Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

Summary: It's kind of ironic that the European Commission, a proponent of the international trade agreement to enforce intellectual property rights, is being slapped with a fine of 12 million euros for infringing on the copyrights of a software company.A European Union court has ruled against the European Commission, the EU's own executive branch, over a years-long case involving the alteration of a language translation software system created by a French company.

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It's kind of ironic that the European Commission, a proponent of the international trade agreement to enforce intellectual property rights, is being slapped with a fine of 12 million euros for infringing on the copyrights of a software company.

A European Union court has ruled against the European Commission, the EU's own executive branch, over a years-long case involving the alteration of a language translation software system created by a French company.

ZDNet UK: Commission must pay 12m euros in copyright case

And as if the fine - nearly $15.8 million - isn't enough, the court ruled that the company could bring another complaint against the commission if it fails to protect the company's copyright in the future. Finally, the court also said that the press release about the judgement is to be considered "a form of non-pecuniary compensation for the non-material damage caused by the harm to Systran’s reputation as a result of the Commission’s unlawful conduct."

At issue was a language translation system that was built by Systran specifically for the EC and managed by Systran from 1997-2002. Later, the EC hired a third-party company to alter, revise and update the system without the consent of Systran, arguing that Systran "had not produced ‘probative documents’ capable of establishing the rights which Systran might claim" and adding that the company had no right to object to the alteration work.

The court, however, disagreed. From the court's press release:

...the Commission acted unlawfully by infringing the general principles common  to the law  of the Member States applicable to copyright and know-how. That wrongful act, which is a sufficiently serious breach of the copyright and know-how held by the Systran group in the Systran Unix version of the Systran software, gives rise to non-contractual liability on the part of the European Union.

Broken down, the EU is being fined 7 million Euros in fees that the EC should have paid to Systran between 2004 and 2010 for permission to alter its intellectual property and another 5 million Euros "as compensation for the effect which the Commission’s conduct might have had on Systran’s turnover in the years 2004 to 2010, and more widely on the development of that company. The court also fined the EC another 1,000 Euros as compensation for non-material damage.

The court said that an appeal, limited to points of law only, may be filed within two months.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Enterprise Software, Legal

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23 comments
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  • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

    See? There's no need for software patents.
    Ronny102
  • Do as I say,....

    not as I do.

    Can we fire a few people in the Commission?
    Economister
  • the commission erred when

    they did not required GPL for the code in the first place. Choosing a proprietary toxic license costs EU dearly.
    Linux Geek
    • GPL is fundamentally evil.

      @Linux Geek

      Nuff said
      Bruizer
      • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

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  • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

    While I think it is great that the EC is getting fined (a little taste of their own overhanded medicine)...I don't get it. I know that as a contractor, I don;t own the work I do for a company...they do. So why would this be any different? Since this was made specifically for them and they didn't just purchase a software package, shouldn't the software then belong to the EC, not Systran?
    owner@...
    • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

      @owner@... I would imagine the ownership is directly related to what the original contracted stated. If the EC had signed a contract with Systran that gave full ownership to them (not to bright being a government organization), then Systran would retain full copyrights to it. I agree with Linux Geek that GPL should have been used, or have the contract state that the copyright belongs to the EC. This is not the first time a blunder has been made by any government organization is acquiring new software tools (on both sides of the pond).
      satellite_boss@...
    • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

      @owner@...
      you neglected to read the article in ZDNetUK that is linked from this article before you commented

      quote
      "The court ruled that EC-Systran Unix bore "substantial similarity, in the core material and certain linguistic routines" to the company's self-developed translation software, called Systran Unix. As a consequence, Systran had a claim on the copyright of EC-Systran Unix, because it contained technologies originally implemented in Systran Unix."
      unquote

      clearly they contracted with the EU to do a specific implementation of their proprietary product - not the same at all as doing a contract development
      Mike.Moller@...
      • Either that...

        @Mike.Moller@...

        The EU contracted Systran to write a translation engine, which Systran chose to base off their already exiting code-base. I wonder how many private organisations/government departments would have considered this factor in determining ownership.

        Following said logic, as a programmer, I can sell you an application evolved from my own pre-existing code, wait for you to make [i]any[/i] modification (aware that you actually believe you own it), then sue you on the basis that it is based upon the fact I own a pre-existing application upon which yours is based.

        I'd say this is a solid example of why the whole software patent system is screwed up! Not that I feel sorry for the EU... just that this entangles the software patent system further
        kaninelupus
    • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

      @owner@...

      Contract was probably SaaS
      brichter
    • But if it ain't on paper

      @owner@... it don't exist!

      Even if the software was written specifically for a given customer, if the contract is not specific about it, it's not the customer's software. I'm sure the EU courts looked at this point.
      Papa_Bill
  • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

    Dear EU and EC:
    Sauce, for the Goose(d)!
    It would, indeed, seem that the oh-so-high-and-mighty, who believed that they could bring down Microsoft, ALSO believed that, because they were "The Government" were above the Law.
    Funny; I believe Cicero was the guy who proved that setting the Law down on paper was what first made dictators and royals back off and realize that the People are the highest Court.
    Go Cicero!
    Pay Up, EC/EU. Take that medicine like People, learn from YOUR mistake (just as Bill did - YES, he had it coming), and STOP thinking like Little Tin Gods.
    Don't LIKE USA products being BETTER than Euro-junk?
    No Problem - just develop BETTER ONES!
    MadYank
    • USA products better??

      @MadYank <br><br>Hardly... just more in our face (as an Aussie, am not biases in EITHER direction on the basis of nationality). In the grand scheme of things, in the case of America, it is a case of quantity over quality... and overall the quality is J.U.N.K!<br><br>Over here "Made in America" has a minute sell-factor when compared to "Made in Germany" or "Made in Italy"; or "Made in Australia". To be perfectly honest, "Made in America" often sits <i>below</i> "Made in China".<br><br>@MadYank<br><br>Your tirade epitomises why the rest of the world is sick and f#cking tired of the lot of you Yanks! The fact that so many of your countries products and developments have succeeded have in all reality had less to do with either quality and ingenuity/originality; rather it has had more to do with economy-of-scale, which has often lead to a strangle-hold on global competition. Great news is... you guys have screwed your own economy and we no longer have to suffer either your methods or your bluster!
      kaninelupus
      • That sure sounded unbiased.

        @kaninelupus

        NOT!!!
        Bruizer
    • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

      @MadYank: The EC is just the body that HELPS introduce legal cases against those that violate EU laws and regulations. The EU means European Union (ie. the member states and people that live there). This case goes to show how fair the EU system is. EC is not EU and EU is not the EC. Also as I remember Bill was found to have violated monopoly regulations in the US but there weren't many people who had the guts to chase after him.
      jsargent
  • they're copywriting &quot;know-how&quot; now. we can't even learn from each other

    without risk of being sued by someone later on?
    this is totally ridiculous!
    Sys*thug is just upset that they weren't contracted to make the changes later on.
    it's not that the EC, also a thug, modified the software to suit them.
    everyone i've worked for does that.
    they were just peeved to not be selected as the change agent.
    what gives them the sole right to be the only person to modify a custom build???
    the courts are still going too far!

    :)
    .
    wessonjoe
  • RE: Oh, the irony. European Commission, an ACTA proponent, fined for copyright infringement

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