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Directive 91/250/EEC
European Union directive
TitleDirective on the legal protection of computer programs
Made byCouncil of the European Union
Made underArt. 100a
Journal referenceL122, 1991-05-17, pp. 9–13
Date made14 May 1991
Came into force17 May 1991
Implementation date1 January 1993//25 May 2009
Preparative texts
Commission proposalC91, 1989-04-12, p. 4
C320, 1990-12-20, p. 22
EESC opinionC329, 1989-12-30, p. 4
EP opinionC231, 1990-09-17, p. 78
Other legislation
Amended by93/98/EEC
Replaced byDirective 2009/24/EC on the legal protection of computer programs
Current legislation

The European Union Computer Programs Directive controls the legal protection of computer programs under the copyright law of the European Union. It was issued under the internal market provisions of the Treaty of Rome. The most recent version is Directive 2009/24/EC.[1]


In Europe, the need to foster the computer software industry brought attention to the lack of adequate harmonisation 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 harmonisation 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 authorise (Art 4):

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 legal owner 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 it 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 1993 Copyright Duration Directive (superseded but confirmed by the 2006 Copyright Term Directive).[6]

Council Directive 91/250/EEC was formally replaced by Directive 2009/24/EC on 25 May 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 Austria Urheberrechtsgesetznovelle 1993, BGBl. No. 93/1993, p. 1166
Belgium Belgium Law of 30.06.1994 (French), Law of 30.06.1994 (Flemish), Moniteur Belge du 17 juillet 1994, p. 19315
Bulgaria Bulgaria unknown
Cyprus Cyprus unknown
Czech Republic 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 Denmark LOV nr 1010 af 19/12/1992 updated by LBK nr 1144 af 23/10/2014
Estonia Estonia unknown
Finland Finland Laws Nos. 418/93 and 419/93, Finnish Official Journal of 1993-05-12, p. 415
France France Loi no 94–361 du 10 mai 1994 portant mise en oeuvre de la directive (C. E. E.) no 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 intellectuelle
Germany Germany Zweites Gesetz zur Änderung des Urheberrechtsgesetzes vom 9. Juni 1993, BGBl I p. 910
Greece Greece Law No. 2121/93, Official Journal A No. 25
Hungary Hungary unknown
Republic of Ireland Ireland European Communities (Legal Protection of Computer Programs) Regulations, 1993 (S.I. No. 26 of 1993)
Italy Italy Decreto Legislativo No. 518 del 29 dicembre 1992
Latvia Latvia Autortiesību likums (2000-04-06)
Lithuania Lithuania Autorių teisių ir gretutinių teisių įstatimas N. VIII-1185 (1999-05-18)
Luxembourg Luxembourg Loi du 18 avril 2001 sur les droits d'auteur, les droits voisins et les bases de données. Section 7 – Les programmes d'ordinateur
Malta Malta Copyright Act, 2000
Netherlands Netherlands Wet van 07.07.1994, Stb. JS-1994, p. 521
Poland Poland Ustawa z 4 lutego 1994 o prawie autorskim i prawach pokrewnych, art. 74–77, Dz.U. 1994 nr 24 poz. 83
Portugal 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 Romania Law No.8/1996 updated November 2014, state authority: Romanian Copyright Office, see also Intellectual property in Romania
Slovakia Slovakia Copyright Act of 1997-12-05 (No. 383/1997)
Slovenia Slovenia Zakon o avtorskih in sorodnih pravicah (1995-03-30)
Spain 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 Sweden Act No. 1687/92
United Kingdom 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". Publications Office of the European Union.
  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). 48. Louisville, Kentucky: University of Louisville Law Review: 877–911, page 878. Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 June 2010. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  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 May 2009.
  8. ^ Jeremy Phillips, Tuesday tiddleywinks, IPKat, 5 May 2009. Consulted on 5 May 2009.