Open Specifications

Suppose someone writes a book that teaches how to calculate income taxes, a specification for a yearly process that you hate to do manually. You read the book at your local library. You then implement the specification in computer software, creating your own original copyrightable work. You do not copy the book in your software, except perhaps in a few places where it says things like “subtract your deductions from your gross annual income” and you translate that into source code within your software. Are you a copyright infringer?

Colloquially, we often say things like “You copied the specification.” But this has little to do with the definition of copy that I explained in Chapter 2. What we often mean to say is, “You read ...

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