The SAS Institute case

European Court of Justice, Case C-406/10

Typology: Case Law

1. Article 1(2) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that program and, as such, are not protected by copyright in computer programs for the purposes of that directive.

 

2. Article 5(3) of Directive 91/250 must be interpreted as meaning that a person who has obtained a copy of a computer program under a licence is entitled, without the authorisation of the owner of the copyright, to observe, study or test the functioning of that program so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program, in the case where that person carries out acts covered by that licence and acts of loading and running necessary for the use of the computer program, and on condition that that person does not infringe the exclusive rights of the owner of the copyright in that program.

 

3. Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the reproduction, in a computer program or a user manual for that program, of certain elements described in the user manual for another computer program protected by copyright is capable of constituting an infringement of the copyright in the latter manual if - this being a matter for the national court to ascertain - that reproduction constitutes the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the user manual for the computer program protected by copyright.
 
 
 
Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber)
of 2 May 2012
(reference for a preliminary ruling from the High Court of Justice (Chancery Division) - United Kingdom) -
SAS Institute Inc. v World Programming Ltd

 

(Case C-406/10) 

 

(Intellectual property - Directive 91/250/EEC - Legal protection of computer programs - Articles 1(2) and 5(3) - Scope of protection - Creation directly or via another process - Computer program protected by copyright - Reproduction of the functions by a second program without access to the source code of the first program - Decompilation of the object code of the first computer program - Directive 2001/29/EC - Copyright and related rights in the information society - Article 2(a) - User manual for a computer program - Reproduction in another computer program - Infringement of copyright - Condition - Expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the user manual)

 

Language of the case: English

 

Referring court

 

High Court of Justice (Chancery Division)

 

Parties to the main proceedings

 

Applicant: SAS Institute Inc.

 

Defendant: World Programming Ltd

 

Re:

 

Reference for a preliminary ruling - High Court of Justice (Chancery Division) - Interpretation of Articles 2(1) and 5(3) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs (OJ 1991 L 122, p. 42) - Extent of protection - Creation, directly or via a process such as decompilation of the object code, to create another computer program which replicates the functions of another computer program, protected by copyright, without access to the source code of the latter program.

 

Operative part of the judgment

 

1. Article 1(2) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression of that program and, as such, are not protected by copyright in computer programs for the purposes of that directive.

 

2. Article 5(3) of Directive 91/250 must be interpreted as meaning that a person who has obtained a copy of a computer program under a licence is entitled, without the authorisation of the owner of the copyright, to observe, study or test the functioning of that program so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program, in the case where that person carries out acts covered by that licence and acts of loading and running necessary for the use of the computer program, and on condition that that person does not infringe the exclusive rights of the owner of the copyright in that program.

 

3. Article 2(a) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the reproduction, in a computer program or a user manual for that program, of certain elements described in the user manual for another computer program protected by copyright is capable of constituting an infringement of the copyright in the latter manual if - this being a matter for the national court to ascertain - that reproduction constitutes the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of the user manual for the computer program protected by copyright.

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1- OJ C 346, 18.12.2010.

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