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In the Copyright Act, the term "computer program" refers to the presentation of a data processing function as a sequence of commands that the computer's central processing unit retrieves from the operating memory which are then executed [1]. Thus, "computer program" refers to a set of commands that make the computer perform a certain task. This definition of a computer program also includes non-functioning and defective computer programs, because it cannot be presumed that a set of command always performs the desired task.

In certain cases, the computer program's preparatory design material can also be considered to constitute a computer program. For example, Directive 2009/24/EC on the legal protection of computer programs also extends protection to the preparatory material leading to the development of the computer program [2]. This refers to preparatory design work leading to the development of the computer program provided that the nature of the preparatory work is such that the computer program can result from it at a later stage. This can be interpreted to include, among other things, flow charts, detailed instructions, program listings and menu layouts. It should be noted that ideas cannot be protected as a computer program's preparatory material and thus remain available for others to exploit. In other words, a computer program's preparatory material should not be copied though anyone can exploit the ideas it contains.

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) do not expressly cite computer programs' preparatory material as protected material. However, computer programs' preparatory material can be subject to international protection as some other work [3], [4].

Notes and References

[1] KM 1987:8

[2] Directive 2009/24/EC

[3] World Intellectual Property Organization's Copyright Treaty (WCT)

[4] TRIPS agreement