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Computer Programs and Copyright: An Australian Perspective

Padgett, LB 2003 , 'Computer Programs and Copyright: An Australian Perspective' , Digital Technology Law Journal Volume 4, vol. 4, no. 1 .

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The Act of Anne 1709 introduced the first form of copyright protection, being “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in Authors or Purchasers of Such Copies, during the Time therein Mentioned.”

The Act of Anne provided for the protection of printed material to prevent authors and their families from ruin, and for the "encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books". Thus, commercial incentive and protection in literary works was born. [1] It is the cornerstone of copyright that the expression of ideas increases and enriches the stock of human knowledge.

Copyright protection has never extended to the functional characteristics of a work. For example, in Australia there is a split protection scheme given to designs; designs are considered artistic works and have ornamental and functional characteristics. To protect functional characteristics, the design must be registered under the Design Act 1906 (Cth). However, the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act) protects only ornamental aspects.

In contrast to designs, the function and expression of computer programs [2] are arguably inseparable and yet they enjoy protection as literary works. This has lead to debate over two competing principles: 1) to ensure authors (in this case computer programmers) have their labour protected and to maintain economic incentive for innovation; and 2) to ensure that there is not a monopoly over functional objects and ideas.

This paper discusses the Copyright Act's protection of computer programs. It begins by discussing what constitutes a computer program and how computer programs are defined in case law and legislation. The paper analyses the impact of legislative protection measures by examining Australian, United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) approaches to computer program protection.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Padgett, LB
Keywords: copyright; computer programs; software;
Journal or Publication Title: Digital Technology Law Journal Volume 4
ISSN: 1442-3197
Additional Information:

Copyright 2003 Digital Technology Law Journal

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