Pretoria – Police, for now, can continue to develop and use software systems for tracking and tracing evidence, despite a dispute over their copyright.
IT service provider Forensic Data Analysts and Investigative Software Solutions has failed in its attempt to temporarily ban SAPS from developing software in this regard.
The plaintiff applied to the High Court in Joburg, claiming that the police and the National Information Technology Agency were imitating their intellectual property when developing the software.
The parties have been at loggerheads since the service provider shut down the systems last year.
The claimant claimed that SAPS owed millions of rand and refused to pay.
The heart of the matter is that the SAPS infringed the copyright that the plaintiff held in two computer systems that he had developed and which were previously licensed to the SAPS.
These are the software platforms of the FPS and PCEM systems and their various components.
The systems allow the user to register and manage objects, create and manage physical locations, and record the movement of these objects between authorized SAPS personnel, all on one computing platform.
The FPS system was developed and used by the SAPS to record and manage the movement of firearms, firearms licenses and related components.
The PCEM system was used to record and manage the movement of police evidence, Forensic Science Laboratory case files, fingerprints and other assets.
These systems allowed SAPS to manage these elements on an IT platform rather than a manual platform.
The programs provided both tracking and traceability capabilities, as well as chain of custody capabilities for use by SAPS for criminal prosecution.
When relations between the two parties ended, SAPS asked the agency to develop these programs.
She denied having used the applicants’ formulas to found the programs.
According to SAPS, the agency was working on these programs long before they started using those made by applicants. It was said that the agency just had to develop what it already had.
Following a money dispute, the plaintiff finally deactivated the PCEM and FPS systems in June of last year.
The plaintiff then asked the court to ban SAPS and the agency from further developing and using these systems, pending a final order at a later date.
Judge Raylene Keightley, however, said she was not sure when such a final request would go to court and that the SAPS could not be prevented from developing and using its own system indefinitely.
She said if the plaintiffs could later prove that their intellectual property was being used by SAPS and the agency, the plaintiff could still sue for damages.
SAPS said if it was prohibited from developing and using its own programs, it would have to resort to a manual method to exploit critical evidence tracking and tracing functions.
The judge agreed that this would place the criminal justice system in a state of extreme emergency.
âSAPS has a constitutional duty to uphold law and order and hold offenders to account in the interest of public safety and security. The negative implications of a ban for the proper functioning of our criminal justice system seem obvious to me.
âAlthough SAPS operated manually when applicants closed access to their systems, forcing them back into this position is not something that should be done lightly.
âThere is no doubt that if a ban were granted it would inevitably lead, at best, to considerable delays in criminal cases and, at worst, to the release of offenders, if the SAPS were limited to resorting to a manual system. said the judge.
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