Last updated 10-14-04
This Bulletin Board covers only the first few classes of Computer Law 484. Select the appropriate button below and left for patents or copyrights, after a few sessions, to be steered to the material for the current semester.
Please check the Bulletin Board at least weekly for last-minute updates on class materials
If you have not read the material on the default html (the Computer Law 484 Home Page), please click on the flashing computers image near the bottom of this page. You do not want to enroll for this course (or stay enrolled in it) without having first read about--and pondered--the course requirements and caveat emptor notice that you will find on that Web page (near the end).
The most recent version of the printed casebook for this course was INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM: CASES AND MATERIALS ON INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS IN COMPUTER PROGRAMS AND RELATED SUBJECT MATTER (Vers. 0.11 Ė January 2003). Starting with January 2004, all of the cases and materials will be available at the course Web site. There no longer is an updated printed version of the casebook. However, the library has copies of all past printed versions. As indicated elsewhere on this Web site, each student enrolled in Computer Law 484 is granted a nonroyalty-bearing, personal, nontransferable license to download and print a copy of the Web site materials for the student's own use only in connection with the course. For the first class, please read most of the first chapter, section A. You can find an HTML version of section A of chapter 1 at this link. A Table of Contents with links to the other chapters is also available.
Try to stay 60 pages (in terms of printouts) ahead of where the discussion stopped at the end of the last class. The future affects the past — new cases put a different spin on old cases. (Time's entropy arrow doesn't work in this course's case materials.) Make a point of checking the Bulletin Board page (button at left) for supplemental material and notices at least once a week. Get into the habit of using Google (see bottom of this page) or another search engine to supplement the casebook materials whenever you sense a disconnect.
Please think about the following things and be prepared to opine about them in the first several classes:
Why is Baker v. Selden such an important precedent in copyright law concerning computers and computer software, and why is it so often cited?
Is this decision based on statutory construction? The Constitution? Something else?
Could Selden have patented the Selden system? Would its business, rather than industrial, character have been an obstacle? If Selden could not have obtained a patent, should copyright law fill the void existing in our legal apparatus for promoting the progress of science and useful arts? Who should decide? Why? What if Congress persistently leaves the field unattended? What if, as some government intellectual-property officials have asserted, the matter is too complex for members of the Congress to understand or even be trusted with?
What's wrong with copyrights or patents on ideas? "[A]bstract intellectual concepts [ideas] are not patentable, as they are the basic tools of scientific and technological work." What does that mean? Is a sorting algorithm or E=mc^2 really like a screwdriver or a plumb bob?
Whether "what's wrong with that?" is the right question to ask is recurrent in analyzing the cases in this casebook. Consider, for example, Henry v. A.B. Dick and Razor Blade Pricing schemes (in the patent misuse materials). Consider the advice of Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, Episode 28, Proverbs for Paranoids, No. 3: "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they donít have to worry about answers."
In connection with Willow River, think about (or review or set your browser's search engine to) Euthyphro. What, if anything, do nearly two and a half millennia of study and analysis of Euthyphro teach us about solving the Willow River problem, particularly in the context of determining what should be enforceable IP rights in Third Millenium digital information? (This is another possible paper topic for non-techies.) You can use the search engine provided at the bottom of this page to research anything on the WWW - for example, you can cut-and-paste any word or phrase on this page, dump it into the box at the bottom of the page, and hit Enter.
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"Google" search engine provided for your convenience in doing legal research: