EU court rules you can't copyright software in Europe

The European Court has decided that it is impossible to copyright a computer language or computer functionality.

According to an announcement from the EU Court of Justice, a Directive on the legal protection of computer programs extends copyright protection to the expression in any form of an intellectual creation of the author of a computer program. However, any ideas and principles including those under the bonnet are not protected by copyright.

So in other words you can only protect the ideas and principles of your code but not the actual program itself.

The Advocate General said that if the functionality of a computer program could be protected by copyright would amount to making it possible to monopolise ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development.

The court said there could be no copyright infringement where a person did 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.

Groklaw pointed out that it will be a kick in the nadgers for Oracle which is currently trying to spread copyright further than it has traditionally gone. Oracle wants copyright to cover the structure, sequence and organisation of APIs. It means that Oracle would not be able to get Google in the EU in the same sort of trial it is getting in the US.

The world and its dog is waiting for the jury verdict in the copyright phase of Oracle v. Google now.

The case the Europeans ruled on was WPL versus SAS. WPL created a re-implementation of the SAS language, using the original documentation of SAS and a freebie version for personal and educational use. SAS claimed WPL infringed on copyright and now has lost.