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Source Code Theft

Source code theft occurs when someone unlawfully accesses and steals the source code of a computer program. Source code is the fundamental component written by developers in a programming language, forming the backbone of any software application. Theft of this code is a significant security breach as it allows hackers or unauthorized individuals to manipulate the software, potentially gaining control over the computer system and the data it contains.

Preventive Measures

To protect source code from theft, several strategies can be employed:

1. Restricted Access: Limit sharing access to computers or networks where the software is hosted, especially during development phases.

2. Copyright Registration: Register the copyright of the computer program and source code. This provides a legal basis for protection and remedies in case of theft.

3. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs): Mandate NDAs with contractors and third parties involved in the software development and handling.

4. License Agreements with Clients: Ensure clear and enforceable license agreements are in place with clients using the software.

5. Employee Training: Educate employees about cybersecurity threats like phishing, and ensure they are aware of privacy and security protocols.

Legal Remedies under Indian Law

In India, source code theft is addressed under both the Information Technology Act and the Copyright Act:

– Information Technology Act:

  – Section 43: Provides for compensation and penalties for damage to computer systems.

  – Section 65: Addresses tampering with computer source documents, with penalties including imprisonment and fines.

  – Section 66: Deals with computer-related offenses with provisions for imprisonment and fines.

  – Section 66B: Focuses on punishment for dishonestly receiving stolen computer resources.

– Adjudication Process: The Information Technology Act enables the victim to approach an Adjudicating Officer (IT Secretary of each state) for claims up to Rs. 5 Crore. Claims exceeding this amount must be taken to a Competent Court. The Adjudicating Officer is required to pass a final order within six months from the complaint filing date.

– Copyright Act:

  – Section 63: Penalizes infringement of copyright, including source code, with imprisonment and fines.

In summary, source code theft is a serious violation that poses significant risks to organizations and individuals. Protecting source code through preventive measures and understanding the legal recourse available, especially under Indian law, are critical steps in safeguarding this valuable digital asset.

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