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Copyright in Computer-Readable Works:
Policy Impacts of Technological Change

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, Juanita M. Kreps, Secretary

Dr. Sidney Harman, Under Secretary
Jordan J. Baruch, Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology

NATIONAL BUREAU OF STANDARDS, Ernest Ambler, Acting Director

Issued October 1977

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Saltman, Roy G

Copyright in computer-readable works.

(Computer science & technology) (National Bureau of Standards
special publication ; 500-17)

Includes bibliographical references.
Supt. of Docs. no.: C13.10:500-17.

1. Copyright--Computer programs-United States. I. Title. II.
Series. III. Series: United States. National Bureau of Standards
Special publication ; 500-17.
QC100.U57 no. 500-17 (KF3024.C6] 602'.1s (346'.73'048202854]


National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 500-17
Nat. Bur. Stand. (U.S.), Spec. Publ. 500-17, 267 pages (Oct. 1977)


KF 3024

( C6524



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402

Price $4. Stock No. 003–003-01843-1


The findings, recommendations, and conclusions of a policy-oriented, multi-disciplinary study of copyright in computer-readable works are reported.

The foundations of copyright are examined for basic principles, and the theory of public goods is applied to develop the rationale for copyright protection. The judicial history of copyright in the twentieth century is reviewed with respect to advances in information technology. The impact of technological change on judicial decisionmaking in copyright is analyzed.

The problem of transaction costs in the marketplace for copyrighted works is examined and methods for the reduction of such costs are described. Models of policymaking are developed which clarify the roles of interest groups and the branches of Government, demonstrating their interactions and providing insights into possible futures.

Recommendations on the conditions of copyrightability for computerreadable data bases and computer programs are presented and are based on findings of basic principles developed during the study and described in the report.

Key Words: Computer; computer program; copyright; data base;

economic efficiency; information technology; policy
analysis; policymaking; public goods; technological change;
transaction costs.


The conclusions and recommendations of this report on the copyrightability of computer-readable data bases and computer programs are in no way intended to imply the copyrightability of any work of the United States Government excluded by law from such protection.

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