Lessons from the Computer Software Protection Debate in Japan
30 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2009
Date Written: 1984
As in all advanced countries, the problem of computer software protection has been a major topic of academic and political debate in Japan and much legal literature has been devoted to it through numerous academic conferences and administrative reports. Although nearly all other developed countries protect computer software under existing copyright law, the Japanese debate has brought into sharp focus some fundamental policy issues.
Many of these issues are worthy of more consideration than they have heretofore received in most other countries. Among them are (1) whether the protection term for programs can be shorter than that for other copyrightable works without losing important incentives for their production; (2) whether there should e distinction between the term and level of protection given to different types of programs (for example, operating systems and interface software, widely distributed applications programs for personal computers, large-scale programs whose economic value is manifested outside traditional sale and lease markets, and programs created by computer rather than by human programmer); and (3) whether it is necessary (and possible) for the legal system to recognize the apparent fact that new programs often rely heavily on existing programs by authorizing such reliance subject to payment of fair compensation. Up to the present, the voices primarily heard in the software protection debate have represented software producers, and one can understand their desire for significant levels of protection. Nevertheless, even though copyright gives much less protection than, say, patent law, the question the rest of society must ask is whether traditional copyright protection is not still both too strong and too blunt than is necessary for the healthy growth of this important new industry.
Keywords: Japanese Copyright Law, Copyright, Computer Programs
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