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Copyright Law Explained

Backup Copyright Exceptions

The law provides that it is not a copyright infringement for the owner of a copy of a computer program to make (or authorize someone else to make on their behalf) a back-up copy, RAM copy or some other adaptation of the computer program provided one of these two conditions are met:

  1. the copy is created as an essential step in the course of using the program (e.g., a RAM copy made when a PC is turned on) and it is not used in any other way, or
  2. the copy is for back-up purposes only and all back-up copies are destroyed when the person no longer legally possesses the software.

This exception applies only to owners of a computer program but there is another provision in the law that applies to owners and lessees of machines that contain computer programs. This provision allows the owner or lessee of a machine to make (or authorize someone else to make on their behalf) a copy of a computer program for purposes of maintenance or repair of that machine, if:

  • the copy is used in no other manner and is destroyed immediately after the maintenance or repair is completed; and
  • any computer program or part thereof that is not necessary for that machine to be activated is not accessed or used other than to make such new copy by virtue of the activation of the machine.

It is important to note that this exception for backup copies only applies to computer programs and not to other copyrighted works, such as digital movies, music, or photographs or ebooks.