2008-04-11 9:34

The Annihilation of Angkor Apeiron

Filed under: Software - r0ml @ 2008-04-11 9:34

In February of 1975, I read The Annihilation of Angkor Apeiron by Fred Saberhagen in Galaxy magazine. This not-so-recent news story reminded me of it.

Perhaps I need to explain. The resolution of AoAA hinges upon a point of intellectual property protection, i.e. how would a publisher of dictionaries or encyclopedias protect themselves against profiteers making unauthorized copies? In the future, imagines Saberhagen, it would be possible to take a reference work, fiddle with the verbiage with a computer, and produce a derivative work that wasn't exactly a copy. How would the original authors unmask such villains?

The solution, of course, is to introduce "bugs" on purpose -- imaginary words in dictionaries, or places in encyclopedias. As a reference work, it's OK, since nobody would have a reason to look up such imaginary words or places. Nobody reads through such a work. But any derivative work that would happen to contain the identical "bugs" would clearly be derivative.

Back to the present. Affinity Engines sues Google over Orkut. It is a derivative work, they claim, because it has the same bugs.

In addition to nearly identical text found in similar features in orkut.com and Affinity Engine's social-networking products, the suit cited several identical software problems in each company's service.

How long before all software products design in bugs for bizarre use cases, designed specifically to track plagiarism? Or does this help explain the so-called "bugginess" of so many software products?