Elgar Commentaries series
Edited by Irini A. Stamatoudi and Paul Torremans
Chapter 5: THE SOFTWARE DIRECTIVE
The computer programs Directive was first announced in the Commission White Paper entitled 'Completing the Internal Market' and its substance has been influenced, inter alia, by the results of a comprehensive consultation undertaken in the context of the June 1988 'Green Paper on Copyright and the Challenge of Technology'. Following this exercise, a proposal for a Directive was submitted on 5 January 1989. Although the Commission had taken care to reflect a balance between the interests of right holders, of their competitors and of users of computer programs, the proposal met substantial criticism in Parliament and acted as a starting shot for extensive lobbying that was put in motion, focusing in particular on the (narrow) scope of the exceptions to the broad exclusive rights. The Commission had to introduce an Amended Proposal which paved the way for the formal adoption of the Directive on 14 May 1991. It became the first harmonising Directive among the many more that the Commission would put in place in the field of copyright. This Directive is a good example of a real harmonising Directive because of its precise instructions, leaving the Member States little discretion for deviation. This may be explained by the fact that not all Member States had already enacted an explicit protection scheme for computer programs. On all the matters that are addressed in the Directive fairly uniform legal rules have been put in place throughout the EU.
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