Software and Copyright
Current copyright and patent laws are inappropriate for computer software; their imposition slows down software development and reduces competition.
From the first computer as we know them, the ENIAC, computer software has become more and more important. From thousands of bytes on miles of paper to millions of bytes on a thin piece of tin foil sandwitched between two pieces of plastic, software has played an important part in the world. Computers have most likely played an important role in all our lives, from making math easier with calculators, to having money on the go with ATM machines. However, with all the help that has been given to us, we haven't done anything for software and the people who write it. Software by nature is completely defenseless, as it is more or less simply intellectual property, and not a physical thing, thus very
easily copied. Copied software does not make money for its creators, and thus they charge more for whats not copied, and the whole industry inflates.
There are two categories of intellectual property. The first one is composed of writing, music, and films,which are covered by copyright. Inventions and innovations are covered by patent. These two categories have covered for years many kinds of work with little or no conflict. Unfortunately, it is not that easy when dealing with such a complex matter as computer software. When something is typed on a computer, it is considered writting, as it is all written words and numbers. However, when executed by the computer, it functions like an invention, performing a specific task as instructed by the user.
Thus, software falls into both categories (Del Guercio 22-24). It is generally covered today by copyright laws, for most mass market software at least. More advanced software or programming techniques, however, can be patented, as they are neither obvious nor old. This results in many problems which I will go into later.
Copyrights last the lifetime of the author, plus 50 years, and can be renewed. Patents last only 17 years, but cannot be renewed. With technology advancing so quickly, it is not necessary to maintain the protection of the software for the length of the copyright, but also, it is sometimes necessary to renew them (Del Guercio 22-24), say, for a 10th sequel in a video game series or version 47.1 of Bob's Graphic Program. With copyrighted material, one is able to write software similiar to someone else's, so
long as the programming code is their own, and not borrowed from the others (Del Guercio 22-24). This keeps the industry competitive, and thus results in better software (because everyone is greedy, and they don't want to fall behind). With patents no one is allowed to create software that performs a similar functions. Take AutoCAD and TrueSpace 2, two 3D modeling programs. TrueSpace 2 would be a violation of patent laws, as it performs a very close task to AutoCADs, which came first. Luckily for us,...