How can computer software be protected in Europe?

At the European level, Directive 2009/24 seeks to harmonise Member States’ legislation in the field of legal protection of computer programs by defining a minimum level of protection. Member States protect computer software as such by copyright, by analogy to the protection given to literary works within the meaning of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

When is copyright infringed?

Copyright is infringed when a person deals with a ‘substantial part’ of a copyright-protected work without the copyright owner’s authorisation where such dealing is not covered by an exception. It is important to take into consideration that dealing with a ‘substantial part’ of a copyright-protected work does not necessarily refer to using a large amount of the work.

Can I use a copyright work without the permission of the copyright owner?

There are a number of exceptions in copyright law, which allow limited uses of copyright works without the permission of the copyright owner. Normally permission is not needed if using less than a substantial part of a copyright protected work.

The following list of exceptions is not exhaustive and particular care should be taken if intending to rely on an exception:

- non-commercial research and private study;

- criticism, review and reporting current events;

What does “copyright registered” mean?

Registered copyright does not refer to a different type of intellectual property right, but to copyright that has been registered under the voluntary system of registration. Copyright is indeed an automatic right that does not depend on registration. Nevertheless, in some countries (e.g. Belgium), national laws allow registration of artistic/literary works. This voluntary system of registration is generally aimed at identifying the work and serving as evidence in court in litigation disputes (e.g.

How to exploit my copyright?

Copyright is essentially a private right. The copyright owner must decide how best to exploit the copyright work – to sell it, license it (exclusively or non-exclusively); an assignment transfers the full (all economic rights) or partial (some economic rights) ownership.

These options often involve contractual agreements, which may be just as important as the rights provided by copyright law.

What can be protected by copyright and related rights?

Copyright protects works such as:

- literary works- novels, song lyrics, newspaper articles;

- computer programs, some types of databases;

- dramatic works- dance or mime;

- musical works;

- artistic works- paintings, photographs, sculptures, architectural designs, technical drawings, diagrams, maps, logos;

- layouts or typographical arrangements;

- recordings of a work - recorded music performances;

- broadcasts of a work.

Who is the owner of the copyright?

Generally in the EU, copyright is owned by the natural person who creates the work. In most EU countries, the author or co-authors of a work are the first owners or co-owners of the copyright.

However, the IP systems in the EU currently vary between Member States that maintain a system of institutional ownership, and those which maintain a system of professor’s privilege (inventor ownership).