The Limitations on Protection as Program Works Under Japanese Copyright Law
Michigan Yearbook of International Studies, Vol. 8, p. 25, 1987
23 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2009
Date Written: 1987
The June 1985 amendments to the Japanese Copyright Act constitute a detailed statutory approach to problems of computer program protection. By setting specific limitations on the scope of copyright protection in program works, the Act appears to define the line between protected expression and unprotected ideas in computer programs. These limitations on copyright protection are potentially of great significance to a number of important problems arising out of the decision to protect programs under copyright law.
While computer operating systems should be treated generally as program works under the Japanese Copyright Act, the statutory limitation that copyright protection in program works does not extend to program languages implies that operating system programs can be copied to the extent necessary to insure compatibility with application programs written for that operating system. To do otherwise would extend copyright protection to the program language defined by the operating system, contravening the express statutory limitation. Microcode is not protected at all. Even if it is protected as a program work, it can probably be copied to the extent necessary to design and build digital logic circuitry presenting an identical hardware appearance to the outside programmer. Not to permit such copying would have the effect of giving copyright protection to the program language defined and created by the chip’s microcode, and is explicitly denied by the Act. Protection of program works does not extend to algorithms used in their production. This implies that the organization and structure of a program are in the public domain, a conclusion supported by policy considerations.
Keywords: Japanese Copyright Act, Computer Program, Copyright
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