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Interactive computing refers to any creative process in which a preliminary or final version of a work is the result of interactions between a person and a programmed machine.
The proportion of the work that is the product of the machine, and the proportion that is the product of a human may vary. In many cases, as with word processing programs, the machine contributes little to the creation of a work; it is "transparent" to the writer’s creativity. But with some programs, such as those that summarize (abstract) written articles, the processing done by the computer could constitute “an original work of authorship" if it were done by a human being. Indeed, the machine itself is at once a series of processes, concepts and syntheses of human intelligence "so mixed that it is difficult, if not impossible, to separate its parts from the whole.” Interactive computing takes many forms, and cuts across many disciplines.
The interactive capability of computers poses unique problems for the category of works of authorship. The problem is in determining where the programmer’s expression ends and where the user’s contribution to the final form of the expression begins. This problem stems from the fact that computers often mediate between programmer and user, and intermingle the creative efforts of both. Indeed, the program itself may contribute substantially to a creator’s final work, and in ways that could be considered an autonomous or creative activity if done by a human being.
Because the programmer’s, the user’s, and even the computer’s expressions are intermingled in the process of creation, separating rights in the products of interaction with a program from those in the program itself will become increasingly difficult. Consequently, many interactive computer-based applications may generate entirely new questions of copyright ownership and originality.