Programming languages cannot be copyrighted, says senior EU court adviser

And neither can the functionalities of a computer program

The functionalities of a computer program and programming languages cannot be protected by copyright. according to the European Court of Justice's senior adviser.

Advocate General Yves Bot published his opinion on Tuesday in relation to a case brought by SAS against World Programming. "If it were accepted that a functionality of a computer program can be protected as such, that would amount to making it possible to monopolize ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development," he said.

Bot defined the functionality of a computer program as the set of possibilities offered by a computer system --- in other words, the service the user expects from it --- and as such is not eligible for copyright protection.

By contrast, the means for achieving these functionalities may be protected by copyright. "Creativity, skill and inventiveness are expressed in the way in which the program is drawn up, in its writing. Thus, the way in which formulae and algorithms are will be likely to reflect the author's own intellectual creation and therefore be eligible for protection," he said.

In the SAS case, there is no suggestion that World Programming had access to, or copied, the source code of the SAS components.

SAS makes data processing and statistical analysis programs. The core component of the SAS system allows users to write and run application programs written in SAS programming language. This functionality may be extended by the use of additional components. World Programming created a product that emulates much of the functionality of the SAS components, the aim being that customers' application programs should run in the same way on World Programming as on the SAS components.

In this case, Bot said the courts must consider whether World Programming copied SAS's intellectual creation, but not its functionality. Bot also added that a programming language cannot be protected by copyright since that is an element allowing instructions to be given to the computer.

The advocate general's opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice, but history shows that those opinions are very much taken into account in final rulings.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags intellectual propertycopyrightlegalEuropean Court of Justice

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jennifer Baker

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?