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Clone scripts are a tool used by businesses when developing websites or mobile apps. In particular, businesses that do not have the means or know-how to develop their website or app themselves will use clone scripts. However, as their name suggests, clone scripts copy an original work. This can lead to legal consequences around intellectual property rights. Therefore, this article will provide some background and explain whether clone scripts are illegal in New Zealand.

What Are Clone Scripts?

Clone scripts generally refer to the building blocks of readymade apps or websites that mimic an already popular or successful business model. They may use similar concepts to the original website/app but rely on different codes to create the final product. Clone scripts also generally implement the code differently from the original script. 

For example, readymade clone scripts for a taxi app may take inspiration from Uber as an existing business model that has had great success. This new app may then have similar features and workflow to Uber’s app, known as an ‘Uber clone’.

Clone scripts are useful for businesses and emerging startups. They may buy or commission such scripts from developers to cut down on their own time spent coding/developing their app or website. As such, you can buy an app or website clone for your particular industry already premade. These will also contain customisable features to suit your business. Moreover, they are ready for launch and can help if you do not have experience in software development.

For online business owners in particular, relying on an app design/business model that has proven success can be helpful when you are just starting out.

However, while this service can be convenient and efficient for your business, there are potential legal issues to be aware of. 

Intellectual Property Matters When Operating Online

Intellectual property is a legal concept that functions similarly to physical property. The term refers to intangible property that is the result or expression of your ideas, which can bring significant value to your business. Notably, you can own intellectual property and profit from it as well. As such, when you have intellectual property rights, you can stop other people from using or profiting from your intellectual property. Such rights can include:

  • trade marks;
  • patents;
  • trade secrets;
  • designs; or
  • copyright.

Many businesses will register these rights with the relevant authorities (such as the Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ) for New Zealand registrations). Where necessary, businesses may legally pursue those who use their property without permission. This fact is especially true in an online context for both apps and websites. 

Intellectual property on these platforms can vary, but the table below details two relevant kinds.

 

Trade Marks

A distinct sign that represents a business, which could be their logo or distinct imagery in their user interface.

Copyright

An automatic intellectual property right that protects original works, such as written or artistic content. This right protects the source code of a website or app and can include the overall layout of the platform.

If businesses want to let others use their intellectual property, they can develop a licence to do so. As a result, users of that licence need to abide by its terms.

To sidestep the issues of licensing and potential intellectual property infringement, many websites and apps will rely on open-source code. Open-source code is code/software with a specific licence that allows anyone to use and modify it freely. However, there has to be an explicit declaration that states the code is open-source and free to use and modify.

Are Clone Scripts Illegal in New Zealand?

Whether a clone script is illegal will depend on whether it breaches anyone’s intellectual property rights. A website clone may rely on copying elements from another business’ website or design model. If those elements have intellectual property rights attached, then legal liability may arise if used without permission.

For instance, many clone scripts use their own code for the app or website, so the code itself should not breach any copyright rules. However, say that an app using a clone script has a similar visual user interface as the original. In this case, if the original app’s owner has intellectual property rights over the imagery in the user interface. Therefore, copying may result in a breach of their intellectual property rights.

Intellectual property rights can vary by country as well, which can make things difficult if you are using a clone script for an overseas company’s app or website. 

Using a clone script may be convenient and save time for young businesses and startups. However, if you want to use one, you need to be certain that it is distinct enough from the original app or website that you would not breach the owners’ intellectual property rights. Otherwise, you run the risk of costly legal action in the future.

Key Takeaways

Clone scripts are readymade platforms that copy businesses’ successful and pre-existing websites or apps. If you want to use a clone script, you need to be certain that it is distinct enough from the source material, so as to avoid any claims of intellectual property infringement. If you would like more information or help with clone scripts for your business, contact LegalVision’s data, privacy, and IT lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a clone script?

A clone script is a readymade piece of software that clones a popular website or app, which businesses can buy for their own purposes. In particular, clone scripts are useful for people who operate an online business or business owners who are just starting out.

Are clone scripts legal?

Readymade clone scripts and website cloning services raise questions over intellectual property rights because they copy another work. Therefore, you need to be very careful that the clone script you are using is distinct enough from the original work to avoid infringement.

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