Sunday, 20 May 2012

European Court of Justice: the Functionality of a Computer Program and the Programming Language Are Not Protected by Copyright

European Court of Justice, 2 May 2012, Case C406/10

SAS Institute Inc. developed the SAS System: an integrated set of programs which enables users to carry out data processing and analysis tasks such as statistics.

SAS Institute Inc. brought a copyright infringement case against World Programming LTD (WPL), which had lawfully acquired a licence for the SAS System in order to study and observe the SAS System and create alternative software capable of executing application programs with globally the same functionalities. However, WPL did not have access to the source code of the SAS System, nor was WPL allowed to copy it.

The European Court of Justice ruled that "Article 5(3) of Directive 91/250 must be interpreted as meaning that a person who has obtained a copy of a computer program under a licence is entitled, without the authorisation of the owner of the copyright, to observe, study or test the functioning of that program so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program, in the case where that person carries out acts covered by that licence and acts of loading and running necessary for the use of the computer program, and on condition that that person does not infringe the exclusive rights of the owner of the copyright in that program".