3 mai 2012

ECJ liberates software functionality and programming language from copyrights, SAS Institute, C-406/10

The SAS Institute Inc. sued the World Programming Ltd. in the UK for infringing its copyright in analytical software. World Programming copied the manuals for the SAS System when creating the “World Programming System” (§ 27). However the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice found yesterday that software functionality and programming language are not literary or artistic works, and therefore not covered with copyrights.

The judges made a policy argument in writing that functionality copyrights would make it possible to monopolise ideas to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development (§ 40). The Grand Chamber referred to point 3.7 of the explanatory memorandum to the Proposal for Directive 91/250 stating that only the individual expression of the work should be protected, and leaving other authors the latitude to create even identical programs provided that they refrain from copying (§ 41).

The SAS Institute tried to use the proportionality remedy in arguing that the copyright should be protected at least to some degree having regard to the nature or extent of the copied functionality, to the skills, judgment and labour which had been expended, and to the level of detail reproduced (§ 28). However this attack was dismissed as such.

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