Current copright and patent laws are inapropriate for computer software; their
imposition slows
down software development and reduces competition.

From the first computer as we know them, the ENIAC, computer software has
become more and more
important. From thousands of bytes on miles of paper to millions of bytes on a thin piece
of tin foil
sandwitched between two pieces of plastic, 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. However, with all the help that has been
given to us, we
haven\'t done anything for software and the people who write it. Software by nature is
completely
defenseless, as it is more or less simply intellectual property, and not a physical thing,
thus very
easily copied. Copied software does not make money for its creators, and thus they
charge more for whats
not copied, and the whole industry inflates.

There are two categories 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. These two
categories have covered for years many kinds of work with little or no conflict.

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 writting, 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 (Del Guercio 22-24). It is generally covered
today by
copyright laws, for most mass market software at least. More advanced software or
programming
techniques, however, can be patented, as they are neither obvious nor old. This results
in many problems
which I will go into later.

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 (Del Guercio 22-24), say, 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 similiar to
someone else\'s, so
long as the programming code is their own, and not borrowed from the others (Del

Guercio 22-24). This
keeps the industry competitive, and thus results in better software (because everyone is
greedy, and they
don\'t want to fall behind). With patents no one is allowed to create software that
performs a similar
functions. Take AutoCAD and TrueSpace 2, two 3D modeling programs. TrueSpace 2
would be a violation of
patent laws, as it performs a very close task to AutoCADs,!
which came first. Luckily for us, CAD programs are not new, they have been around for
more than 10
years, and no one thought to patent them.

Thus, you can see the need for change in the system. The current laws regarding
the protection
of intellectual material cannot adequately protect software, they are either too weak or
too strict. We
need a new category of protection. The perfect protection law would most likely last for

10 years,
renewable. This is long enough to protect a program for as long as it is still useful, and
allows for
sequels and new versions just in case. It would also have to allow for others to make
similar software,
keeping the industry competitive, but it would have to not allow copying of portions of
other software
(because you can\'t \'quote\' something from someone elses software like you can with a
book). However,
there are many who dispute this, and I can see their point. Current copyright laws have
and will protect
software effectively, it can be just as protected as other mediums (Cosgrove). This is
true sometimes,
however, to copy a book would take time. You would have to type u!
p each page to make a copy of it, or at least photocopy or scan each page, and it would
most likely take
up much more time than its worth. To copy a computer program however, takes
seconds.

Changing the law would take time and money, you might be saying. It would be a
tremendous hassle
in Congress to have a new law written just to cover that Information Superhighway
thingy. Yes, thats
true too, but to not change the laws will cost more. 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