Table of Contents:
The Digital Age has added layers of complexity to copyright law and raised the stakes of copyright protection to levels never before imagined. While intellectual property lawyers, computer and software lawyers, and corporate counsel strive to understand the subtleties and hard realities of this “New Age,” we need to remember that copyright law is no longer just for lawyers and big media companies. It's the subject of newspaper articles, and has even made it into the comic strips. It affects every user of the Internet. But there is a great deal of misinformation about the copyright laws. The exclusive rights of a copyright owner go well beyond the right to make copies of a work. And yet it may be legal to make copies of a work without the permission of a copyright owner. Because the copyright statutes contain many special provisions, you can't simply assume that if an action is permitted with one type of work, the same action is also permitted with another type of work. For example, you can rent videocassettes that you own without restriction, but there are severe restrictions on the rental of records and software.
Other examples of imprecise thinking about copyright law may be found among the many articles written criticizing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) since it became law in 1998. Many of the critics seem to be recycling the comments of others and haven't looked at the legislative history (or, it seems in some cases, the law itself). Indeed, when the DMCA was being considered, many opponents were ineffective in lobbying Congress because they were against a caricature of the legislation, and not the bill itself.
Just as the Internet has made knowledge of copyright law important to a greater number of people, patents on business methods and software have made it important for most corporate counsels to now have an understanding of patents. And again, to be effective the critics of software and business method patents first need to know what patents are, how they work, and the cases that define the scope of what can be patented. This book provides that information. Unlike other treatises that try to comment on every case, it concentrates on the key cases that provide important interpretations of the copyright and patent statutes. But because there are only a handful of cases interpreting the changes to the law to address digital material, such as the DMCA, this book also highlights the important sections of the legislative history to give insight into the thoughts of those who framed the law.
The material is presented in a clear, straightforward way so that it can be understood not only by the intellectual property law specialist, but also the business lawyer or corporate counsel, the layperson wanting to understand the key concepts in patent and copyright law for digital information, and the judge trying to apply patent and copyright laws to new technology. But unlike most introductory books, it doesn't just present simple summaries of the law, but extensively quotes from, and comments on, the statutes and the key cases.
For the readers who want to go beyond the material presented in the book, Professor Hollaar has set up a Web site with the full text of the material quoted and cited in the book. He'll also be updating the material as new court cases come down, to keep the material up-to-date. His Web site will become an important resource for those interested in digital intellectual property law.
I've known Lee Hollaar since I joined the Senate Judiciary Committee as its Chief Intellectual Property Counsel. Committee staff and its former chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch, have benefited from his advice for a number of years. During his sabbatical in 1996-97, he worked with me on Internet, copyright, and patent issues as a Committee Fellow.
It's unlikely that there is anybody else with his qualifications for writing this book. He has been programming digital computers since 1964, has a Ph.D. in computer science, and has designed and implemented computer software, computer hardware, and data communications networks. He understands the law both from his studies, as a patent agent, and as a key technical advisor in a number of important court cases. He has an insider's view from his work with Congress and the courts. And he is able to pull this diverse background together to bring about an understanding of the important issues in computer law today.
I've always enjoyed and learned from my discussions with Lee and now, with this book and his Web site, you can too.
Edward J. Damich
United States Court of Federal Claims
Copyright © 2002, Lee A. Hollaar. See information regarding permitted usage.