Is a smart contract protected by copyright or can anyone copy code from a smart contract and use it for their own smart contract?

Select jurisdiction

  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Kenya
  • Brazil
  • United States
  • Poland


Smart contracts are protected by copyright law if the code is original which means that it must be an expression of its author’s free and creative choices. This will be the case most often unless the code is based only on technical considerations, rules, or other constraints, which have left no room for the author’s creative freedom. If protected, the consent of the author is required for using the code in another smart contract. It should be noted that even if the author has been granted a free license for using the code, the license terms must be observed.

Sebastian Pech



It is unclear whether there is a relationship between smart contracts and copyright,
that is especially because the Italian legislator has been silent on the matter. From the Italian point of view,
we can only wait for a more precise regulation or direction to follow.

Camilla Ambrosino

Corporate M&A


Registration of software programs with the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) allows control
over reproduction, adaptation and distribution of the source code. It, however, does not give the
author exclusive rights to such works. The author cannot prevent independent development of
software that performs the same function.

Norman Gabula

Commercial Law


It would depend on the license given to a protocol. For example, if its open source,
anyone could use it to make their own smart contract.

United States

A smart contract is an executable code arranged as an “if this, then that” function. As soon as
the code is put into a tangible medium, that code is afforded copyright protection. That being
said, most of the code used for Web3 native projects is open source and shared with the
general public. Much of the source code used for smart contracts will lack the proprietary
protections necessary to “prevent” others from using it. If, however, you would to exert
protections over your iteration of the code, or have added some proprietary changes to the
underlying code for your smart contract, it is possible to place some restrictions on how the
general public may use your source code via public license or by leverage copyleft

Derek HAwkins

Intellectual property (Trademark & Copyright), Licensing, Commercial Transactions


All smart contracts that are original within the meaning of the copyright law are protected by copyright. If a person wants to copy from a smart contract, he or she should obtain a license from the author of the original smart contract, unless the code is derived from open source protocol. While constructing a smart contract on the basis of a different smart contract, the author should keep in mind to whom the copyright belongs.

Justyna Maria Bartoszek

FinTech, Crypto & Web3

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