[cs-talks] Upcoming at Hariri: Mon, Dec 12; Wendy Gordon on Software Copyright

Barnes, Kaitlin S ksbarnes at bu.edu
Thu Dec 8 08:38:38 EST 2016

Shielding the Computer Industry from Copyright Kudzu
Monday, December 12, 2016
1-3pm; lunch & networking at 12:30pm
Hariri Institute for Computing
111 Cummington Mall, Room 180

In collaboration with Boston University’s Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security Group (RISCS), the Hariri Institute for Computing will be hosting Professor Wendy Gordon (LAW) as part of a brown bag lunch series.

Shielding the Computer Industry from Copyright Kudzu
Wendy Gordon
Professor of Law, Boston University

Abstract: Throughout its history, copyright law has sought to protect "expression" but to leave "functional" works to the realm of patent. For example, a blueprint of a car or machine can be copyrighted, but the copyright gives no rights against companies that manufacture the machine or car following the blueprint. Similarly, a sculpted product shape that is both aesthetic and functional (like a well-designed car or piece of furniture), can gain copyright protection only to the extent that the object's aesthetic features can stand on their own as artwork after the functional elements have been conceptually carved out.

Almost forty years ago, however, Congress decided to give copyright protection to some computer programs, which are primarily functional. No one knows quite what to make of a statutory pattern that simultaneously commands copyright protection for a programmer's "expression" while demanding that the program's "function" be kept free (if unpatented) for all to use. The quandary comes to a particularly sharp edge when lock-in and/or interoperability questions arise.

This talk will address the copyright-patent tension in the context of the Oracle v Google case, which involves the copyright ability of computer program interfaces.  I also situate that case, and computer copyright generally, in respect to other points of collision where copyright meets patent.

About the Speaker: Wendy Gordon<http://www.bu.edu/law/profile/wendy-j-gordon/> is a Professor of Law at Boston University's School of Law. She has taught at Boston University since 1993, having taught at Rutgers, Georgetown, University of Michigan and other schools before arriving here. Her scholarship utilizes economics as well as ethics and analytic philosophy to understand copyright, trademark, and related forms of intellectual property. She is probably best known for her analyses of copyright’s “fair use” doctrine and of John Locke’s theory of property. She has co-authored two books on the economics of copyright, published numerous law journal articles, and written book chapters on copyright issues, free speech, computer copyright, and the fair use doctrine. The US Supreme Court has three times cited her scholarship.

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