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Re: European Directive on Copyright Law (91/EC/250) wrt open source

MJ Ray wrote:
> On 2004-05-02 13:07:38 +0100 Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton 
> <lkcl@lkcl.net> wrote:
> >where such libraries could be construed to have "interfaces", and
> >where the GPL is used to force a monopoly position, then any company
> GPL cannot force a monopoly (in the meaning of EU Competition Law), 
> can it? Monopolies are dominant businesses, not dominant literary 
> works. I'm sure we've had EU-GPL-FUD because people misunderstood that 
> before.

A dominant market player could use the GPL in an abusive way.
For example, consider Microsoft licensing its standard libraries
under GPL.

> >or open source project with an incompatible license is entitled to
> >request a compatible license and if they do not receive one they
> >are entitled to treat the "interface" - i.e. the header files and
> >effectively the entire library - as not being subject to copyright
> >law!
> Can you tell me what part of the directive actually says that, or 
> which you are basing this conclusion on, please? 

Article 2: Protection in accordance with this Directive shall apply
to the expression in any form of a computer program. Ideas and
principles which underlie any element of a computer program,
including those which underlie its interfaces, are not protected by
copyright under this Directive.

And the following recital: "only the expression of a
computer program is protected and [] ideas and principles which
underlie any element of a program, including those which underlie its
interfaces, are not protected by copyright". This is commonly
interpreted as that you can't have a copyright on an interface as

Because header files mainly reflect the interfaces (declarations,
constants, data structures etc) it follows that there's only a very
weak copyright on header files. About the only thing you may be able
to do is prevent verbatim copying of the file as a whole. In US
terms, the expression in the header file is very close to the
abstract idea.

However, this has nothing to do with anticompetitive behavior.
A header file either is or is not protected by copyright. What
the copyright holder does with the file does not make a difference.
Also, a Directive isn't law. It has to be turned into national law
in the various EC states first, and in practice that often results
in slightly different laws. So there is no telling what may happen
if someone actually tries to argue this in court.

Interesting related article at Advogato:


Arnoud Engelfriet, Dutch patent attorney - Speaking only for myself
Patents, copyright and IPR explained for techies: http://www.iusmentis.com/

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