Am I a Copyright Holder?
I was informed yesterday that I may one day see royalties from LegSim. There are two odd aspects about this discover.
First, I never really expected royalties. I have kind of operated under the assumption that this has been a work for hire. As a work for hire, the employee gets handsomely paid and the employer gets all of the rights created by that employee. I have certainly been handsomely paid over the years. (UW lawyers reading this post: I consider the statement by Prof. Wilkerson that I own my work to be solid evidence that it is NOT a work for hire and that any further work on my part to serve as evidence of estoppel). I justify my wage through a combination of mediocre programming skill and an excellent grasp of how students think about simulations. These two skills, combined with Prof. Wilkerson’s initial idea and continued guidance, have generated an incedible piece of software that has real potential.
The second, stranger issue is the idea that I hold a copyright in LegSim and a beneficial interest. My legal/political persuasion says that the world is better served if I release those rights unto the world. This would allow the rest of the globe to improve upon the software and make it better. But then here’s the rub. I’m not convinced that this software is the kind that would be improved with global distribution. My perfect vision of the world has software with widespread use in the public domain, while paid software developers continue to work on niche software. The hope is that developers who are paid will devote some of their free time to work on unpaid works, but that’s decades away.
In the mean time, I have to figure out whether my personal morals are going to be too upset if I end up receiving royalties. LegSim is niche software… right?