Software is protected by and under the Code of Intellectual and Artistic Works Law No. 5486, dated December 5, 1951(FSEK- Fikir ve Sanat Eserleri Kanunu, or the “Law”), in Turkey, as a Scientific Work. Neither a mere idea, nor an expression is protected under FSEK. However, expression of an idea is subject to a copyright protection. In this article we will address some vital components of software and how these components are protected under the Law. In this regard, interfaces, algorithms, control flow and codes are addressed below.
Interfaces are the connection between the software and the user. They are carrying the command of user to software and the reaction of software to the user, in terms that both can understand. In that context, identifying them as an expression of an idea would be a long shot and according to FSEK, interfaces don’t benefit from protection of copyright. Nevertheless, interfaces are substantial to a software, because they determine success or failure of such software. Software with user-friendly interfaces are high in demand. As a natural consequence, software programmers use basic but attention-grabbing interface components such as visuals and audios to lure more users. Such audiovisual elements used by programmers may be a subject of a copyright, if their audio-visuality dominates, their functionality. Thus, interfaces can’t be a subject of a copyright as a Work of Science, related to their lack of expression of an idea, but visuals and audios which are used at the interface may be a subject of Copyright as a work of art or work of music according to Law.
Algorithms are tools that are used for problem solving operations. In other words, they are basic ideas, which solve basic problems, and eventually constitute greater idea. Assignment of Algorithms is selecting between limited numbers of choices. According to FSEK, selecting from limited numbers, is not a unique expression. On the other hand, algorithms carry the essence of software, and combination of such algorithms leads to proper and functioning software. At the first glance, as a carrier of raw idea, algorithms may seem like they are protected by a copyright. But in accordance with FSEK, contrast with that argument, main purpose of a copyright to protect the unique expression of an idea which Algorithms don’t possess. Consequently, algorithms can’t be protected by a copyright, since they are not a unique expression of an idea.
One of the very first steps of programming is making a project which is called a control flow. They modally or graphically present algorithms, and every algorithm has a specified place within the control flow. They determine the sequence between constitutional parts, especially algorithms. Consequently, they coordinate basic ideas and carry unique mark of their programmer. Also, projects are being protected by Law as a Literature Work, if control flows fulfill the other conditions specified in the Law. In short, when it comes to control flows, they are being protected by a copyright as both Scientific Work and Literature Work.
Codes are like notes in a music work, or words in a book. At this stage of programming, ideas are detailed into expressions. Coding process consist of two different sections; first, the programmer writes the codes with a language he/she can understand, which is eventually turn into source code. Then, they converted into object code. Because, computers are unable to understand the language used by the programmers. Source Codes need to be translated into Object Code in order to be understood by computers. Also, this process helps programmers to keep their code private. In comparison to Source Codes, Object Codes can’t be understood easily by the people who are accustomed to software developing. From the scientific perspective, these codes are close enough to compare with a complete software, even in some cases object codes can be immediately executable. More importantly they express a unique idea of the programmer. As such, they are protected by copyright protection in accordance with FSEK.
Among multiple choices to protect software from infringements, copyright is fastest protection. Since, fastest doesn’t mean tightest in terms of law, copyright protection doesn’t cover the software with all aspects. To prevent material damage, developers should be aware of unprotected sides of their software.