The EU Court of Justice is now considering a lawsuit between SAS and World Programming Ltd. over the extent of copyright protection in software
. We wrote about this last year, when a UK court ruled against SAS
, but now it's been kicked up to the EU Court of Justice. Everyone seems to agree that WPL copied a feature from a SAS product, but did so in part by looking at SAS's manual, but without access to the software itself, let alone the source code. Basically, WPL just found out about a feature, and created it on its own. It's not even quite reverse engineering (which is generally considered legal), because they didn't make it compatible with SAS's offering -- they just recreated the same basic feature.
It's hard to see how this should be copyrightable. Can you imagine just how stagnated the software industry would become if you could copyright a feature on a piece of software, such that no one else could use it? Hopefully the European Court recognizes the problems such an extreme interpretation of copyright law would create.