What is Copyright Protection in Computer Applications?

Court confirms scope of software copyright  January 31, 2013 – 10:21 am
Top EU Court Limits Copyright Protection on Computer Programs

The UK High Court has dismissed a number of claims of copyright infringement brought by a leading software supplier against a rival developer, and in doing so, has clarified the extent of copyright protection for software.

In a judgment issued on Friday morning, the English High Court confirmed that copyright in a computer program:

  • Does not protect the functionality of the computer program from being copied
  • Does not prevent others from using the same programming language
  • Does not protect data file formats (interfaces).

The judgment also clarifies the right for software licensees to observe, study and test the functioning of a program in order to determine its underlying ideas and principles. This right over-rides anything in the software licence restricting the purpose for which the licensee may use the software.   For example, a restriction against “commercial use” of the software is void, even if the licensee intends to use the knowledge that it gains from studying and testing the program to create rival software.

Background

To recap, SAS Institute, Inc. (SAS), a leading business analytical software developer brought a claim against World Programming Limited (WPL) for copyright infringement and breach of contract. WPL developed software capable of executing SAS applications. Previously, SAS customers were tied to licensing an SAS system in order to execute these applications. SAS acknowledged that WPL had not accessed or copied SAS source code to develop its software. Instead, WPL developers studied SAS manuals and a limited version of the SAS system called “Learning Edition” and used the information in these resources to replicate the functionality of SAS’s system.  SAS claimed that WPL had infringed SAS copyright because WPL had:

Source: FFW Technology and Outsourcing Blog

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