Philosophy of Computer Science

Can Programs Be Copyrighted or Patented?

(Boldface items are particularly useful, important, or interesting.)

Last Update: 21 March 2010

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

Rapaport's implementation chart

  1. Mooers, Calvin N. (1975), "Computer Software and Copyright", Computing Surveys 7(1) (March): 45-72.

  2. Bender, David (1985-1986), "Protection of Computer Programs: The Copyright/Trade Secret Interface", University of Pittsburgh Law Review 47: 907-958.

  3. Chisum, Donald S. (1985-1986), "The Patentability of Algorithms", University of Pittsburgh Law Review 47: 959-1022.

  4. Newell, Allen (1985-1986), "Response: The Models Are Broken, the Models Are Broken", University of Pittsburgh Law Review 47: 1023-1031.

  5. Papers by Pamela Samuelson:

    1. Samuelson, Pamela (1989), "Why the Look and Feel of Software User Interfaces Should Not Be Protected by Copyright Law", Communications of the ACM 32(5) (May): 563-572.

    2. Samuelson, Pamela (1990), "Should Program Algorithms Be Patented?", Communications of the ACM 33(8) (August): 23-27.

    3. Samuelson, Pamela (1991), "Digital Media and the Law", Communications of the ACM 34(10) (October): 23-28.

    4. Samuelson, Pamela; Davis, Randall; Kapor, Mitchell D.; & Reichman, J.H. (1994), "A Manifesto concerning the Legal Protection of Computer Programs", Columbia Law Review 94(8) (December): 2308–2431.

      • §1 is a good overview; §2 (esp. §2.2) is also good, as are §5 and the Conclusion section.
      • From a special issue on the legal protection of computer programs; other articles elaborate on, or reply to, Samuelson et al.

    5. Samuelson, Pamela (2003), "Unsolicited Communications as Trespass?" [PDF], Communications of the ACM 46(10) (October): 15-20.

        Abstract: "Attempting to stretch existing laws to address previously unforeseen technological issues."

    6. Samuelson, Pamela (2007), "Software Patents and the Metaphysics of Section 271(f)", Communications of the ACM 50(6) (June): 15-19.

    7. Samuelson, Pamela (2007), "Does Copyright Law Need to Be Reformed?", Communications of the ACM 50(10) (October): 19-23.

    8. Samuelson, Pamela (2008), "Revisiting Patentable Subject Matter", Communications of the ACM 51(7) (July): 20-22.

      • "Is everything under the sun made by humans patentable subject matter?"

  6. Forester, Tom; & Morrison, Perry (1994), Computer Ethics: Cautionary Tales and Ethical Dilemmas in Computing; Second Edition (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

  7. Koepsell, David R. (2000), The Ontology of Cyberspace: Philosophy, Law, and the Future of Intellectual Property (Chicago: Open Court).

  8. Johnson, Deborah G. (2001), Computer Ethics (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall).

  9. Klemens, Ben (2006), "Private Numbers", Chronicle of Higher Education (3 February): B2; excerpted from his Math You Can't Use: Patents, Copyright, and Software (Brookings Institution Press).

  10. Crichton, Michael (2006), "This Essay Breaks the Law", New York Times (19 March): WK13.

  11. Thatcher, Matt E.; & Pingry, David E. (2007), "Software Patents: The Good, the Bad, and the Messy", Communications of the ACM 50(10) (October): 47-52.

  12. Oldehoeft, Rod; Montague, John; Thatcher, Matt E.; & Pingry, David E. (2007), "Patented Algorithms Are Bad, Copyrighted Software Is Good" (letters to the editor), Communications of the ACM 50(12) (December): 9-10.

  13. "Time to Abolish Software Patents?", Slashdot (2008)

  14. Touretzky, David (2008), "Gallery of CSS Descramblers".

  15. On the role of implementation:

  16. Boyle, James (2009), "What Intellectual Property Law Should Learn from Software", Communications of the ACM 52(9) (September): 71–76.

  17. Editorial (2009, 8 November), "Quick, Patent It!", New York Times.

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