Does Copyright Protection Under the EU Software Directive Extend to Computer Program Behaviour, Languages and Interfaces?

Author(s): Pamela Samuelson
Year: 2011

Abstract: This article argues that competition and innovation in the software industry in the EU will be seriously undermined if the Court of Justice of the European Union in SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming Ltd. holds that copyright protection for computer programs extends to the functional behaviour of computer programs, to programming languages, and to data formats and data interfaces essential for achieving interoperability. This article explains why the text and legislative history of the EU Software Directive, in line with international treaty provisions, should be understood as providing protection for the literary aspects of programs, but not to functionality, languages, and data interfaces. Copyright has an important, but limited, role to play in protecting program innovations, especially in view of the increased availability of patents for functional aspects of software.

Keywords: copyright, software, EU software directive, interoperability, interfaces, software functionality, decompilation, reverse engineering, patents, SAS v WPL, Court of Justice of the European Union, intellectual property, programming languages