Below are a few notes I took at Professor Dewar’s talk the day before yesterday. I also annotated them a bit with relevant hyperlinks.
When I find a copy of Dewar’s slides posted online, I’ll link to those as well.
- Libertarian thought: property rights are central. If you regard ideas as property, Ayn Rand’s position isn’t surprising.
- Jefferson: private letter to Isaac McPherson 1813. “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”
- Jefferson faction won on this issue, Intellectual Property Clause.
- Copyright extension case, now life + 90 years.
- England: history of copyright, fundamental moral right?
- Software: special case of copyright infringement and trade secret violation simultaneously!
- Computer Associates vs. Altai (source vs. object code copyrights, interesting read here).
- Borland copying a macro language (interesting, if old, article by an MIT student), Supreme Court.
- Derived works: fair use provisions. But fair use goes to juries, and it’s very vague.
- Software will never fall into public domain, due to perpetual derived works.
- Patent an invention, but not an idea, but in practice you can patent either. Europe turned down this law.
- “Obvious” patents. Juries can’t really judge how obvious they are.
- You can copyright a non-obvious combination of obvious ideas. Intermittent wind shield wipers.
- Does a program express inventions and ideas? Is software is distinct from physical stuff?
- Big risk for free software–patents can ask for damages. And patent is secret until it’s granted (this may not be true, I can’t really tell for sure: “To protect your privacy, we suggest that you delete such information from any documentation you send the office. Alternatively, you may request that the submissions be kept out of the public file, if appropriate. (See MPEP Sections 724. 02 to 724.06.) Please remember that all patent application files are published and made available to the public 18 months from the filing date, unless a non-publication request is made in the application. Additionally, all patented application files will become available to the public upon the grant of the patent.”).
- Open Source business model can work–selling support and services, while keeping code GPLed.