The European Court of Justice has ruled that the functionality of computer programs and the language they are written in cannot be protected by copyright.
The decision was made in connection to a case brought by SAS Institute against World Programming Limited (WPL). SAS makes data processing and statistical analysis programs, of which a core component enables users to write and run application programs written in the SAS programming language. After WPL licensed a component of SAS system, WPL created a product that mimics much of the functionality of the SAS components.
The court concluded that although WPL used and studied SAS programs to understand their functioning, there was "nothing to suggest that WPL had access to or copied the source code of the SAS components." As a result, the court said "the purchaser of a license for a program is entitled, as a rule, to observe, study, or test its functioning so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie that program."
If the court were to allow the functionality of a computer program to be protected, it would essentially make it possible to monopolize ideas, which would harm technological progress and industrial development, the court said.
From IDG News Service
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