Highlight 25 October 2012

The Court of Justice of the European Union clarifies the scope of copyright protection for software

Dr Pessi Honkasalo has written a legal commentary on the SAS Institute v World Programming Ltd decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union for Lakimies, Finland’s premier law journal.

“This ruling is important because it effectively limits the scope of copyright protection for software,” says Pessi.

“On the vendor’s side, companies may need to go through their licensing agreements to see if they are in line with this decision. On the buyer’s side, this ruling may give broader leeway to use software.”

The court held that software functionality, programming languages and data formats are not subject to copyright under the Computer Programs Directive. The court also held that the directive grants licensees certain rights that cannot be completely denied in a licence agreement.

The court gave its judgment on 2 May 2012. It is now up to the UK Chancery Division to apply this ruling in the matter before it.

“The implications of the ruling are widespread and could signify fundamental changes in licensing and deployment practices and in how developers seek to protect their software.” It applies to all companies operating in the European Union – in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business environments.

Pessi specialises in intellectual property and technology, media and telecommunications. He also advises clients in mergers and acquisitions. His doctoral thesis dealt with the limits of copyright protection for computer software under European Union law. Pessi has worked as a researcher at the Institute of Intellectual Property in Tokyo and the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property and Competition Law in Munich.

The article is available in Finnish and requires a subscription. Read the entire article at:

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