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7 Things Lawyers Don't Understand About Software

Anyone who has worked on a help desk would probably think that the title of this talk is one of the greatest under-estimates of modern times. However, this presentation will narrow the range of inquiry to a much more modest scope. After nearly 4 years of reviewing case law and law journal articles as a part of a PhD on software patenting, Anton will present 7 statements from judges and academics which demonstrate the ways in which the legal fraternity get intellectual property issues wrong, because they don't understand what software is, or the way it is written. Topics covered will include the relationship between software and mathematics; software and mental processes; abstraction; reuse; the beauty of code; code versus data; and authorship and ownership. By means of introduction, Anton will also present his 80,000 word thesis argument in 7 words.

Anton Hughes

I am a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania in Hobart, Australia. My thesis is looking at the patentability of mathematics by reconciling the various arguments as to what mathematics is with the explanations put forward as to patentability. The unsuitability of most current explanations has led me to the conclusion that a new answer is required, and that answer is that, as far as mathematics is concerned, it is freedom which allows for innovation, namely the freedoms recognised in the fundamental human rights of freedom of expression, and freedom of thought.

My interest in the mathematics exception comes from my interest in the software patents issue. Given that software and mathematics are identical, it follows that software should also be unpatentable. This argument is a good fit with the protection of software in the copyright context, where open source models have shown that freedom aids innovation in software development.

Outside my area of research, I also teach Contract Law and Foundations of Media & IT Law at the School of Law, University of Tasmania. When not teaching or researching, I run a software development business, bringing open source web solutions to educational, government, non-profit and commercial clients. My weapon of choice is Plone, an award winning content management system written in Python.