Copyright protects the computer code…not the function of the code

In the case of SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd, Case C-406/10, the Court of Justice of the European Communities (“CJEC”) in responding to a reference from the High Court for England and Wales has provided that functionality of a computer program or a programming language is not protectable by copyright under the Software Directive.

The CJEC has determined that the functionality of a computer program, the data file format and the programming language are not protectable by copyright under the Software Directive.

Therefore, where a company markets and provides its software by way of licence the licensee may study and test the software to determine how it functions to realise the software ideas and principles without any authorisation from the licensee copyright owner once they do not infringe the copyright owner’s rights by copying the code itself.

Therefore, they can write their own code which will provide the same results as the code they have licenced. A different method… same results.

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