Fair use of software code

I write code for a living, at least until the lottery comes through for me. Often I will find bits of code in magazines or online that do useful things. Am I allowed to incorporate these into my code? Obviously, that’s what it’s there for, but I’m not sure about the legality. Do I have to cite the source? If I make modifications to it first, would I have to cite that my code is based on the magazine article? Are there any cases of a magazine suing for royalties from a software product?

Greg, you have a good question, and it’s nice to see someone with ethical concerns about what he can and can’t do with someone else’s work.

I think the best advice that anyone can give you is to consult an intellectual property lawyer who is familiar with software or programming issues. That way you can be very specific with your questions, and get very specific answers, and follow up with same. Free advice is worth what you pay for it, you know, and you don’t really want to take chances if you’re talking about the way you make your living here.

It’s worth remembering from time to time that in dealing with the important issues in our lives, be they medical, legal, educational, or otherwise, the place to get advice is from the professionals, not from a realtively anonymous group of people posting on an internet message board.

Good luck with your search. Call the local Bar Association in your town if you need a referral.


-Melin, Esq.

Software code snippets, also known usually as ‘libraries’ depend on whether such code is for the public or not. The author states what people can do with it. If not, you have to get permission, of course. Why not?