Computer Programs Directive
|This article is outdated. (May 2012)|
|European Union directive|
|Title||Directive on the legal protection of computer programs|
|Made by||European Council|
|Made under||Art. 100a|
|Journal reference||L122, 1991-05-17, pp. 9–13|
|Date made||14 May 1991|
|Came into force||17 May 1991|
|Implementation date||1 January 1993//25 May 2009|
|Commission proposal||C91, 1989-04-12, p. 4
C320, 1990-12-20, p. 22
|EESC opinion||C329, 1989-12-30, p. 4|
|EP opinion||C231, 1990-09-17, p. 78|
recodified in: 2009/24/EC
The European Union Computer Programs Directive controls the legal protection of computer programs under copyright law within the EU. It was issued under the internal market provisions of the Treaty of Rome. The most recent version is Directive 2009/24/EC.
In Europe, the need to foster the computer software industry brought attention to the lack of adequate harmonization among the copyright laws of the various EU nations with respect to such software. Economic pressure spurred the development of the first directive which had two goals (1) the harmonization of the law and (2) dealing with the problems caused by the need for interoperability.
The first EU Directive on the legal protection of computer programs was Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991. It required (Art. 1) that computer programs and any associated design material be protected under copyright as literary works within the sense of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
The Directive also defined the copyright protection to be applied to computer programs: the owner of the copyright has the exclusive right to authorize (Art 4):
- the temporary or permanent copying of the program, including any copying which may be necessary to load, view or run the program;
- the translation, adaptation or other alteration to the program;
- the distribution of the program to the public by any means, including rental, subject to the first-sale doctrine.
However, these rights are subject to certain limitations (Art. 5). The legal owner of a program is assumed to have a licence to create any copies necessary to use the program and to alter the program within its intended purpose (e.g. for error correction). The lawful may also make a back-up copy for his or her personal use. The program may also be decompiled if this is necessary to ensure its operates with another program or device (Art. 6), but the results of the decompilation may not be used for any other purpose without infringing the copyright in the program.
The duration of the copyright was originally fixed at the life of the author plus fifty years (Art. 8), in accordance with the Berne Convention standard for literary works (Art. 7.1 Berne Convention). This has since been prolonged to the life of the author plus seventy years by the Directive harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights.
Council Directive 91/250/EEC was formally replaced by Directive 2009/24/EC on May 25, 2009,  which consolidated "the various minor amendments the original directive had received over the years".
- "Directive 2009/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the legal protection of computer programs". Official Journal of the European Union. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010.
- Preamble to Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991
- Mylly, Ulla-Maija (2009). "Harmonizing Copyright Rules for Computer Program Interface Protection" (PDF). University of Louisville Law Review (Louisville, Kentucky) 48: 877–911, page 878. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 June 2010.
- Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
- Palenski, Ronald J. (1991). "The EC Software Directive: Meeting the Challenges of the Information Age" (PDF). Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal 10 (1): 191–276. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 May 2014.
- Council Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights, OJ no. L290 of 1993-11-24, p. 9.
- Articles 10 and 11 of the Directive 2009/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the legal protection of computer programs, L 111/16 EN, Official Journal of the European Union, 5.5.2009.
- Jeremy Phillips, Tuesday tiddleywinks, IPKat, 5 May 2009. Consulted on 5 May 2009.
- Original text of the directive
- Consolidated version of the directive
- Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee on the implementation and effects of directive 91/250/EEC on the legal protection of computer programs, 10 April 2000.