back to article No, your software ideas aren't copyrightable, US judge tells SAS amid its long-running feud with Brit outfit

A US federal district court has ruled SAS cannot copyright the ideas behind its analytics software, rendering a senior judicial row over national sovereignty between the UK and America largely irrelevant. Judge Rodney Gilstrap ruled on October 26 that SAS could not copyright the functionality, as distinct from code, of its …

  1. ecofeco Silver badge

    Too confusing

    Every nation is sovereign in their laws unless specified in treaties.

    Except of course, the U.S. which thinks it's laws are the world's laws.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Too confusing

      Every company will try to get their case heard by the most sympathetic court in the most favourable jurisdiction. Why would they do anything else?

      In this case, it sounds as if the plaintiffs were just sloppy in their preparation. That's not a jurisdiction thing, it's a we've-already-spent-$megabucks-on-this-nonsense thing.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Too confusing

        "That's not a jurisdiction thing"

        Trying to enforce the judgement from the court where you won in a jurisdiction where you lost is a jurisdiction thing and not one that goes down well in that second jurisdiction..

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    I wonder how this will affect Oracle vs Google?

    and their spat over Java.

    If software is not copyrightable then does not Oravle's case fall flat on its face?

    Perhaps, perhaps not.

    Interesting times.

    1. needmorehare

      Re: I wonder how this will affect Oracle vs Google?

      Reverse engineering which doesn't involve looking at the original source code is legal in the UK because software functionality is not subject to copyright. This means that the code itself is subject to copyright but not what the code does to your computer when you run it. The US seems to think differently about this. Thankfully, what the US thinks doesn't matter. The Google vs. Oracle case is different as they lifted source code.

      Here's a short, summarised version of what our laws say regarding decompilation and/or reverse engineering:

      It is not an infringement of copyright for a lawful user of a copy of a computer program expressed in a low level language—to convert it into a version expressed in a higher level language, or incidentally in the course of so converting the program, to copy it,(that is, to “decompile” it). Where an act is permitted under this section, it is irrelevant whether or not there exists any term or condition in an agreement which purports to prohibit or restrict the act.

      See https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/48/section/50B for more info.

      Unlike the US, we can back up software we're legitimately allowed to use, we can alter our execution environment as we please (provided we don't alter the software itself, unless otherwise permitted to do so) and we're allowed to reverse engineer it to make new software as long as we're not looking at the source code or supplying decompiled code to people who don't have legit rights to use the software themselves. So much for the "land of the free" and its promotion of freedom...

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: I wonder how this will affect Oracle vs Google?

        Oracle case is different as they lifted source code.

        Except they didn't. Google copied the API function names, not the code behind them.

    2. jason_derp

      Re: I wonder how this will affect Oracle vs Google?

      "If software is not copyrightable"

      That seems like a very reductionist and dishonest portrayal of the actual verdict.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how this will affect Oracle vs Google?

      Allowing for the fact that this was functionality of the software rather than the software itself, I was wondering that. However the judge specifically stated that it applied to this particular case; IOW he's saying this doesn't constitute a precedent.

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: I wonder how this will affect Oracle vs Google?

      Software functionality is not copyrightable. You might be able to get a patent on it.

  3. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff
    Holmes

    Gilstrap Made this Ruling?

    This guy is the most patent and copyright troll friendly judge in the federal judiciary, plaintiffs seek him out, and he presides over 1/4 of the patent cases in the US, and he ruled against the assertion of copyright?

    That is odd.

    1. UCAP Silver badge

      Re: Gilstrap Made this Ruling?

      He's probably saving himself the embarrassment of making a ruling in favour of SAS, only to see it ignored by the UK courts. Has happened before with other judges, and they don't like it (its seen as a big black mark against them).

      Either that or SAS's legal eagles submitted such idiot arguments that they failed to get over Gilstrap's normally low bar.

      1. ExampleOne

        Re: Gilstrap Made this Ruling?

        Or it could even be "You lost three times already. Now it's four. Please go away."

      2. NetBlackOps

        Re: Gilstrap Made this Ruling?

        Worse, making it to the Supreme Court where it will get shot down, just like they did to the CAFC.

  4. TheProf
    Joke

    SAS cannot copyright the ideas

    Quite right too.

    I'm sure lot of other military departments wear balaclavas and chuck grenades through embassy windows.

    1. UCAP Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: SAS cannot copyright the ideas

      No, you are clearly think of Oracle

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: SAS cannot copyright the ideas

      SAS should've patented strapping five Vickers gas operated machine guns to a jeep. That's a timeless design.

      1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

        Re: SAS cannot copyright the ideas

        Did'nt the germans do that first with 4 MG34 machine guns on a half track?

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