Copyright Law in the Digital Age

The fundamental principles of copyright law are the same for all media, including electronic media. Nevertheless, the application of these fundamentals can differ with respect to electronic media. For example, the issue of whether a software program is original as long as it does not duplicate another programs’ source code or object code is a question of application rather than fundamental legal principles. Certain laws have been enacted to clarify how established fundamentals should be applied to new media forms.

The Early Years

Originally, it was an open question of law whether computer programs should be protected by copyright law, patent law, or trade secret law. For this reason, software developers preferred to keep their creations as trade secrets Eventually, federal courts decided that copyright law is applicable to the protection of computer programs

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Copyright And The First Amendment

by Mike Masnick

There is a growing number of scholars questioning how to align the First Amendment’s rule that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech….” with intellectual property law that often does, in fact, abridge freedoms of speech. I’m in the middle of reading an entire book on the subject — which I’ll be reviewing here shortly. And, just recently, we saw a court (for the first time) note that parts of copyright law were unconstitutional due to the First Amendment. Law professor Peter Friedman points us to the latest of many recent treatises on the subject, by Christina Bohannan, entitled Copyright Harm and the First Amendment, which questions why copyright law does not require any showing of “harm” to get around the First Amendment issue.

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