User Generated Law
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User Generated Law

Re-Constructing Intellectual Property Law in a Knowledge Society

Edited by Thomas Riis

Engaging and innovative, User Generated Law offers a new perspective on the study of intellectual property law. Shifting research away from the study of statutory law, contributions from leading scholars explore why and how self-regulation of intellectual property rights in a knowledge society emerges and develops. Analysing examples of self-regulation in the intellectual property law based industries, this book evaluates to what extent user generated law is an accurate model for explaining and understanding this process.
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Chapter 5: Open source licences

Henrik Udsen


This chapter analyses the extent to which open source licences accord with and thereby support the model of user generated law which was outlined in Chapter 1. Initially, we will address the legal protection afforded to computer programs under statutory copyright law. Hereafter, we will scrutinize the concept of open source licences. Finally, we will examine the relationship between open source licences and the notions of “emergence”, “diffusion” and “adoption” in the user generated law model. In order to understand the nature of open source licences it is necessary to understand the legal starting point for protection of computer programs. In the 1950s and early 1960s computer programs were integrated parts of the computers used. As computer programs became separated from the hardware (and third party suppliers started developing programs during the late 1960s and 1970s) questions arose initially as to whether computer programs should be legally protected. These soon gave way to questions about how such programs would be protected. It was the general perception that programs needed some kind of legal protection in order to ensure the necessary incentive for companies to invest in the development of computer programs. A number of different models for legal protection were discussed, including sui generis protection of computer programs.

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