Copying of computer software for preservation purposes

Subject: Copying of computer software for preservation purposes
From: Jakob Harnesk (
Date: ke 20 touko  1998 - 12:50:10 EEST

[This message is cross-posted to ecup-list and EPIC-LST]

Dear ecup-listers,

I have some questions regarding the possibilities of copying computer
program for _preservation_ purposes in the EU countries.


The Council Directive 91/250/EEC from 1991 on the legal protection of
computer programs, states that the rightholder has the exclusive right to
authorize any reproduction of a computer program. The only exceptions
stated are for back-up copies and such copies that are necessary to make in
order to use the program.

The Directive is implemented in the the Swedish Copyright Law
(, which, in the article on
library exceptions, states that:

[Article 16.] Those archives and libraries which are mentioned in the third
and fourth paragraphs may make copies of works, with the exception of
computer programs,
1. for purposes of preservation, completion or research,

This means that computer program are excepted from the "library exception"
in the Swedish law.

Of course, this causes problems when it comes to the possibilities of
preserving digital material. As you all know, preserving digital material
means copying and/or migration into future formats and technical

In many cases not only the "information itself" but also the underlying
software must be copied and migrated in order to be viewed, read, or
listened to later on. For a growing no of documents, it is more or less
impossible to distinguish between the content and the software.

But if copying a computer program is forbidden, even for preservation
purposes, how can we preserve these documents?

I would like to hear about the situation in the other EU countries. Is this
kind of reproduction forbidden everywhere? Or have you treated the
Directive differently?

The final (possibly provocative) question is: if we are not allowed to do
this kind of copying, shall we then forget about preservation of digital

Best regards
Jakob H

Jakob Harnesk
Secretary of the Commission on Review of the Swedish Legal Deposit
Kungl. biblioteket/BIBSAM, Box 5039, S-102 41 Stockholm, Sweden
Tel: +46 8 463 42 70; Fax: +46 8 463 42 74

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