The Parable of Unix

15 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2022

See all articles by Faiz Surani

Faiz Surani

University of California, Santa Barbara

Date Written: February 12, 2021


Open source software has long formed the backbone of the software industry. But despite open source's central role, recent developments in software copyright law surrounding the copyrightability of software interfaces and fair use demonstrate that its legal grounding remains tenuous.

This article tracks the history of the Unix operating system family and its influence on the development of software's open source culture. It argues that the unique legal circumstances that allowed Unix to flourish provide important lessons for how a software copyright regime ought to be constructed. The article concludes that congressional copyright reform is needed to protect open source culture and the social and economic benefits thereof.

Keywords: software copyright, open source, unix, fair use, linux, google v. oracle

Suggested Citation

Surani, Faiz, The Parable of Unix (February 12, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Faiz Surani (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara ( email )

Santa Barbara, CA 93106
United States


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