The use of software is ubiquitous in the creation of many copyright works, yet the requirement in copyright law that every work have a human author who engages in independent intellectual effort means that its use may prevent copyright subsistence. Several recent Australian cases have refocused attention on authorship as an essential criterion of copyright subsistence, and these cases suggest that much computer-produced output may be authorless and thus lack copyright protection. This article, the first in a two-part series, analyses how each case deals with the question of authorship of computer-produced works and why the use of software diminishes copyright protection for a significant number of computer-generated works. The article critiques the application of conventional notions of human authorship developed in the pre-computer age to modern productions and suggests alternative approaches to authorship that satisfy both the major objectives of copyright policy and the need to adapt to the computer age. The article argues that, without a broader judicial approach to authorship of computer-generated works, Parliament must remedy the lacuna in protection for these ‘authorless’ works. Possible solutions for reform are suggested. In a forthcoming article, the author comprehensively examines those reform proposals.