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Communications of the ACM

Legally speaking

Copyright Implications of Emulation Programs

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Credit: Andrij Borys Associates, Shutterstock

Thrice has SAS Institute tried to persuade courts that World Programming Ltd. infringed copyright in its widely used statistical analysis program by emulating the SAS program's functionality. WPL designed its directly competing program to emulate the SAS functionality so that people who wrote programs in the SAS Language for various statistical procedures would be able to execute those programs on WPL's platform if they chose to switch from SAS's software to WPL's. SAS's latest appeal of an unfavorable ruling is now pending before the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit (CAFC).

After describing the three SAS v. WPL lawsuits, this column gives examples of emulation programs that have either not encountered or overcome copyright lawsuits. It then explains why there is reason to worry that SAS's latest lawsuit might succeed.


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