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THE TWELVE DECIDE TO PROTECT COMPUTER PROGRAMS: PIRACY COSTS MORE THAN FOUR BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.
Commission Européenne - IP/91/420 15/05/1991
In 1989 - latest available figures - piracy of computer programs in 7 countries of the Community alone cost some 4.5 billion dollars. In order to stem this enormous illicit trade in computer programs, the Twelve have just unanimously adopted a Directive proposed by the European Commission on the initiative of Vice-President Martin Bangemann, which will soon put in place a legal protection system for European software. This is a real European 'first' for copyright law, the first copyright measure to be adopted following the publication of the White Paper on completing the Single Market by 1992. As soon as possible, computer programs will be protected everywhere within the Community in exactly the same way by copyright law as other literary, musical or artistic works and will also benefit from additional protection at international level, particularly through the Berne Convention. This means, in short, that the main trading partners of the Community will give the same level of protection to European programs. The European Commission will make every effort to help the twelve Member States' administrations in transposing the Directive into national law. The preparatory stages leading to the adoption of the Directive were the subject of much discussion and comment. The final text adopted by the Twelve therefore representing a delicate balance of all the interests involved: producers of programs, their competitors on the market and the users. The legal regime which it provides is in general more 'liberal' towards competitors and users than was the case previously in the protection systems of some countries in the Community. In fact, now the European Directive allows the making of a copy (a "back-up" in the industry jargon) and the correction of errors in programs and it alllows the reverse engineering of programs but only to the extent necessary to ensure the interoperability of independently created programs. - 2 - Up to now, only five Member States had specific copyright protection systems for computer programs : the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Denmark. In other countries, draft bills were being prepared (Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands and Portugal). To avoid a mosaic of quite divergent national legislation from developing the Commission proposed one coherent European legislation on the subject. In spite of the complexity and the newness of the subject matter of the proposed legislation, the text was approved unanimously by the Twelve and the European Parliament proposed no amendments on second reading: this more than proves the awareness of the political decision-makers of the vital role which the computer industry plays in our economic development, an industry where European companies play a leading role.* * *