CaseSnappy Blog

Decoding Judgements: Copyright for Software? SAS v World Programming

5 April 2024 | CaseSnappy Team

A keyboard and two screens displaying lines of code.


Hello CaseSnappy community! Our Decoding Judgements series powers on with an exploration into the world of software programming and copyright law. Today, we dissect the intricate details around SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 1482, a landmark case that unearthed deep questions about whether software functionality constitutes protected expression. Buckle up, and let's delve into the digital realm!

Computing Conflict: The Case Facts

SAS Institute, creators of the sophisticated SAS System, a suite of analytical software programs, found themselves at odds with World Programming Ltd (WPL). WPL developed a rival software called WPS, which emulated SAS System functionalities using the SAS Manuals as a basis. Feeling threatened, the SAS Institute accused WPL of copyright infringement and breach of contract in the creation of WPS and its accompanying documentation.

Software Tariff: The Legal Issues

Here's the crux: SAS Institute asserted that WPL had infringed copyright and breached contract terms by going beyond their permitted use of the SAS Manuals and SAS Learning Edition. However, WPL disputed this, claiming that WPS was devised from functionalities mentioned in the SAS Manuals rather than any protected expression within them.

Decoding Disputes: Decision Judgement

The Court sided with WPL, ruling that creating WPS didn't infringe on copyright as functionalities of a computer program do not count as forms of protected expression. Also, WPL's use of the Learning Edition for study and testing didn't breach the licence terms.

Key quotes from Lord Justice Lewison include: 'The functionality of a computer program is, quite simply, not a form of expression at all' and '...if the judge was right about the meaning of 'non-production' purposes, then that contractual restriction is invalid to the extent that it prohibits the observation, study or testing of the functioning of the program in order to determine the ideas and principles underlying it.'

CaseSnappy: Breaking Down Legal Complexities

This case highlighted critical questions about the copyright status of software functionality and how this intersects with the contract terms of software usage. Through the Decoding Judgements series, CaseSnappy endeavours to demystify such legal debates, making them accessible to curious minds of all backgrounds.

Stay tuned for our next chapter in the Decoding Judgements series! Register for CaseSnappy for free today and turbocharge your grasp of the law.

Get started
By using CaseSnappy, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyse site usage and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.