Essay on The Failure of Software Copyright Law

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The Failure of Software Copyright Law A Definition

With the Copyright Act of 1980, the following was added to the existing copyright laws: A "computer program" is a set of statements or instructions to be used directly or indirectly in a computer in order to bring about a certain result.1

A "program" or "software" instructs the "hardware," the computer, in its task of adding, storing, exchanging data, etc.2 At the base level, a program is simply a mathematical algorithm, a stream of on/off states, which the
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Once this had occurred, the company would have a virtual monopoly -- held in place by legal protection.

The effect is as though someone were to patent the "QWERTY" format of a keyboard. Unless competing typewriter manufacturers wanted to come up with their own keyboard, they would be shut out. However, this is exactly what they did -- each developed its own software.7 The harm to society is in learning time. "Users" of software are more productive on "user-friendly" programs -- which generally tend to be those they are more accustomed to. Think of the cost of retraining a secretary to type on a non-standard keyboard every time you buy a typewriter from a different company.8 The social needs for the benefits of industry standardization are pressing: "If you want to get something done, you don't want to have 50 different [program] languages."9 Without legal protections, incompatible software would normally be an automatic market failure.10

A degree of compatibility allows innovations on existing works to appear, unless the original work is copyrighted. Progress in the software industry is primarily based on the

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