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Abstract

On June 30, 1994, Belgium became the first nation in Europe that incorporated Directive 91/250/EEC into a specific law, the "Software Act." Unlike many other countries that deal with copyright issues involving software, Belgium enacted the Software Act to satisfy the practical and specific need to protect software. In this introductory article on Belgium’s protection of software, the author discusses the main provisions of the Software Act while making reference to the Copyright Act since computer programs are also protectable through patent, trademark or unfair competition laws. In furthering its commitment under the Berne Convention, Belgium enacted the Software Act to grant copyright protection to computer programs. That protection covers all computer program source code, object code and mediums of use, including ROM, user manuals and other computer system descriptions. The Act also defines ownership rights in different settings while creating fair use and other exceptions. In terms of remedies, the Act provides both civil and criminal remedies for infringements. In addition to the Software Act, Belgium’s patent, trademark and semiconductor topographies acts also protect software and computer programs. Of course, the author realizes that with the rapid development in the software industry, the new Act may not always be the source for answers.