Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Nov 2011 14:18 UTC
Legal The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union, is kind of on a roll lately. We already discussed how they outlawed generic ISP-side internet filters, and now, in an opinion (so it's not a ruling just yet), Yves Bot, an advocate-general at the Court, has stated that functions provided by computer programs, as well as the programming languages they're written in, do not receive copyright protection. The opinion is very well-written, and relatively easy to read and grasp. Note: Brilliant quote from a comment over at Hacker News: "Copyright makes you write your own code. Patents prevent you from writing your own code."
Thread beginning with comment 498361
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
What does this mean exactly?
by mweichert on Tue 29th Nov 2011 14:24 UTC
mweichert
Member since:
2006-03-23

If there is a ruling to agree with the opinion, then what? Will developers be able to reverse-engineer software legally? What about in North America?

Reply Score: 1

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Since the EU does not cover North America, I'd guess that one would have to buy.. er.. get a similar ruling from a North American court. Sadly, if copyright/patent law where made less favorable to big content control lobbying; the terrorists win.

(hard not to be cynical once you start to pay attention to copyright/patent shenanigans)

Reply Parent Score: 13

zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Actually (if you can't be pedantic on tech sites where can you be?! :p ), many overseas territories of the EU should have large enough integration level for this ruling to essentially apply - so it might easily apply also in quite a few ~EU islands in the Caribbean, which are considered a part of North America.

Then there are, much more clearly N. American, French islands Saint Pierre and Miquelon (though those seem like the integration might be a bit too tenuous).

Or maybe Greenland, in a way. They did choose to leave the EU, but they're still part of Denmark ...not sure how much the laws need to "synchronised" for that to work in any meaningful way. Still, the Greenlanders are full EU citizens, via their Danish citizenship.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: What does this mean exactly?
by BrianH on Tue 29th Nov 2011 15:54 in reply to "What does this mean exactly?"
BrianH Member since:
2005-07-06

You can reverse-engineer legally in the US (don't know about Canada), but you have to use clean-room techniques. That means that the people decompiling the code to create the specs can't be the same people recreating the code. That makes it easier to prove that there is no direct copying.

IANAL, but the makers of the Mac emulator named Executor employed lawyers, and then explained this in the legal section of their docs. Unless there had been a major revision in the law since then, this should still be the case.

Oh course this only applies to copyright. Patents are, by definition, a monopoly on an idea, not on its expression. The case referenced in the article above was an attempt for SAS to treat copyright law like patent law, but the rights each conveys are different, and the opinion above is that you can't get patent-like protections from copyright. I don't know to what extent software patents are allowed in the relevant jurisdiction, but if they exist then SAS should have used them instead. If they don't, then they are SOL.

Disclaimer: None of the above should be taken as an endorsement of software patents. I don't like them.

Reply Parent Score: 7

rmeyers Member since:
2009-12-16

One small point of clarification; patents are in fact a monopoly on the expression of an idea, not on the idea itself. At least that's the way it's supposed to work in the USA.

Reply Parent Score: 3