ACM SIGCHI Bulletin, Oct. 1990. Excerpt of this paper also appeared as: Intellectual protection for user interfaces?, Communications of the ACM, 34, 4, (April 1991) 13-14. Also Sparks of Innovation in Human-Computer Interaction, Shneider
man, B., Ed., Ablex (June 1993) 351-354.
Sacrificing individual rights in the hope of benefiting the public good
is a tempting, but often misguided pursuit. I believe that protecting individual rights (civil, voting, privacy, intellectual property, etc.) is usually the best way to advance the
The current policy debate rages over the merits of offering intellectual property protection to user interface designs. While most commentators agree that copyright is appropriate for books, songs, artwork, and evenuseful items such as engineering drawi
ngs and maps, some are reluctant to offer such protection for user interfaces. These critics argue strenuously that intellectual protection for interfaces is "monopolistic"--that it would have a destructive effect on the public good by li miting dessemin
ation of useful innovations and inhibiting standardization. These critics claim that traditional individual and corporate rights to creative works should be denied to user interface designers.