Intellectual property is an increasingly important part of our economy, and computer code in particular is presenting IP laws a serious challenge. Is code functional or expressive? Should it be covered by a patent or a copyright? What rights do we consumers have when we purchase a piece of computer software? Intellectual Property and Open Source: A Practical Guide to Protecting Code answers these questions, at least as well as any questions can be answered in this notoriously wishy-washy field of law.
The book serves several potential audiences. First, anyone like me who is simply interested in learning how IP laws work will get that information without having to wade through the endless sea of rhetorical Jello that is Legalese. The author, Van Lindberg, manages to explain everything so that a normal person can at least read it. He makes it clear through real-world examples when certain parts of the law matter, and how sometimes that doesn't match the original intention of the law in writing. It should be noted, however, that potential readers who are totally unfamiliar with technology may find themselves skipping several paragraphs, as about half of the specific IP examples are taken from that area. I believe, lacking their perspective, that this isn't a deal-breaking issue, but sometimes the author explains concepts by using a programming analogy, which isn't very helpful to anyone who is reading this book just to casually learn about IP law.
Property takes a lot of time to help developers who are looking into how to copyright or license their project as well. In particular, there is plenty of information on how to use copyleft procedures like Creative Commons with a project. The casual inventor truthfully needs to read this book to avoid the sad fate of certain individuals who lost their patent to their employers in court. The book details several specific cases, including a man who created a baseball simulator unrelated to his company's business, talked to them about it, and confirmed it was okay with his boss, only to have them sell his patent to a competitor when an infringement came to court years and years later. Courts tend to favor business, so any individual inventor needs to read this to know how to protect his or her own work.