CJEU confirms functionality of computer programs not protected by copyright

The Court of Justice of the European Union has handed down its keenly awaited judgment in SAS Institute Inc. v World Programming Ltd.

Following the Advocate General’s opinion, the CJEU has confirmed that the functionality of a computer program is not protected by copyright. In addition, the programming language and format of data files used in a computer program were not protected by copyright as computer programs. They could, however, be protected as copyright works if they were shown to be their author’s own intellectual creation.

Unfortunately, the CJEU has not taken the opportunity to expand on what the “author’s own intellectual creation” may mean in the context of programming language and file formats. However, in practice, given the technical functions which programming languages and file formats must perform, it seems that demonstrating that a programming language or file format is its author’s own intellectual creation will be a high hurdle to overcome…

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