Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The evolution of computer technology has launched questions regarding the proper scope of protection for computer software. The European Community (EC) recently adopted a Council Directive on the Legal Protection of Computer Programs (the Directive), which protects computer software under the copyright paradigm. The path to final adoption of the Directive, however, was marked by debates between diametrically opposed lobbying groups regarding the propriety of a reverse engineering exception to the exclusive right of reproduction. This Note discusses the lobbying efforts that led to a compromise and analyzes the Directive through a comparison to United States law. Next, the Note analyzes a "look and feel" infringement suit under the Directive in an attempt to discover current trends in the international copyright protection of computer software. The Note concludes that the Directive is a laudable step toward legitimizing the process of reverse engineering and promoting international standards of protection. Nonetheless, the author concludes that the decompilation exception found in the Directive is overly limited by the requirement that decompilation be indispensible to interoperability. The author argues that a broader reverse engineering right to discover underlying ideas would have better promoted the EC computer industry's desire to break into the international software market.