Protection of Computer Programs Under Japanese Copyright Law
European Intellectual Property Rights, Vol. 8, p. 105, 1986
7 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009
Date Written: 1986
The 1985 amendments to the Japanese Copyright Act represent one of the more detailed statutory approaches to computer program protection now in existence, and it deals implicitly with a number of important problems that are already a source of dispute in other countries arising out of the decision to protect programs under copyright law. There are good grounds for concluding that microcode is not protected at all under the revised Act, and 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.
While computer operating systems, in general, are program works, protection in program works does not extend to program languages. An operating system program can probably be copied to the extent necessary to present the application programmer with a programming language identical to that created by the copyrighted program. This ensures that the first creator of a popular operating system does not achieve a de facto monopoly on all third-party software written for that system.
The protection of program works does not extend to algorithms used in their creation, which seems to mean that the organization and structure of a program are in the public domain and may be freely copied. This ensures that program technology can develop freely like all other areas of technology. While the Japanese Copyright Act recognizes an algorithm exception, a liberal interpretation of the copying provisions is necessary to ensure the existence in practice of the opportunity to make effective use of the ideas contained in programs. The statute expressly permits copying programs without the consent of the copyright holder only in very limited circumstances, and putting them in human-readable form for the purpose of extracting their ideas is not among them.
Keywords: Japanese Copyright Act, Microcode, Computer Programming
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