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Legal issues regarding low-code/no-code programming solutions

Low-code/no-code platform solutions are currently one of the most rapidly growing IT market segments. As use of this model becomes more widespread, it is the cause of a range of challenges when drafting agreements for implementation or maintenance of systems, and this is due to the specific nature of this approach to constructing software.

The term low-code software means systems in which users can create fully functional applications using functions available in those systems. These functions enable a user who is not familiar with programming methods to design and configure by themselves, in whole or in part, new functionalities, primarily due to the appropriate graphic interfaces, without interference with the source code. The distinction between a low-code development platform and a no-code development platform is fluid, and amounts to the extent of the “conventional” work with the source code. With respect to low-code development, the amount of this work is considerably reduced, while the no-code platform is intended to eliminate work with the source code completely. The solutions described above are being developed in response to huge market demand for software development, while there is a global shortage of programming services. At the same time, implementing low-code/no-code systems means that organizations can adapt commercial applications that handle their business processes to their needs without involving specialist programmers, which also means lower costs of development of application software.

Despite widespread use and rapid growth on the IT market, this model for developing and distributing software is not regulated precisely under Polish law or properly dealt with in legal literature and case law. At the same time, low-code/no-code solutions differ in a number of ways from the “conventional” model. As a result, in particular, the specific nature of solutions of this kind must be considered when drafting agreements relating to them.

Of course, the principal basis for using platforms of this kind is a licensing agreement, but in the case of implementation or maintenance agreements, there are greater concerns. It is often difficult under Polish law to clearly define the result to be achieved by implementation by the provider: whether this is specific, verifiable work product (a work in the meaning of Polish civil law), or in fact services to configure functionalities existing in software (or even consultancy concerning software configuration). In this context, determining whether works protected by copyright are created in the course of implementation, and who acquires economic copyright to these elements, is also problematic. The rules on liability for defects in implemented solutions also often cause doubts – above all to what extent the provider is responsible for a functionally implemented application when it is to a large degree a reflection of a specific business process, and at the same time the user can modify it and adapt it at will. This is complicated further by the fact that some elements of implemented solutions continue to be dedicated elements of computer programs that are produced in the conventional way.

Due to the issues described above and other issues, drafting an agreement and specifying the parties’ rights and obligations properly in the case of purchase and implementation of low-code/no-code software is crucial. This is important because the solutions in question are usually used to operate fundamental business processes in business enterprises, such as bookkeeping or processing of documentation. This means that any dispute that might arise with the contractor could severely harm an organization’s operations.