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THIS CASEBOOK contains a selection of U. S. Court of Appeals decisions that analyze and discuss issues surrounding copyright in software and computer code.
It is well established that copyright protection can extend to both literal and non-literal elements of a computer program. See Altai, 982 F.2d at 702. The literal elements of a computer program are the source code and object code. See Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Phoenix Control Sys., Inc., 886 F.2d 1173, 1175 (9th Cir. 1989). Courts have defined source code as "the spelled-out program commands that humans can read." Lexmark Int'l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., 387 F.3d 522, 533 (6th Cir.2004). Object code refers to "the binary language comprised of zeros and ones through which the computer directly receives its instructions." Altai, 982 F.2d at 698. Both source and object code "are consistently held protected by a copyright on the program." Johnson Controls, 886 F.2d at 1175; see also Altai, 982 F.2d at 702 ("It is now well settled that the literal elements of computer programs, i.e., their source and object codes, are the subject of copyright protection."). Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc., 750 F. 3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2014)