IvLiterary Works

A category that may have more success in certain contexts is "literary works."36 At first blush, this is rather surprising. When one thinks of "literary works," what comes to mind most immediately are great novels and other works of fiction—The Grapes of Wrath, Gone With the Wind, The Sun Also Rises, and so forth. But the Copyright Act defines "literary works" considerably more broadly as "works ... expressed in words, numbers, or other verbal or numerical symbols or indicia, regardless of the nature of the material objects ... in which they are embodied."37

What is of particular interest is that the breadth of this definition has provided a basis for copyright protection of computer programs and databases. As nanocomputers and nanoprogramming continue to be developed, copyright protection will extend to the programs and data that are used to control them. Futurists commonly classify nanocomputers into four categories: electronic, mechanical, chemical, and quantum nanocomputers. Of these, electronic and mechanical nanocomputers are considered to be miniaturized versions of more conventional types of computers. It is generally well known that the physical scale at which transistors can be produced has been decreasing by about a factor of two every eighteen months for decades now ("Moore's law"). This has permitted the development of microcomputers, which are now widely available. Further reductions in scale will bring these kinds of devices from the micro realm into the "nano" realm.

But what is perhaps more intriguing is the way in which chemical and quantum nanocomputers operate. A chemical nanocomputer stores and processes information in terms of chemical structures. In many respects, manmade chemical nanocomputers will merely attempt to duplicate what biological systems have already achieved. The individual instructions for constructing every living organism are contained in that organism's DNA genetic code. As Bill Gates is said to have observed, "DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we've ever created." The programming language of DNA is based on strings of four chemical building blocks called "nucleotides": adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine. The appropriate sequence of these building blocks can define how to build everything from plankton to pterodactyls.

The fact that biological systems have been able to devise (remarkably compact) chemical instruction strings that define how to build such a diverse array of organisms offers hope that human beings will be able to write their own computer programs in chemical language. The sequences that they develop will be subject to copyright protection. Indeed, it is already the case that public attention has been drawn to the idea of individuals asserting a copyright over their own DNA. This attention has tended to come in the form of preying on common misconceptions over cloning to raise fears that celebrities and others may be duplicated without their permission. The scenarios that are raised are the stuff of science-fiction nightmares.

But what these efforts do highlight is the basic fact that chemical sequences are entitled to copyright protection as literary works. As research continues into the development of chemical nanocomputers, such sequences will be developed and protected. Some of this research will be in biological areas focusing on developing sequences that may be used to treat diseases in humans and other animals and used to produce desirable traits in edible crops and livestock, among a host of other uses. But other research will not be limited to the four nucleotides of major biological interest. There are countless other chemical structures that can be used in the generation of nanopro-grams that may find other uses. It is quickly overwhelming to consider the possibilities that these present, and copyright law will provide one of the important forms of protection available to nanotech software developers.

The same basic analysis is true of quantum nanocomputer programs. The basic difference between quantum computers and more conventional electronic computers is the way in which information is represented. Electronic computers are based fundamentally on the use of binary information, representing all data and programming instructions as a sequence of 0's and 1's. Quantum computers may use such physical states as the spin of electrons to provide a similar binary representation. But quantum computers may extend this basic idea by using other quantum states that can efficiently represent more complex bit arrangements—a single quantum state could not only represent a single bit, but could represent two, four, eight, or sixteen bits. Programs expressed as a sequence of quantum states in defining programming instructions in this way would also be subject to copyright protection.

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