4.0659 Computer Ethics case (1/37)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 30 Oct 90 20:40:51 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0659. Tuesday, 30 Oct 1990.

Date: Tue, 30 Oct 90 12:13 EDT
Subject: Follow-Up Message: RC/C&S Case Number Three

I recently posted the attached message on ETHICS-L@MARIST. Since
it might interest some HUMANISTs, attach a copy here:

In response to RC/C&S Computer Ethics Case Number Three, Genny
Engel recently said:

>Of course what Andy did was unethical. It is roughly the
>equivalent of taking a bunch of artwork and making collages
>out of it, then selling the result as your own art. I would
>say it is indeed art, but I think this is already covered by
>existing copyright law and artistic mores, isn't it?

Oh, wouldn't life be wonderful if it were as neat and tidy as
Genny's comment suggests? A lawyer friend of mine tells me
that current copyright law does not necessarily cover the case,
given the computer's capacity to cut, paste, enlarge, shrink,
rotate, color, distort, etc. If part of one graphic work is
larger, a different color, upside down and twisted, when compared
to part of another graphic work, is one a COPY of the other? If
not, then no copyright has been violated.

If one clips only the right eye from a portrait--or only the
lashes--changes the size, color, and orientation on the screen--
adds a line or two and a bit of distortion--places it in a
wholly different context--has anyone's intellectual property
been stolen? Has the copyright law been violated?

This is just one more way in which the computer is forcing us
to rethink our "traditional" notions of intellectual property.
Some of the other ways are already familiar to those who follow
the continuing controversies regarding ownership of software.
For example, when one writes a new computer program, should
he/she own the source program?--the object program?--the
algorithm that a flowchart would capture? Should anyone own the
"look and feel" of the program on the screen? Should one get
"property rights" to such things through patents, copyrights,
trade secrecy, new forms of "ownership"?