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- Table of Contents -

Introduction to the online version

Chapter 1 – The Commission and Its Recommendations

Chapter 2 – The Establishment, Mandate, and Activities of the Commission

Chapter 3 – Computers and Copyright

- Background

- Computer Programs

   - Recommendations for Statutory Change

   - Recommendation for Regulations

   - Case for Copyright Protection for Programs

   - Copyright and Other Methods Compared

   - Scope of Copyright in Programs

   - Economic Effects of Program Copyright

   - Cultural Effects of Program Copyright

   - Concurring Opinion of Commissioner Nimmer

   - Dissent of Commissioner Hersey

   - Dissent of Commissioner Karpatkin

- Computer Data Bases

- New Works

Chapter 4 – Machine Reproduction – Photocopying

Chapter 5 – Summary

Appendix A – Summary of the Legislative History of Computer-Related Issues and the Photocopy Issue

Appendix B – Public Law 93-573 and Public Law 95-146

Appendix C – Commissioners

Appendix D – Staff

Appendix E – Lists of Witnesses

Appendix F – Alphabetical Listing of Persons Appearing before the Commission

Appendix G – Transcripts of Commission Meetings

Appendix H – Summaries of Commission-Sponsored Studies

Appendix I – Bibliography

Appendix J – Selected Provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 and Copyright Office Regulations

Full table of contents

PDF version of the report

Picture of commissioners and staff

Final Report of the National Commission on New Technology Uses of Copyrighted Works

Chapter 3 – Computers and Copyright

In creating the Commission, Congress directed that two broad subjects concerning computers and copyright be addressed: the creation of new works with computer assistance and the use of copyrighted works in conjunction with computers. With respect to the second area, the Commission has considered three separate issues: the placement into computers of any copyrighted works, the use of automated data bases, and copyright protection for the intellectual property in computer programs.

Because this study was to be undertaken, Congress included a section in the new copyright law specifying that a copyright owner had the same rights with respect to computer uses of copyrighted works as were available under the copyright law before the effective date of the Act of 1976 – existing state statutes, case law, and the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1909.36 The legislative history of the 1976 Act clearly shows that Congress intended that the provision be continued, eliminated, or modified, based upon the Commission’s recommendations.37


From the Renaissance through the Industrial Revolution to the present, technological developments have consistently extended society’s power to control natural phenomena and to shape its own destiny. The rapid developments in communications and information technology of the past three decades have immeasurably expanded and extended the power of human communication.

One of the most important contributions to the communication and information revolution has been the digital computer. Animated by elements of human creative genius, these machines are opening new avenues for recording, storing, and transmitting human thought. New means of communication transcend words fixed on paper or images on film and permit authors to communicate creatively, adaptively, and dynamically with their audience.

The first commercial computers, built shortly after World War II, were based largely on vacuum tubes and were so expensive that only the government or the largest corporations could even consider owning them. To function, the typical early computer required an environment in which temperature and humidity were carefully monitored. It was controlled by programs created by its manufacturer and users exclusively for that particular computer.

Subsequent generations of computers have been characterized by dramatic reductions in the size, energy requirements, and price for a given amount of computational power. These generations are measured by the changes in the electronic circuitry of the computer. The four generations now generally acknowledged have been based upon vacuum tubes, transistors, printed circuits, and integrated circuits, respectively.

Next section: Computer Programs

36 17 U.S.C. § 117.

37 House Report, supra note 1, p.116.