An Analysis of the Scope of Copyright Protection for Application Programs

60 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2011  

Peter S. Menell

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Date Written: January 15, 1989

Abstract

The article describes how the first courts to address the scope of copyright protection for application programs have tended to view application programming as predominantly an exercise in creative expression and accordingly have interpreted the scope of copyright protection in this area quite broadly. As Part I explains, however, many design choices in writing application programs are made by applying the principles of the scientific fields of human factor analysis and software engineering. Thus, the tendency of courts to view application programming as more akin to literary creativity than to scientific and engineering advancement threatens to give broad legal protection to basic principles of human factor analysis and software engineering without requiring the creators of the programs embodying those principles to satisfy the more exacting standards of patent law. The article concludes that a careful application of the idea/expression merger doctrine, recognizing the importance of scientific considerations in application programming and the need to standardize computer-human interfaces, would both foster the invention, development, and diffusion of improved application programs and comport with basic copyright principles.

Keywords: computer software, copyright

Suggested Citation

Menell, Peter S., An Analysis of the Scope of Copyright Protection for Application Programs (January 15, 1989). Stanford Law Review, Vol. 45, p. 1045, 1989. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1944635

Peter S. Menell (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

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