Copyright an App From a Template? | App Development Contract

People who have their apps developed from templates may not think they need to copyright their app or that they have the ability to copyright their app. While the process may be more complicated because you have a significant portion of others’ code in your app, copyright laws protect the expression of ideas, not ideas themselves, and the degree of change from the template in its original state will factor into whether or not you can copyright your app.

The short answer is: yes, if your app is not a direct copy of another app (in other words, your app is not spam), you will want to copyright it. Copyright laws will protect your app’s code and ensure that if someone does try to produce the exact same app, you will have legal recourse against them.

The long answer is more complicated. Apps that come from templates obviously have shared, necessarily un-original code. This does not, however, necessarily mean that the app is not your intellectual property. Many template providers have licensing fees built right into their templates or will provide the template free of charge, without expecting any acknowledgement or returns from its use. Before you assume that the template’s original creator does not expect acknowledgement or some sort of copyright agreement, it’s always be to contact the creator or company to make sure that the template is free for reuse.

Aside from the issue of whether or not you can or should copyright an app if it is made from a template, is the issue of whether or not you should copyright your app at all. If you followed the recent Flappy Bird phenomenon, you saw how the person who posted his ‘bird game app’ before it was copyrighted was taken advantage of by his “peers.” Within days of his app going live, there were hundreds of different copies, all which utilized his work for their gain.

If you create an app and publish it to an app store, you will want to copyright it. Make sure you have the freedom to do so based on the template you or your developer selected.