An insight on the legal implications of BYOD

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is a scheme wherein employees are allowed to bring their own devices like mobiles, laptops, tabs and utilize them in the workplace for work purposes. Some employers themselves fund the software to their employees, meanwhile some prefer to simply grant permission for their employees to bring their technology at their own expense.

This is beneficial to the employee since it would be evident that he would be comfortable using his own devices, adding to the fact that he can work from home on his own gadget at his own convenience. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, this scheme seems to have created numerous problems as far as employers i.e. companies are concerned. It is a herculean task for companies to keep a check on which device is being used and by whom and for how much time. If companies remain oblivious to this and let the employees have a free reign over the usage of their software, it can serve as a deterrent in the form of unending and expensive infringement litigations due to security breach and/or privacy and data protection interests. Hence, many companies are averse to BYOD since the risks outdo the benefits involved.

If you think about the intellectual property rights that can protect anything being used via the BYOD scheme, the utmost concern would be your copyrighted works. Anything that the user is enabled to see on screen, be it algorithms, source codes, object codes, software designs, databases, manuals, complete written specifications of the software, and so on, can be copyrighted. Now, the question stands as to the ownership of these copyrighted works.

Coming to the Indian scenario, under the Copyright Act, 1956, the ownership of the copyrighted work generally vests with the employer, unless there exists a contrary agreement between the employer-employee.  The question arises here is in case the employee uses his own Device to better the copyrighted works belonging to the employer, who would be the rightful owner of the intellectual property rights of the works? Further, an employee can engage in infringement activities simply by unlawfully copying and storing the copyrighted works on his personal device. Altering or deleting data can also invite severe repercussions for the employee.

Meanwhile if the employees are using unlicensed software for their work purposes, the employers can be held liable for infringement. The employer can be held vicariously liable unless guidelines are not written down to protect their interests.

Hence, companies need to implement guidelines that control the usage of BYOD devices and maintain regular checks of these devices to ensure there are no illegal activities taking place. Along with guidelines, password protection, encryptions, antivirus and wireless access policies can be implemented along with various other privacy policies in order to prevent legal misuse of softwares. The onus, in the end, remains on employees to be diligent while using their own gadgets in workplaces.

About the Author: Ms. Madhuri Iyer, Trade Mark Attorney at Khurana & Khurana and can be reached at: Madhuri@khuranaandkhurana.com

Follow us on Twitter: @KnKIPLaw.

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