In 1984, the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary requested that the Office of Technology Assessment examine the impact of recent and future advances in communication and information technologies on the intellectual property system. In response, the OTA prepared this report.
The report found that technological changes in information technologies offer opportunities for social and private gain, but at the same time challenge existing business practices and legal doctrines. It examined the impact of new technologies on the effectiveness of intellectual property rights, including the right to control reproduction of copyrighted works, the right to control publication and performance of works, and the right to control the making of derivative works. The report identified three types of information-based products — work of art, works of fact, and works of function — and concluded that basic differences among these types of works create difficulties for the current intellectual property regimes.
Among other findings, the report identified particular difficulties with respect to achieving the public-policy objectives of our intellectual property system when applying it to computer programs (as works of function) and computer database systems (at the intersection of the factual and functional domains). These included questions regarding the appropriate scope of copyright protection for programs (e.g., how "expression" is interpreted), patent protection for computer processes, and reverse engineering.
- ↑ Id. at 67 and 78-88.