Computers and Copyright

Publication Date01 Mar 1987
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1987.tb02572.x
AuthorDavid I. Bainbridge
REPORTS
OF
COMMITTEES
COMPUTERS
AND
COPYRIGHT
lntroduction
THE
law relating
to
intellectual property rights, and copyright in
particular, has an important place in any country which has an
industrial or commercial base. The granting of rights to inventors,
writers, innovators and artists encourages them to make their
works public in the knowledge that they may exploit these works
for a period
of
time, protected by the law from counterfeiters and
pirates.’ The importance
of
legal protection in this area can be
measured by the scale of business generated by intellectual
property; the British copyright industry (including books, films,
video and computer software) contributes nearly
f6
billion a year
to the British economy.* Technological developments, particularly
with respect to computers and related fields, have proceeded at
such a pace that they have easily outstripped the relative paucity
of
legal attempts to accommodate them. It is vital that forthcoming
legislation makes due allowance for technical innovations
of
the
future and, therefore, adopts formulae which will be resilient to
the vicissitudes
of
time.
The Copyright (Computer Software) Amendment Act
198S
clarified the copyright position
of
computer programs but left
certain doubts and i~ncertainties.~ However, this Act was seen by
the government only as an interim measure pending a thorough
review of copyright law and, consequently, a White Paper has been
published entitled “Intellectual Property and Inno~ation.”~ Although
the scope of the White Paper goes beyond copyright and includes
matters involving patent and performers’ protection, it contains
several important points relating to computers and their use. One
of
the basic aims of the White Paper is to:
“.
.
.
keep our
intellectual property law abreast
of
changing conditions.
. .
.”6
and
the White Paper recognises that new technical developments such
as satellite broadcasting, computer programs and electronic data
storage must be accommodated by changes in copyright law.
The White Paper proposes to strengthen copyright law relating
to computer programs and other works stored in computers or
The use of the words “piracy” and “pirate”
in
the context
of
copyright is not a new
phenomenon. An early example can be found in
Barly
v.
Taylor
(1829)
1
Russ.
&
M.
73,
e.g.
“That the publication of these tables is a piracy is out of doubt”,
per
Sir John Leach
M.R. at 121.
*
The Times,
3
February 1986, p.3.
Hereinafter referred
to
as “the 1985 Act.”
See (1986) 49 M.L.R. 214.
Cmnd. 9712 HMSO April 1986. Hereinafter referred
to
as “the White Paper.”
“lntellectual Property and Innovation.” Cmnd. 9712 HMSO April 1986. lntroduction
CI. 3.
202

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