to Copyright Law for “Software-Enabled Consumer Products”

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On February 16, 2016, SIIA submitted comments to the Copyright Office in response to its study of the law surrounding “Software-Enabled Consumer Products” (a.k.a. “embedded software” or “the Internet of Things”).  Increased device connectivity has prompted questions regarding application of the copyright law to consumer goods.  SIIA believes that no changes to existing law are necessary to address embedded software.  

First, it is important to note that there is no distinction between “embedded” (or whatever other name used for it) software and other kinds of software. To put it simply, there is merely software – some of which is licensed, and some of which is sold.  Importantly for SIIA members, current law enables the proliferation of licensed software models for the betterment of both consumers using the software and the companies that make it.

Most SIIA members license their products, and tailor those licenses by adjusting to customer need—for example by adjusting the price, rights, and available features..  Additionally, licensing models protect product integrity, essential not only to healthy marketplace competition, but also to the protection of health and safety..  It is important that devices function as the companies that manufactured them intend and as consumers expect.  Currently, ensuring product integrity requires users to abide by the terms of software licenses and other terms and service agreements.   That model is working exceptionally well, as investment in “smart goods” is burgeoning.

At a minimum, special rules for “embedded” software risk injecting unnecessary uncertainty into the operation of a highly effective legal model.  SIIA believes that current law is sufficient and no changes are needed to address issues in software copyright.

Diane Diane Pinto is the Public Policy Coordinator at SIIA. Follow the Policy team on Twitter @SIIAPolicy.