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Abstract

Widespread adoption of uniform standards is essential to the smooth operation of our modern global economy. When private organizations develop such standards, copyright protection of those standards often creates a conflict between private intellectual property rights and society's need for standards. This conflict is especially apparent when a local or state government adopts a privately drafted standard as law. This Article considers whether coding system standards should be eligible for copyright protection as a matter of U.S. copyright law by examining the case law's treatment of copyright protection for coding system standards and considering the policy concerns implicated by copyrights in standards. The Article concludes that, in light of case law, the statutory exclusion of systems from U.S. copyright protection, the scenes a faire and merger of idea and expression doctrines, and broader policy considerations, standards should fall outside the scope of U.S. copyright protection.

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