Chapter 7 - Legal and Social Issues

Chapter 7 - Legal and Social Issues

Copyright(c), 1990, 1995 Fred Cohen - All Rights Reserved

The enormous effect of information technology on society has brought about dramatic changes. These changes have brought great prosperity to some, and great harm to others. Information technology has caused many jobs to be lost and many other jobs to be created. Dramatic changes have occured in the nature of intellectual material, and corresponding changes in the legal system's handling of intellectual material have not kept up. Social behavior in the presence of information systems is dramatically different than in their absence. The distinctions between right and wrong and the concept of property have undergone dramatic revolutions.


1 - Explain the basic premise of the:

a) Patent
b) Copyright
c) Trade secret
(as defined by US law), giving reason(s) for its existence, and what it is and is not designed to protect against. What is its duration? How is it protected? What rights does it give the holder and the public?

2 - You are an entrepreneur who's small company is working towards marketing your new ULTRA-COMP III IBM compatible (clone) personal computer with your revolutionary new plug-in ultra-fast floating point processor ROM. You have spent considerable money on packaging the product in an attractive compact portable case of a distinctive color and with a distinctive logo. Although the computer runs the MS-DOS operating system, you have developed a new command processor that does everything a command processor should do, and hasn't, up until now. What legal tactics should you use to protect your competitive edge?

3 - Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution states that "The Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." In your opinion, do the patent and copyright laws as we know them fulfill this provision of the Constitution?

4 - The following prototype legal document has many interesting aspects. Discuss the protections provided to the 'lender', the responsibilities of the 'borrower', and the potential effects on those wishing to sue for infringements, when their software is provided to a borrower under this contract.

5 - Explain the difference between copying a much needed article from a journal in the library for extensive use over a long period of time and copying a much needed program from a disk in the library for extensive use over a long period of time. Is there really a difference? Legally? Morally? What is it?