Cour de cassation: in France, authorship rights belong to individuals


©A corporation cannot have authorship of software, according to the judgment of the Cour de Cassation rendered on January 15, 2015 (Cass. Civ. 1, January 15, 2015, No. 13-23566). In this case, a computer engineer and a professor of medicine together founded a company editing cephalometric analysis software. Differences emerged regarding the ownership of the rights arising from the creation of the software and from its later developments.

The Professor of Medicine became the majority manager of the aforesaid company which filed suit against two companies managed by the engineer, petitioning the Court to declare that the two software programs were collective works. The Professor also wished it to be recognized that the authorship rights belonged solely to the company.

 The Cour d’Appel of Rennes held that the company which was originally incorporated by the two protagonists is the sole author, since the development of the software was the result of the work of its partners (CA Rennes, May 28, 2013, No. 11/05770).

Yet, the Cour de Cassation opined that a corporation cannot hold authorship rights. Indeed, Article L113-1 of the French Intellectual Property Code provides that “authorship belongs, unless proven otherwise, to the person or persons under whose name the work has been disclosed.” Accordingly, the Cour de Cassation held that it can only cover one or several individual(s) and quashed the decision of the Cour d’Appel of Rennes. The reasoning behind this judgment is crucial from a legal point of view: the corporation cannot be the author of the software, but it is vested with [its] copyright rights.