SAS v WPL: No Copyright Protection for Programming Languages

Hooray: On 2 May the ECJ ruled that “neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that program and, as such, are not protected by copyright in computer programs.” The Court stated that there is no copyright infringement when a company does not have access to the source code of the computer program but merely studied, observed and tested that program in order to reproduce its functionality in a second program.

The ECJ followed the Advocate General’s Opinion in most respects. The judgment should be welcomed by open source software companies and proprietary software companies alike since programs of the same type will often produce substantially similar functionality.


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