From Cooperation to Competition or How Code Became Proprietary

2018-12-29 - Louis-Philippe Véronneau

After two semesters of hard work, I'm happy to say I've finished all the classes I had to take for my Master's degree. If I work hard enough, I should be able to finish writing my thesis by the end of August.

Last night, I handed out the final paper for my History of the Economic Thought class. Titled "From Cooperation to Competition or How Code Became Proprietary", it is a research paper on the evolution of the Copyright Law in the United States with regards to computer code.

Here's the abstract:

With the emergence of computer science as a academic research domain in the 60s, a new generation of students gain access to computers. This generation will become the first wave of hackers, a community based on a strong ethos promoting curiosity and knowledge sharing. The hazy legal framework of computer code intellectual property at the time enables this community to grow and to put forward cooperation as a mean of economic production. Meanwhile in the 60s, the American politicians take advantage of the revision of the Copyright Act to think about the implications of applying copyright to computer code. After failing to tackle computer issues in the 1976 revision of the Copyright Act, the Senate creates the Commission on New Technological Uses of Copyrighted Works (CONTU). The final report of the CONTU will eventually lead computer code to be recognised as a literary work and thus copyrightable. A few years later, American courts finally create a strong case law on these issues with the 1983 Apple v. Franklin court case.

Sadly, I haven't had time to translate the whole paper to English yet (it's in French). Maybe if enough people are interested by theses issues I'll take the time to do so.

If you want to read my paper in French, you can download the PDF here.