History Project: The 1980s

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1980 Program on Computer Software

In March 1980 in San Francisco Paul Bent and Dan Brooks chaired the first CLA program dedicated exclusively to the issues surrounding the development, marketing and acquisition of software.

Programs as early as 1971 and 1972 had dealt with software protection among other issues. But the 1980 program was the first to deal solely with the legal aspects of software’s life cycle. Over time the amount of program time dedicated to hardware issues would decline and software issues would dominate the Association’s programs until the mid 1990s when the Internet became the dominant issue.

1981 Membership Jump

The CLA began in 1971 with 7 members. The fall meeting that year attracted 38 attendees. Dan Brooks who would serve as President of the CLA in the mid 1980’s recalls that by 1981 there were 516. members listed in the CLA Directory, but largely through the efforts of Michael Keplinger several Washington meetings in the 1980 and 1981 and Paul Bent at several California programs including the Silverado Resort program in California in 1982, membership really took off. At these programs there were substantial sign-ups at the door due to the then membership-discount structure. Supplements to the CLA directory were published in September, 1982 adding 152 members and in March, 1983 adding a total (including 9/82) of 231. Michael Keplinger played a key role in the US government’s efforts following the CONTU Report to have copyight accepted as the form of legal protection for computer programs. He would serve as President of the CLA in the early 1980s. Paul Bent played a key role in the development of software leasing. He would become President of the CLA in the early 1990s.

Dan Brooks, who himself was a source of energy and insight for the CLA for many years, tells of the significance of Mike and Paul and their programs as follows:

Aside from the first convocations among the initial visionaries and their associates, there are a couple of programs and people that deserve special mention for their early and substantial contributions. They occurred at the time that the microcomputer was emerging from garages and basements of early adopters into the limelight of what have become known as the personal computer industry, Silicon Valley and the overall technology boom. In March, 1980, Paul Bent, General Counsel of Century Financial Services, organized a very successful program in San Francisco entitled "Computer Law: Developing, Marketing, and Acquiring Software." Now readily recognizable industry figures such as Dan Fylstra from Personal Software - VisiCalc and Bruce Coleman - Boole & Babbage as well as computer lawyers such as Roy Freed, Bill Fenwick, Reed Lawlor, Susan Nycum, Dick Bernacchi, and Gordon Davidson, were all speakers on areas such as the emerging mass market for software and microcomputer technology.

In October, 1981, Mike Keplinger, of the Copyright Office, organized a wildly successful program in Washington, DC entitled "Computer Software Protection: A Pragmatic Approach." High powered speakers from government, industry and private practice such as Jon Baumgarten, Mort Goldberg, Roger Milgrim, George Bosworth, and Tom Lynch played to packed houses filled with eager practitioners. In uncertain times of an evolving technology sector, they produced unusually valuable materials for the growing number of practitioners encountering their first technology enterprises and transactions. [link to Milgrim letter] What had been a modest Association with a few hundred members, only a handful from foreign countries, suddenly doubled in size and reach.

These are just two examples of the generally superior, well informed and anticipatory speakers and programs that have made CLA a premier sponsor of technology programs. In addition to the efforts of members such as Paul and Mike, the Association’s footprint and megaphone also became bigger because of frequent and vocal support from a couple of non-members that were authors and nominal competitors, at least in the CLE business. Neither Dick Brandon nor his lawyer side-kick, Sid Segelstein, Esq., ever became members, but as indicated on the brief memorial note,they shared the perception of need for and promise of an organization such as CLA as well as a vision that growing the pie was more important than grabbing at a larger piece of the existing pie for themselves.

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