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Home » Legal Parlance » How do I Protect My Source Code – Ilorah Emmanuel

How do I Protect My Source Code – Ilorah Emmanuel

source code

How do I Protect My Source Code

Introduction reports one of the most notable code leaks in 2022. That of Toyota. This led to a leak of more than 300,000 customers’ personal info amidst other security breaches and threats.[1]

A code theft was reported earlier on February 2004 on the theft of the Windows 2000 and Windows NT software on which the useful and widely known Windows XP is based. Luckily, only a part of it was stolen and distributed through the dark websites and other sources.

This brings us to this question “Doesn’t the government acknowledge the sweat spent upon the creation of source codes, websites, apps, and so on?”, “What exactly are the Judiciary and Legislature doing while they watch our intellectual property made useless and our sweats cursed by the acts of intellectual offenders, thieves and unethical hackers?” In this article, we aim to bring to your notice the laws protecting your source codes as well as the loopholes in these laws, and how to circumvent them.

Keywords: intellectual property, law, question, Judiciary, protecting, source codes.

Definition of Source Code and its Relation to Intellectual Property Laws

A source code is simply defined as a systematic group of instructions understandable by human[2] and computer alike. This instruction is given by the programmer to a computer in order to perform as he instructs.[3] These codes are used to build websites, applications, softwares, memories of bots and AI.

Source codes are built up sequentially by programming languages, some types of which include Python, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Java, Ruby, C, C++, Kotlin, PHP, R, Matlab, Typescript, SQL, NoSQL, Perl, Rust, and are classified in different ways according to their user, uses and complexity.[4]

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The Types of Programming Languages

Instances of where source codes are used by third parties or parties to a contract prior to full payment by the other without consent

So far, there is hardly any public complaint of parties to a contract using the source codes of a developer without fully executing his part of the contract or paying the required amount. This is due to the diligence of websites like Upwork[5] and Fiverr[6] in updating their terms of service, agreements and contracts regularly and inputing the terms necessary for the protection of intellectual property and consumer and seller interests.

Why do you Need to Protect your Source Code

Ordinarily, open-sources codes stay secure due to the unrestricted number of eyes that review them regularly. However where one begins to add personalised features[7], the requirement of keeping it secure warrants more privacy and jealous guarding.

In order to keep the source codes safe, one may need to keep passwords, encryption keys, authentication tokens, IP addresses and other related materials safe by concealment, frequent and immediate changing, and extreme privacy by locking them off in secure folders, in hidden places, or only in one’s brain.

Intellectual Property Laws Protecting your Source Codes

Now you know a lot about source codes and why they have to be protected, let’s take a quick look at the laws that protect your source codes and their applications.

Your personalised source code is the product of your own intelligence, your own sweat, hardwork, passion and wish to better your life. Therefore no person, status or race irrespective should ever steal even a letter from it. Thus, your source codes can either be protected by tort laws, criminal laws, patent laws[8] or copyright laws.

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Acts like theft of source codes, unethical hacking of websites, obtaining access by fraud can be punished by different criminal laws in one’s country. These include the Criminal Code in the South, Penal Code in Northern Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution and other Acts of the National Assembly.

Also, a person who takes your phone or system to alter your source code without your consent could be sued and held liable to compensate you uner trespass to chattel, negligence and other Tort Laws in one’s country.

A person who can prove that his source codes contain an invention pursuant to section 1 of the Patent and Designs Act[9] will enjoy protection under it and any offenders will be liable to the owner for damages and other reliefs as pleaded in court. Note that the owner of a source code is its developer (writer).

In copyright, source codes are just like a literary book[10]. They are protected just as aggressively as every other literary work is protected. For this purpose, one must have recourse to the newly enacted Copyright Act 2022 as there are certain changes made to them which may affect the decision of the courts during trials[11]

Loopholes in the laws protecting source codes in Nigeria

It appears that there is no law carved out specifically for the protection of source codes. Just patches of laws here and there. We wish to use this medium to plead with the law makers to make adjustments accordingly.

Accordingly, there are no references to source codes nor softwares in neither the Copyright Act 2022, nor the Patent and Designs Act.

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It also appears that there are no express provisions for protection against false representations from software users when asked to review apps and software services they use. This is very much likely to cause loss of financial gain, enjoyment and business benefits. We hopethat countries enact related laws as soon as possible.

How to circumvent loopholes of laws protecting source codes

One should make sure to keep all of his details, including passwords of phones, encryption keys of source codes and one-time pins, phrase combinations and passwords as safe as possible.

For obvious confusions, one must meet an experienced Intellectual Property Law Practitioner for legal advice and dispute resolution.

[1] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[2] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[3] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[4]  accessed 3 Sept 2023

[5] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[6]  accessed 3 Sept 2023

[7] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[8] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[9] Cap P2, LFN 2004

[10] accessed 3 Sept 2023

[11] THE NEW COPYRIGHT ACT by Demian Jennifer Adaeze, Researcher, Nigerian Intellectual Property Club accessed 3 Sept 2023

About Author

Ilorah Emmanuel is a student of the faculty of law of the prestigious University of Nigeria Nsukka, a virtual assistant and a person passionate for growth, versatility and grit. 

Feel free to reach him on:
Email: [email protected]. WhatsApp:

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