Text, Speech, Machine: Metaphors for Computer Code in the Law : Computational Culture

On my to-read list once I post midterm grades.

As computer software has become increasingly central to commerce and creativity, lawmakers have retrofitted it into preexisting legal regimes to regulate its production and distribution. Currently in the United States, software is eligible for protection under patent law, copyright law, trade secret law and the First Amendment. Legal determinations of technology such as software do much to shape its legacy, uses and scope, as recent work in the history of patent prosecution suggests. 1 But the protean nature of computer code, which comprises software, has made it particularly challenging for lawmakers to pin down: computer code is variously treated as text, speech, or machine under US law. 2 Which legal metaphor prevails in any given case is contingent upon the particular context in which code is operating—its composer, its audience, and the nature and uses of the software it comprises. The rhetorical-legal construction of these various metaphors illustrate the complexity and flexibility of code—at once expressive, functional, political, and literary—as well as the populations lawmakers imagine to be producing and consuming code. Each of these metaphors highlights a different property of code, and together they form a set of ontologies for code. —Text, Speech, Machine: Metaphors for Computer Code in the Law : Computational Culture.