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

European Intellectual Property Review, February 2012

16 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2011  

Pamela Samuelson

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Thomas C. Vinje

Clifford Chance LLP

William R. Cornish

University of Cambridge

Date Written: December 12, 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

Suggested Citation

Samuelson, Pamela and Vinje, Thomas C. and Cornish, William R., Does Copyright Protection Under the EU Software Directive Extend to Computer Program Behaviour, Languages and Interfaces? (December 12, 2011). European Intellectual Property Review, February 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1974890 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1974890

Pamela Samuelson (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

Boalt Hall
341 North Addition
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
(510) 642-6775 (Phone)
(510) 643-2673 (Fax)

Thomas Vinje

Clifford Chance LLP ( email )

31 west 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019-6131
United States

William Cornish

University of Cambridge ( email )

10 West Road
Cambridge, CB3 9DZ
United Kingdom

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