Legal protection: Computer programs
This Directive aims to harmonise Member States' legislation regarding the protection of computer programs in order to create a legal environment which will afford a degree of security against unauthorised reproduction of such programs
The Member States are obliged to protect computer programs, by copyright, as literary works within the meaning of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
The ideas and principles which underlie any element of a computer program, including those which underlie its interfaces, are not protected by copyright.
A computer program is protected if it is original in the sense that it is the author's own intellectual creation.
Who is the author of a computer program?
In general, the author of a computer program is the natural or legal person or group of natural persons who created it. Where collective works are recognised by the legislation of a Member State, the person considered by the legislation of that Member State to have created the work is deemed to be its author.
In the case of a program created by a group of natural persons, the exclusive rights are owned jointly. Where a computer program is created by an employee in the execution of his duties or following the instructions given by his employer, the employer alone will be entitled to exercise all economic rights in the program, unless otherwise provided for by contract.
Protection is accorded on the basis of residence, nationality and first publication as laid down by the relevant Member State.
The exclusive rights of the author include the right to perform or to authorise:
- the reproduction of a computer program;
- the translation, adaptation, arrangement and other alteration of a computer program;
- the distribution, including the rental, of a computer program or of copies thereof.
The Directive provides for certain exceptions regarding copyright, mainly for the following situations:
- The making of a back-up copy by a person having a right to use the computer program may not be prevented by contract insofar as it is necessary for that use.
- A person having a right to use a copy of a computer program is entitled to observe, study or test the functioning of the program in order to determine the ideas and principles which underlie any element of the program if he does so while performing any of the acts of loading, displaying, running, transmitting or storing the program which he is entitled to perform.
There is also provision for a derogation which would allow the decompilation of a program under certain limited conditions and with the aim of achieving the interoperability of an independently created computer program.
Special protection measures
Special protection measures will be taken against a person committing any of the acts listed below:
- any act of putting into circulation a copy of a computer program knowing, or having reason to believe, that it is a pirated copy;
- any possession for commercial purposes of a copy of a computer program knowing, or having reason to believe, that it is a pirated copy;
- any act of putting into circulation or the possession for commercial purposes of any means with the intended purpose of facilitating the unauthorised removal or circumvention of any technical device which may have been applied to protect a computer program.
Directive 91/250/EEC is repealed by Directive 2009/24/EC.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
OJ L 122 of 17.5.1991
|Amending act(s)||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
24.11.1993 – 15.1.2007
OJ L 290 of 24.11.1993