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How Wolfram Alpha Could Change Software

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Don't call Wolfram Alpha a search engine. Billed by its creators at Wolfram Research as a "computational knowledge engine," Wolfram Alpha uses mathematical techniques to cross-reference myriad specialized databases, producing unique results for each query.

But that's not all that separates Wolfram Alpha from traditional search engines. Try cutting and pasting from the results page. You can't, and with good reason. Wolfram Research is claiming that each page of results returned by the Wolfram Alpha engine is a unique, copyrightable work, like a report or term paper. That makes Wolfram Alpha different not just from classic search engines, but from most software. While software companies routinely retain sole ownership of their software and license it to users, Wolfram Research has taken the additional step of claiming ownership of the output of the software itself. It's a bold assertion, and one that could have significant ramifications for the software industry as a whole.

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