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Integrated Information Networks

The final working example is the integration of data networks. These networks, exemplified today by Prodigy, Compuserve, or Lexis, provide computer access to information from a variety of sources, ranging from published data to gene sequences and up-to-the-second financial information. They are only beginning to evolve—one can anticipate enormous expansion. The costs of reproducing, distributing, and searching material over a network are tending to zero, while the sophistication of the computer search systems grows rapidly. Precision in the ability to charge the information consumer for what is used is increasing rapidly. At the same time, the costs of producing information will remain as high as ever (and even increase with per capita income). Although it is not an intellectual property issue, the growth of these systems, and the likelihood that they will replace many current information distribution systems, may imply that important information will no longer be readily available to those who need it to be effective citizens, but who lack the ability to pay for it.39

Special Issues

These systems will pose at least two types of special intellectual property issues. One involves defining the rights to be held by the network; these rights will encourage development of the complex and sophisticated programs needed to assist in searching, linking, and translating individual data bases. Are there reasons—such as the possibility of monopoly—why such software should be treated differently from other software? How far should intellectual property law go to protect a network against use in ways not desired by its proprietor?

The other type of issue is that of protecting the information in data bases. It is the generation of this information that will be most expensive, and the network's computer capabilities will increasingly make these data bases more a source of information than a form of expression. Presumably, for example, any human language material in the data base will soon be automatically translated as necessary by the network. Likewise, statistics


until this point, these winners and losers have succeeded in maintaining the copyright approach with rather strong rights for the copyright holder; the difficulties of the approach may, however, be beginning to give rise to dissatisfaction in the business community as well as in the academic community.


I have decided not to consider this type of problem in this chapter; nor do I consider the converse issue based on the fact that current technologies permit easy reproduction of printed or digital copyrighted materials. Nor are issues of collective authorship, which are posed by a different kind of computer network, considered here.

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