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Computer Programs Directive

Directive 91/250/EEC
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
Preparative texts
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
Other legislation
Amended by 93/98/EEC
recodified in: 2009/24/EC
Current legislation

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.[1]


  • History 1
  • Implementation 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4][5]

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.[6]

Council Directive 91/250/EEC was formally replaced by Directive 2009/24/EC on May 25, 2009, [7] which consolidated "the various minor amendments the original directive had received over the years".[8]


Implementation of the Directive by Member States
Austria Urheberrechtsgesetznovelle 1993, BGBl. No. 93/1993, p. 1166
Belgium Law of 30.06.1994 (French), Law of 30.06.1994 (Dutch), Moniteur Belge du 17 juillet 1994, p. 19315
Bulgaria unknown
Cyprus unknown
Czech Republic Law No. 121/2000 Coll. of 7 April 2000 on Copyright, Rights Related to Copyright and on the Amendment of Certain Laws
Denmark LOV nr 1010 af 19/12/1992 updated by LBK nr 202 af 27/02/2010
Estonia unknown
Finland Laws Nos. 418/93 and 419/93, Finnish Official Journal of 1993-05-12, p. 415
France /sup> 91-250 du Conseil des communautés européennes en date du 14 mai 1991 concernant la protection juridique des programmes d'ordinateur et modifiant le code de la propriété intellectuelleo<.) n. E. ELoi no</sup> 94-361 du 10 mai 1994 portant mise en oeuvre de la directive (C
Germany Zweites Gesetz zur Änderung des Urheberrechtsgesetzes vom 9. Juni 1993, BGBl I p. 910
Greece Law No. 2121/93, Official Journal A No. 25
Hungary unknown
Ireland European Communities (Legal Protection of Computer Programs) Regulations, 1993 (S.I. No. 26 of 1993)
Italy Decreto Legislativo No. 518 del 29 dicembre 1992
Latvia Autortiesību likums (2000-04-06)
Lithuania Autorių teisių ir gretutinių teisių įstatimas N. VIII-1185 (1999-05-18)
Luxembourg Loi du 24 avril 1995 modifiant la loi du 29 mars 1972 sur le droit d'auteur en ce qui concerne la protection juridique des programmes d'ordinateur, Mémorial, p. 944
Malta Copyright Act, 2000
Netherlands Wet van 07.07.1994, Stb. JS-1994, p. 521
Poland Ustawa z 04.02.1994 o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych, art. 74-77, Dz.U. 1994 nr 24 poz. 83
Portugal Decreto-Lei n. 252/94, de 20 de Outubro de 1994, Diário da República - I Série A, no. 243 de 20 de Outubro de 1994, p. 6374
Romania unknown
Slovakia Copyright Act of 1997-12-05 (No. 383/1997)
Slovenia Zakon o avtorskih in sorodnih pravicah (1995-03-30)
Spain Ley 16/1993, de 23 de diciembre, de incorporación al Derecho español de la Directiva 91/250/CEE, de 14 de mayo, sobre la protección jurídica de programas de ordenador
Sweden Act No. 1687/92
United Kingdom Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992 No. 3233

See also


  1. ^ "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. 
  2. ^ Preamble to Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Jeremy Phillips, Tuesday tiddleywinks, IPKat, 5 May 2009. Consulted on 5 May 2009.

External links

  • 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.
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