Arkin arkin at
Thu Apr 15 05:00:24 UTC 1999

Copyright laws apply to the actual source code (and thus binary) of the
software because it is a literary work, see the test below. If I set on
the task of writing a spreadsheet and end up with Excel, what are the
chances that I was copying Excel one for one?

On the other hand, I might write it all anew, but attempt to mimick some
aspects, like the user interface. This issue is still not clearly
resolved, and is derived from laws protecting design, which are
different than text (the actual code).

Last, there are laws that protect an assembly of works, even if these
works are not protected by copyright. For example, if I publish a
collection of all the works of Shakespear finished on odd years, I can
claim copyright to this particular collection, but not the works

As far as algorithms go, neither is good enough. You cannot copyright
the source, because there might be a different way of writing the
algorithm which does not look alike. You cannot copyright the design,
because there is no recognition of algorithms as design. The only course
of action is patent. That is why so many software products are protected
by patent.

The change from literature to non-literature is subject to a very simple
test. Suppose the two of us set to write a story about a shared
experience. We would end up with completely different texts, unless one
of us copied. But if we attempted to write a shopping list for computer
parts, we would probably end up with a very similar list.

Im the first case, each one is contributing unique experience, knowledge
and skill, and thus creating a work that must be protected. In the
second case, there is nothing unique and there are so many ways of
writing the same shopping list.

> > This is true all over the world with only subtle differences. Copyright
> > laws are very similar between nations and automatically apply across
> > borders by international treaties.
> In what way are legal documents different from programs (programs are,
> or were initially, covered by virtue of being literature)?  At what
> point does a piece of writing change from literature to non-literature
> under the scheme you have?
> --
> Mark Brown  mailto:broonie at   (Trying to avoid grumpiness)

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