I have a proprietary project, with parts of it written in javascript. We would like a software license to include in the header file for this code which ensures the work remains:

  • proprietary
  • cannot be reverse engineered (as it will be obfuscated / minimized)
  • cannot be reused elsewhere
  • cannot be linked to

does the DMCA do all of this? Does anyone use the DMCA in this way?

I looked at this other question, Best existing license for closed-source code, about other possible language, but want to know specifically about the benefits and failings of the DMCA as a license.

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    The DMCA isn't a license, its a clarification and expansion of existing copyright law in the US. If you don't want to license it in other ways, don't. – user40980 Jan 24 '14 at 16:58
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    To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, "I don't think the DMCA is what you think it is". – GrandmasterB Jan 24 '14 at 17:27
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it doesn't demonstrate a minimal understanding of the problem being solved. – user53019 Jan 24 '14 at 18:32

Instead of the four letters, "DMCA", it might be better to use just three: "FBI". Specifically the FBI's anti-piracy warning seal and authorized language that explicitly informs the end-user of copyright law, and the authority of the FBI in such matters of law if under the appropriate jurisdictions.

One must keep one thing in mind, though: the FBI does not provide software licenses, and the DMCA isn't a license either, nor can either the FBI warning nor the DMCA be used as one.

However, you might then want/need to be clear about how this is handled in other countries, where - despite some extreme examples and often public opinion - US law does not apply or is simply not honored, or even conflicts with local law.

You might also wish to have an explicit document that cites relevant law and "reminds" anyone who reads it (and cares) about applicable law and the penalties for violating it.

However, attempting to craft a "license" should be done be a properly credentialed and experienced lawyer, for the same reason surgery is generally best left to surgeons - one small slip and it's all for naught. As a simple example, when the DMCA - or its interpretation and relevant case law changes - does your license become null and void, or at least unenforceable? Sever-ability, etc - all issues that require good counsel from someone who really knows their stuff.

Simply reminding people that it may be against the law - and you are granting no license otherwise - to reverse-engineer or distribute your code doesn't really require a lawyer, though one should be careful about the chilling effects of coming off as hostile to potential customers. A proper software license, custom written for your specifications, most certainly does.


The DMCA is a law, not a license. It applies to everyone who works with software (within the law's jurisdiction) not just the people you are distributing your software to.

Your best bet is to articulate your terms in your own license. You can use other licenses as a guide for doing this, if you wish. If the specific character of the license, and the manner in which it is used, is important to you, consider paying a lawyer that specializes in licensing law a few hundred dollars to help you draft it.

Be aware that there is no such thing as "prevention of reverse-engineering," especially with respect to Javascript. If you really want to keep that code private, run it on the server, not the client.

  • Yes, but... could you not just say, "This code is under the purview of the DMCA?", thereby making the law into a license? – jedierikb Jan 24 '14 at 17:19
  • @jedierikb but you can't enforce it elsewhere. It has no meaning to try to claim that... but then you're getting into legal questions that really need to be answered by lawyers. – user40980 Jan 24 '14 at 17:23
  • @jedierikb that'd be meaningless because in the US it would already be under US law, which includes the DMCA, and outside the US it isn't. – GrandmasterB Jan 24 '14 at 17:26
  • @jedierikb - What you can say is something like "This code is copywritten by _____ and may not be _______" While that is the default assumption, it does make the fact you care about protecting it explicit. – Bobson Jan 24 '14 at 17:38
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    You cannot simply declare that something falls under the purview of a certain law, any more than you can declare that swimming is jaywalking. The DCMA declares the circumstances under which its remedies may be applied (all relating to encryption or copy protection of intellectual works). – Curt Jan 24 '14 at 18:29

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