Book Review: Web & Software Development: A Legal Guide
Web & Software Development: A Legal Guide
by Attorney Stephen Fishman
I personally would prefer a world where I could just write software and not
worry about the legal system. However, I don't appear to be living in that
world. In the real world, I find it prudent to use the services of a lawyer from
time to time. In recent months, I've been on the phone about non-disclosure
agreements, trademarks, and employment contracts, among other issues. Inasmuch
as a decent lawyer charges at least as much per hour as I can charge my clients,
I figure it's a good idea to do my homework before making those calls. That's
where this book comes in.
The book has two main target audiences: website developers and software
developers (or the firms who employ them). As you can probably guess,
intellectual property law is one of the major topics here. You'll find solid
covrage of trade secrets, patents, trademarks, and copyrights here. This
includes not just plain-language explanations of how it all works, but the
necessary forms (a supplement to the book includes many forms in RTF format) to
file for protection. And, because things sometimes go wrong, there are also
instructions on how to go about enforcing your rights in these various areas of
You'll also find chapters on some of the other legal papers that intrude on
our software lives: employment agreements (with sections from both the
employer's and employee's poing of view), consulting agreements, and software
licenses. The odds are good that you'll need to put one or more of these
together some time in your development career, or read one that someone else has
written. The coverage here will help you understand what you're reading, and
perhaps more importantly, alert you if anything important is left out.
The book was last revised in April 2002, so its coverage goes right through
the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and beyond. Even better, Nolo maintains an
online update page to keep you abreast of recent changes to the law. Though I
still find it useful to consult a lawyer when there are reasonable chunks of
money involved, this book gives me the confidence that I know the right
questions to ask.
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.