Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Estelle Derclaye
Chapter 17: The Protection of Databases
16 Copyright protection of computer programs Jon Bing Copyright and information technology In the 1960s, computer programs were considered accessories to the very expensive computers. There were several reasons for this, one that a program simply could not be run on any other computer than the one for which it was written, high-level languages were still in the making1 and compatibility was low. But IBM had considerable success with its 360-series announced in 1964 allowing customers to purchase a smaller system and migrate upward if their needs grew. In 1969 IBM decided – perhaps somewhat stimulated by the antitrust suit to which it was party2 – to unbundle hard- and software. As computer programs were separately priced, it became possible for third parties to offer competing programs. And in such a market arose the obvious issue of the protection of computer programs. At this time, it was still unclear to what extent the US Copyright law applied to computer programs. There were several court decisions, the copyright and patent systems competing to become the legal framework for the intellectual property protection of computer programs. There were also strong advocates for a third possibility, a sui generis regime for computer programs, as it was pointed out that neither copyright nor patent was designed to accommodate the special features of computer programs, the characteristic which is occasionally called ‘industrial copyright’, programs themselves often called ‘soft machines’. The author will be permitted an anecdote3 by way of illustration. At one of the meetings of experts4...
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