Is Creating The Same Software Feature Copyright Infringement?

from the the-death-of-software dept

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.

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  • icon
    crade (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 11:55am

    I thought patents had this front in the war against progress covered.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      The eejit (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:27pm

      Re:

      Ah, but copyright is where the money's at, honest!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      JEDIDIAH, 28 Sep 2011 @ 6:52pm

      This should bork a patent even more.

      Actually any patent for an "invention" that could be easily replicated simply from it's description should be invalid. That's like the quintessential case of something not being novel enough or inventive enough.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 29 Sep 2011 @ 7:36am

        Re: This should bork a patent even more.

        I never said it "should" be valid. They still grant them, so what does that matter. Microsoft has a patent on using the pagedown button to go down a page.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous, 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:27pm

    of course the 'European Court will recognize the problems such an extreme interpretation of copyright law would create', then they will go ahead and rule in favour of SAS. if they cant think for themselves over music and movie copyrights and extensions to the lengths of terms, allowing themselves to be influenced constantly by the entertainment industries and the US government, how does anyone expect them to think for themselves over this issue?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Alex Macfie (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:55pm

      Re:

      the European Court of Justice was not involved in copyright term extension, which was an initiative of the European Commission, supported by the European Council and European Parliament. The ECJ is a judicial authority, as its name suggests, not the executive or legislature. They are separate bodies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gabriel Tane (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Idea vs Expression

    Does the EU copyright have the same "you can patent the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself" thing that we do? Or do they have it and they're ignoring it like we do?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, 28 Sep 2011 @ 4:09pm

      Re: Does the EU copyright have the same "you can patent the expression of an idea, but not the idea itself" thing that we do?

      Only in their trademark law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Just think of all the things we wouldn't have if it was copyright infringement to make your own version of something else. Think of any OS and how many things are just copies from other OSes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 3:24pm

      Re:

      Web browsers are another example. What if everything, even the most basic features (address bar, back and forward buttons, bookmarks) were spread across multiple browsers and fiercely guarded by their owners?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Coward (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Well then, I want to patent the file save and especially upload feature

    'cause if I can patent that, then everybody who has that feature will have to pay me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:37pm

    Yay for word of the day.

    Mike, this is the kind of story I just shake my head at. Your obvious attempt to paint several countries in the northern hemisphere with the same brush is so transparent it's a wonder your freetard sheep here still support you. Just because some of these countries are in Europe and there is a court that holds over them, painting the court with the broadbrush and calling them "European" just underminds your cause.

    But what more can you expect from Pirate Mike, the broadbrush terrorism-apologist and his merry band of freetard child-porn producers?

    (You know what? This is actually kinda fun....)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:44pm

    Disaster

    Given that copyright lasts life+ 70 and doesn't require any kind of registration just think of the pandora's box this would open. The Edsger Djikstra and the heirs of the estate of Alan Turing would become very rich indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:50pm

    Reverse Engineering a Dead Concept?

    Seems that the concept of reverse engineering is being slowly strangled. The obvious consequence,less competition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lord Binky, 28 Sep 2011 @ 12:55pm

    And now it's time to expand IP again.

    I vote for common conventions to be patentable, since that is what many "features" are anyways.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 28 Sep 2011 @ 1:01pm

    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?

    I think they should extend this level of copyright protection to movies and music. See how fast it gets revoked once studios discover that they can't make any new movies because all the separate ideas they want to use are copyrighted by someone else. Or that singers can't write any new songs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 1:13pm

    I'm a software developer in the USA for a relatively small company and I doubt our company could survive if we had to worry about a ridiculous law like this. I'd end up wasting half my time researching every single little new feature and if it had been done before or not with a law like this, and then we'd still probably get sued anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lord Binky, 28 Sep 2011 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      You know every reference book that provides code snippets, well I guess those are already have copyright. As for online forums and websites that help provide code or functions? Yeah, I just went through every unclaimed chunk of code I could get my hands on and through it into a few files to copyright.

      But what I really want to say is, If you ever write a program to display "Hello World" or any other text, I want my money.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 3:52pm

      Re:

      Software patents anyone?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 1:26pm

    Letter from 2020

    http://www.wolffit.net/~mark/2020Letter.html

    This was addressed in A Letter from 2020 which I read about a decade ago on Slashdot.
    The actual writing has been a bit of a chore. Word.NET isn't what it used to be. Even Microsoft.NET couldn't afford to patent everything, so whilst I can do Find, there's no Replace anymore.

    The letter is worth reading.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 28 Sep 2011 @ 8:07pm

      Re: Letter from 2020

      This was addressed in A Letter from 2020 which I read about a decade ago on Slashdot.

      You know the really sad part? There isn't a single person in the movie, music or corporate software industries who would see the satire in that letter.

      They'd take the last line as absolute truth.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Ben, 29 Sep 2011 @ 9:08pm

      Re: Letter from 2020

      Holy shit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 1:35pm

    I copyright save.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 1:45pm

    I copyright "copyright"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nick, 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:29pm

    I worked at a local small software company (that got bought out by a large mega corporation that completely screwed everyone at the company except the sell-out owner, but that is another story), and we were unable to implement a specific feature because it was copyrighted by another company. Or patented, or something. Not really sure right now, but I spoke to a developer asking why our software couldn't just resize hard drive partitions to fit the whole drive, and was told we couldn't because Symantec's Ghost had it.

    Anyway, we didn't do this simple feature. Guess we might have gotten sued, and WE would have to prove that we didn't maliciously hack into their servers and copy this simple idea from their code database.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:38pm

    i copyright stupid, this includes stupid people, stupid things and stupidness in general (excluding this idea cause it's GENIUS)

    i'll be richest scumbag in all of the universe!! the stupid detectors are on their way now, so don't be freeloadin' slackers, PAY UP

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Greevar (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:41pm

    Spellcheck

    If this type of litigious tripe is permitted, somebody should be suing Microsoft for implementing spellcheck in their software, because they certainly didn't come up with it first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 4:01pm

      Re: Spellcheck

      Forget spellcheck, both microsoft and apple would be sued until they went bankrupt from all the ideas they've copied.


      As would sony, google, nintendo, EA games, activision blizzard, square enix, motorola, nokia, samsung, valve, every linux vender, ID. You get the idea. :P

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 4:50pm

      Re: Spellcheck

      That makes sense, actually: Internet Explorer doesn't have native spellcheck yet because licensing the spellcheck ability would be too expensive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 6:10pm

        Re: Re: Spellcheck

        You remind me of a thought I had recently. I noticed how many applications requires their own dictionary, and I thought to myself, "How many dictionaries should I have to buy?" I already own several dead tree types. I have a couple from 'free' sources (i.e. LibreOffice). Do I really need to 'buy' another?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          JEDIDIAH, 28 Sep 2011 @ 6:55pm

          Re: Re: Re: Spellcheck

          I attribute this to general NIH syndrome and how most non-Unix operating systems really don't take the idea of reusable software very seriously. Besides, if you could use the system dictionary then that would be one less excuse the company could use to force an upgrade on you.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws.org (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 11:00pm

      Re: Spellcheck

      Actually, if this law would be enforced retroactively there would not be a SINGLE product released by Microsoft ever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:44pm

    When Europeans ask why their jobs are going to India and China it should come as no surprise that people will point to IP laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:51pm

    I remember before software patents when software manufactures were suing over look and feel in their software.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bob V (profile), 28 Sep 2011 @ 2:54pm

    What would happen to the video game industry. We'd still be stuck playing doom (or whichever fps was actually the first tank battle on the atari maybe?). Every FPS game out there is built on that simple concept of game play with improvements and innovations (like jumping) on the core concept

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rob, 29 Sep 2011 @ 5:50pm

    U.S. Copyrights do not protect against independent creation, even of an identical work of authorship, so that's not an issue here. If the EU let's something like this become a copyright violation, they're nuts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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