posted Jul 10, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for All Software Is Communication!. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

The essence of software is communication, human to computer, human to human, computer to computer, computer to human. The only rare one in that list is computer to human; computers generally communicate to humans in software only when the human is doing research into software (you can look at genetic programming research in this way, where the computers report back the best program they've found to do something). Everything else happens frequently; humans write programs, humans send code back and forth to each other to talk about what it says, and computers send each other code to execute, by downloading programs, sending Java bytecode, or even Javascript in a web page.

For instance, see this very common type of question on a UseNet technical newsgroup. Code is included because the communication could not be done without it. How better to describe what is going on?

When judges see this, it usually impresses them. In the case of Junger v. Daley, the judge ruled that code is speech worthy of First Amendment protection.

"Because computer source code is an expressive means for the exchange of information and ideas about computer programming, we hold that it is protected by the First Amendment."

Judge Kaplan of the first DeCSS trial also was impressed by arguments along this line, though it doesn't seem to have affected the ruling either way.

To the best of my knowledge, neither of these judges were introduced to the equivalence of machine language and higher level languages. It would be interesting to see their reaction to that.


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