Writing notes for this course.

Might have some actually useful information on Copyright.

At first, I was super demotivated to do this course. But then, I started to take things seriously, and starting to write notes for it should be fun … right?


Will write my notes here, and then move them later, since everything is so tightly related. Easier to reference this way

Some questions that are arising as I learn this stuff:

  • What about IP for robots and AIs? What is happening with AI generated art?

Unit 1: Professional Responsibility in Computing

Unit 2: Intellectual Property for Creators

This unit is motivated through a snapchat story. One of the original guys who came up with the snapchat idea lost all of his credit.

Ideas are NOT the value

The real value is in the intellect, the creativity, and the grit that goes into transforming that original idea into a viable product.

Engineers, artists, and other creators establish and protect “ownership” of their creative efforts by registering their design ideas as intellectual property.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property refers to creations of the human intellect.

The terms “creators”, “producers”, and “developers” will refer generally to the people who create such works.

IP law grant creators exclusive rights over their creations.

  • IP law also dictates limited ways in which other creators can build on existing works to create new works

Why do IP laws exist in the first place?

I guess this isn’t as much a thing in China then lol. It’s about fairness. “It would be unfair if competitors could simply imitate your product and sell it themselves.”

There are different types of IP protection to cover different types of creations.

Different types of IP protection:

Copyright protects works where how ideas are expressed is critical to the work.

Copyright literally means “the right to copy”. The owner of a copyright on a piece of work has exclusive rights “to produce or reproduce the work in any substantial part thereof in any material form whatever.”

Some cases where copyright applies:

  • Right to make photocopies of the work
  • Right to publish the work

It isn’t just the reproduction of the entire work that IP law protects against. The law also protects against the reproduction of parts of an original work. To consider what is a “substantial” part of a work is a judgment call.

Some cool things about how copyright works in Canada:

  • It is generally the case that the creator holds the initial copyright of their creations. However, IP rights are themselves a type of property that can be bought, sold, gifted, or inherited. In other words, as a creator, you can sell the IP rights of your works to another party or you can bequeath them when you die. 
  • Copyright protection starts automatically upon creation of the work and persists until 50 years after the creator’s death.
    • After this, I guess it goes under public domain
  • Publishing is not necessary for the work to be under copyright. Having its expression fixed in its final form or nearly final form is enough. That said, registration is useful if you ever need to prove your IP ownership in court. 

How far does copyright protection extend?

Copyright protection extends automatically to the 167 countries that have signed the Berne Convention. This means that you do not have to register your copyright in those countries in order for your work to be protected in those countries.

There’s the Canadian Copyright act that you should look into.


In the same way that Copyright protects the intellectual property in creative works, patents protect the intellectual property embedded in inventions.

Is software creative work or an invention then?

This is covered a bit later.

An invention might be a physical device, a machine, a process, or a composition of matter. They are the bread and butter of engineers.

Examples of patentable works:

  • a type of battery
  • a new machine to make batteries
  • a new process to dispose of batteries
  • or new materials that improve the lifetime of a battery

What makes something patentable?

To be patentable, the invention must be novel, it must be useful, and its creation must have required some ingenuity; in other words, it cannot be something obvious that anyone could have envisioned or produced.

A patentable work can also be an improvement of an existing invention, as long as the improvement is novel, useful, and non-obvious. According to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, 90% of patents are for improvements on existing patented inventions.

In Canada:

  • The granting of patents goes to the first inventor who files an application - so the way you establish ownership of your inventions is by filing for a patent
  • Patent protection starts with the granting of the patent by the patent office and it ends 20 years after the filing of the patent application

Copyright vs. Patent Protection

Unlike copyright protection, patent protection applies only in the country in which an application is filed. Therefore, you must apply for a patent in every country in which you want patent protection.


For software How does this apply to software? “software is deemed a literary work that is protected by copyright”.

Can you patent software? Currently, very mixed feelings. US courts have devised a test for determining copied software (and Canadian courts use similar tests).

Trade Secret

Trade Secrets

At NVIDIA, the things we do are called trade secrets. We don’t share it with the rest of the world. That is our competitive edge.

One can protect some types of IP as “trade secret” and most companies do! As the name suggests, a trade secret is some knowledge or IP that gives its owner an advantage over competitors and its owner keeps that knowledge from its competitors, so that they cannot benefit from it.

Examples of trade secrets

  • Recipe for Coca-Cola soft drink

To be a trade secret, there are two requirements.

  1. The IP to be protected must have value to its owner and its competitors, and only those within the company can know it. If the IP is publicly known to others outside of your company, then it is not a secret.
  2. The owner must take proactive measures to keep the IP secret.

Unit 3: Intellectual Property of Users


IP law is about balance. It gives creators exclusive, limited-time rights to determine how their works are produced and reproduced.

It also gives the public and other creators some flexibility (through time limits and through fair-use exclusions) to create new works that are derived from existing works.

In this manner, IP law attempts to balance the rights of all parties, so that the incentive for all parties is to create innovative works.

IP Law is about balance

IP law is about balance. It balances the rights of creators to profit from their creations against the rights of users to have access to those creations for their own use and to make derivative works - sometimes without obtaining the permission of the copyright holder, or even over their objections.

This unit now talks about things from the perspective of users.

IP law does not give creators absolute control over their creations. There are means by which you, and others, can legally use existing works in your own work and in your own creations so that neither you nor your employer is vulnerable to lawsuits for copyright infringement.

This unit introduces different ways through which users’ stuff is protected

  • derivative work
  • Fair Dealings
Derivative work

A derivative work is a new creation that makes use of existing works. Derivative works include novel and useful improvements on inventions.

Derivative work is entitled to its own copyright protection

The new content in a derivative work is, on its own, intellectual property and is entitled to its own copyright protection.

A popular type of derivative work these days is a mashup. A mashup is a new product derived almost entirely from a combination of existing works.

The originality of the mashup stems from:

  1. the creator’s selections from existing works and
  2. the novel ways in which the selections are combined.

Creating Derivative Work

If you create a derivative work using copyrighted, patented or IP protected work, then you are legally obliged to seek permission from the copyright/patent holder to use the existing work. You will also likely pay a royalty or licence fee.

So movies that use music you recognize are actually doing derivative work. Seems that this is really expensive and can go up to 27% of a film’s budget.

Fair Dealing

A Copyright Act explicitly lists a number of such exceptions by which users can access and make use of copyrighted work without needing to obtain the consent of the copyright holder or to pay a licensing fee.

The most prominent exception is called a fair dealing.

There are two aspects used to decide whether a particular use of copyrighted material falls under the exception of Fair Dealing:

  1. The purpose of using the copyrighted work and
  2. whether the degree of use is fair to the creator.

To be considered Fair Dealing, the use of a copyrighted work must belong to the list of approved uses, which includes:

  • personal study
  • research 
    • this extends beyond scientific research, “Research” uses extend beyond scientific research and include informal and exploratory investigations by individuals and businesses for the purposes of making purchasing decisions or answering questions of interest.
  • criticism (such as a critical response to a published opinion article) 
  • review 
  • news reporting 
  • education (including making multiple copies of the work for classroom use)
  • parody 
  • satire
Faire Use

Fair Use is a copyright exception that applies in the United States and a few other places, such as Israel and Taiwan. Under the rules for fair use, the set of allowable purposes for using a copyrighted work is not predetermined.

Instead, the particular details of the case determine whether a particular use is fair, such as whether the derivative work is highly transformative compared to the original work

User’s Rights (User-Generated Content Exception)

The Canadian Copyright Act explicitly allows the use of copyrighted works in the creation of a new non-commercial work, as long as: 

  • the original work is property attributed 
  • the original work does not infringe on some other work’s copyright
  • the new work is for non-commercial purposes
  • the new work does not adversely affect the market for the original work

User in this context refers to an individual, not a corporation.

What about Dance club DJs?

Performing such songs at clubs and bars is legal because the bar or club typically pays the royalties for the performances of copyrighted material.

Moral Rights

Moral rights refer to the rights of creators to protect the integrity and reputations of their works and by extension, protect their personal reputations.

Moral Rights has nothing to do with morality.

Copyright vs. Moral Rights

Copyrights refer to a creator’s commercial rights, whereas moral rights refer to a creator’s personal and reputational rights.

Public Domain

Works that are not copyrighted at all or have copyrights that have expired fall into the public domain.

Public domain works are available for anyone to use without consent or license.

What is in the public domain?

  • Works that were never copyrighted in the first place
  • Works fall into the public domain when the terms of their copyrights expire

Unit 4: Licences

End-User License Agreements A licence agreement dictates the rights and responsibilities of both the producers and users with respect to the offering or use of a product.

An end-user licence agreement is not a negotiated agreement between producers and users. The producer writes it and the user has a choice to either agree to the terms or not agree to the terms. The consequences of not agreeing to the terms is not being able to use (legally) the product or not having access to the service.

They give a super interesting example of how FIFA acquires licenses to the IP of the players.

Creative Commons is a global non-profit organization that promotes creativity through collaboration. They develop and share a collection of free, easy-to-use copyright licences that anyone can use to license their own works.

Licenses are complicated once we get into the world of collective and derivative works.

  • A collective work is a new creative work that comprises a collection of pre-existing works (like an anthology of songs or stories).
  • A derivative work is also a type of new creative work that makes use of existing works.

Public Licence Public licenses are not the same as something in the public domain.

License Compatibility In general, licence compatibility is a major problem in any software product that makes use of multiple licensed software components

L1 and L2, where each licence requires that derivative works be made available under the same licence as the component. In this case, a derivative work that uses both components must be licensed under both components’ licences – a condition that violates both licences!

What’s the solution?

  • Maybe the creator can licence different parts of the derivative work under different licences

But software developers can sometimes satisfy the licences by cleverly modifying the design. Rather than creating and distributing modified versions of existing components, a creator might distribute software patches.

I don't understand...?

Like does anyone actually do the above?

Ahh I understand. SO the textbook describes a method to circumvent license conflicts by distributing only patches for modifications. Users download the original software components from their original creators and then apply the patches to create the derivative work themselves. This avoids licensing issues because the derivative work is not distributed; only the original components and patches are.

This is like a really stupid loophole. I am not the one distributing. I am merely providing patches that you can download.

Unit 5: Perfect Software

Despite best efforts and best practices, developing error-free software is not currently possible.

  • Why is that the case? Why is this not the case in other industries?

Because other industries (I’m mostly thinking about mechanical engineering) have ways to go about proving things using First Principles. You can’t do that with software engineering.

limits on software correctness: incomplete testing limits on software correctness: poor specification of correct behaviour limits on software correctness: problems with integrating components limits on software correctness: poor understanding of the software’s environment

We learned some of this intuition in SE212.

Perfect Software does not really exist..

On Perfect Software: Perfect Software is just an idea. As soon as you release a product, you immediately need to start working on the next version of that product or the next service update or the next hot fix because someone somewhere is going to be asking for that next version.

Unit 6: Software Warranties and Liabilities

This unit will start with tort law, which deals with compensating injured parties for damages caused by a noncriminal act (called a tortious wrong).

Different forms introduced:

  • Negligence
  • Misrepresentation


Negligence is a breach of duty to exercise a reasonable degree of care in the development or delivery of a product or services. When it comes to developing software, producers have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure product quality and safety.


Another type of tortious wrong is to misrepresent the capabilities of a software product, either in oral or written claims about the product.

List of possible violations

  • Illegal services (one faces increasing regulatory opposition)
  • Illegal use of social media

Then, the unit talks about the importance of accessibility.

Laws prescribe requirements in two forms:

  1. Legal rules
  2. Legal standards

A legal rule stipulates the concrete actions or procedures that need to be followed or the technology that needs to be used for a software system to be deemed compliant with the law.

A legal standard describes, more abstractly, the goals and objectives of the law and requires that software producers take reasonable measures for achieving those goals.

Legal compliance means that legal rules and standards are met and having a defensible position in a court of law.

Unit 8: Privacy

Companies use information about individuals to personalize their communications with individual customers.

This is relevant for example when we are talking about different types of consents.

For example, email newsletter has a certain law.

Types of online consent

  • Opt-in consent
  • Opt-out consent
  • implied consent

one thing that I’ve always been confused by, is how laws work for online websites?

There is this thing:

  • Canada has jurisdiction in a privacy dispute whenever there is a “reasonable and substantial connection between Canada and the entity or the actions complained of.”
    • Having a connection to Canada includes cases where the organization advertises, markets, or sells services to the Canadian market.

Unit 9: Ethical Behavior of Computing Professionals

This blew my mind: Believe it or not, in the beginning, the field of programming was dominated by women.

This unit also talks about diversity.

Why is diversity important?

  • The software tech industry offers multiple creative, intellectually challenging, and lucrative careers that should be open and equally welcoming to women and minority programmers.
  • It matters economically, in that companies with greater racial and gender diversity in their workforce and leadership ranks perform better according to multiple business indicators, including sales revenue, number of customers, market share, and profitability.
  • As well, diversity has a huge impact on innovation and product quality. If the developers in a company all think alike, then no matter how smart they are, they will most likely become stuck at some locally optimal solutions.

Can we fact check this?

They just say that extensive studies have been made.

UNIT 10: Social Implications in Software