Software has become an integral part of our society. The economic success of our country depends on the success of the software industry. ``Open source'' software, software which users are allowed to modify and redistribute, is a very important part of the software industry
Copyright and patent laws are inappropriate for computer software, their imposition slows down software development and reduces competition. Computer software has become more and more important. Software has played an important part in the world. Computers have most likely played an important role in all our lives, from making math easier with calculators, to having money on the go with ATM machines. But software is completely defenseless, as it is more or less simply intellectual property, and not a physical thing, thus very easily copied.
"There are two kinds of intellectual property. The first one is composed of writing, music, and films, which are covered by copyright. Inventions and innovations are covered by patent. Unfortunately, it is not that easy when dealing with such a complex matter as computer software. When something is typed on a computer, it is considered writing, as it is all written words and numbers. However, when executed by the computer, it functions like an invention, performing a specific task as instructed by the user. Thus, software falls into both categories" (By Del Guercio 22-24). It is generally covered today by copyright laws. More advanced software or programming techniques, however, can be patented, as they are neither obvious nor old. Copyrights last the lifetime of the author, plus 50 years, and can be renewed. Patents last only 17 years, but cannot be renewed. With technology advancing so quickly, it is not necessary to maintain the protection of the software for the length of the copyright, but also, it is sometimes necessary to renew them."For a 10th sequel in a video game series or version 47.1 of Bob's Graphic Program. With copyrighted material, one is able to write software similar to someone else's, so long as the programming code is their own, and not borrowed from the others"(By Del Guercio 22-24) This keeps the industry competitive, and thus results in better software.
Supporters of software patents claim that the involvement of the patent system is needed to provide incentive to innovate new software technology. They believe that the developers of new software technology have a right to a monopoly on the technology as it falls under the category of ``intellectual property.''
Many companies that support software patents have large investments in existing patent portfolios. This includes companies such as IBM, Unisys and Microsoft. They have market power from their patents which supporters of software patents feel they are entitled to have.
According to supporters, software patents encourage competition by giving anyone who creates a new software technology power over that technology. Kenneth Nichols points out that patent law protects a wider range of ``intellectual-property'' than copyrights and trade secrets, the traditional methods of software protection. ``The patent system has the advantages of being already in place and using a model that is adequate to cover a sizable portion of the software currently on the market'' (Nichols 105)
But with the ability to patent new and non-obvious software functions comes serious problems. The latest new technology, be it ray-tracing 3D engines, anti-aliasing software, or a new internet exploring fad can be patented. This would mean that only one company and its software could use it. Any other companies that wanted to use the software would have to pay them a large sum of money for the rights. Also, since patent hearings are conducted over a period of 3 years, and in secrecy, "company A might create a software package and then apply for a patent, and company B may create better software during that period, and might become quite...
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