Copyrights and Secrets

Mahesh T Pai paivakil at
Sun Mar 3 13:51:02 UTC 2002

Ken Brown wrote:

  > 1)  does a copyright of a software
cover its underlying source code?

  > 2) if the source code is published, is
it protected from being copied
  > if it is copyrighted?
of course

  > 3)  if one views codes without
permission and uses it, has that person
  > violated a copyright?
You do not violate copyright by reading an
unpublished book.  But, if
You break open into the author's table to
access the unpublished book,
the matter is diffierent.  Hence, the
question really should be, how did
you get the code?  Code of closed source
software is not bundled with
the binaries, and "decompiling" is
prohibited by the the EULA.  Hence,
if you get acces to source code, you have
obviously broken some law .....

  > 4) does copyright law correctly deal
with software or should it be
  > updated to properly deal with these
issues and other open source
  > concerns?
Laws relating to copyright were intended
to deal only with print media.
   In my opinion, they do not meet the
requirements of computer software.
   As qn. 3 implies, computer software
involves more than one set of
information, (as compared to print and
audio media, which deal with only
one set of info).  The program binaries
and the source code are
independently copyrightable.   Again,
there are several softwares which
digitally deliver what used to be
contained in pring media.  (eg:-
encyclopediae or and medical software -
especialy in homeopathy).  In
such packages, one will find (1) the
content of package, which can be
rendered in print and/or audia media also,
(2) the user interface which
is a "program" in the software sense, and
(3) the source code used to
compile/create the user interface.  Each
of this is capable of being
copyrighted independently of each other.

In the traditional sense however,
"copyright" is a right in just one
concept - the information contained in
some published work.  I hope you
get the Idea.

Therefore, it is essential that legal
systems evolve some mechanism
which would protect intellectual property
of program (not merely
software) developers, which recognise the
fact that computer programs
are not mere books.  Where programs
contain info, (Like encyclopediae),
such info should should be covered by
traditional copyright law.  But,
Software itself. (ie., the "executables"
should be governed by a
different set of rules, if they (the rules
that is) are to solve
problems like one raised above.

This would require some further
elaboration.  Average useful life time
of any software (the binaries, that is) is
a few years, while most
"information" conveyed by the "digital
packages" like encyclopediae are
of more enduring character.  Hence, the
"information" part should be
covered by traditional law, especially in
the term of duration of
protection allowed which is usually life
term of the author + N numbers
of years, where "N" can be 40 to 60 years,
depending on the country.
   (It used to be forty years in most
countries, but in the US, under the
"Mickey Mouse" Act the period is now sixty
years).  This is toooooooooo
long a time for the digital world.  That
is why a new copyright regime
which treats binaries differently from
information in the traditional
sense is necessary.

I believe that some stalwarts in the
Open/Free software movement have
aried their views on the subject more

With Regards,
Mahesh T Pai

Do You Yahoo!?
Get your free address at

license-discuss archive is at

More information about the License-discuss mailing list