A European Community Parliamentary committee began a debate before Christmas on copyright legislation for the computer industry as part of the EC preparation for the Single Market in 1992. The proposal would grant computer programs copyright protection as literary works under a community-wide legal framework. However certain provisions under the proposed legislation have caused much […]
A European Community Parliamentary committee began a debate before Christmas on copyright legislation for the computer industry as part of the EC preparation for the Single Market in 1992. The proposal would grant computer programs copyright protection as literary works under a community-wide legal framework. However certain provisions under the proposed legislation have caused much disagreement between international companies operating within the Community, Computer Systems News reports. Most of the controversy centres on a proposal that would expressly exclude the ideas and principles underlying interface specifications from copyright protection, covering access protocols, logic and algorithms. Many US software producers including IBM, DEC, Lotus Development, Microsoft, as well as Siemens AG and Philips, have asked for the proposal to be dropped as they beleive that it would make piracy more difficult to prove. An alogorithm that represents an idea cannot be copyrighted, but if it is the expression of an idea then it can be copyrighted. The Computer and Business Equipment Manufacturers Association has joined with the Business Software Association and Software Publishers Association to also bring this argument to the European Commission’s attention. Other vendors such as Bull, Olivetti, Fujitsu and NCR that are members of the European Committee for Interoperable Systems oppose the dropping of this proposal. They believe that interface specifications constitute ideas and that the dropping of the proposal could make current practices of systems integrators and third party maintenance providers illegal. The European Committee opposes another controversial clause that would restrict study and research of computer programs, including reverse analysis, without the permission of copyright holders. They claim this ban would reduce competition, particularily for smaller software developers. The larger companies, including IBM and Microsoft argue against dropping the proposal, saying that to do so would not only under-cut their investment in developing such programs but would facilitate piracy: one of their main lines of attack in the prosecution of companies that make software copies is that they have reverse-engineered a copyrighted program. The Parliament’s legal affairs committee is expected support the ECIS’s ideas and will submit the draft to the European Parliament in March, though the Parliament may amend the proposal before sending it to the Council of Ministers. Currently the UK, France, Spain and West Germany provide protection for computer programs and Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands are drafting national proposals.