Posts made in July, 2012

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Cloning Video Games is Copyright Infringement: You Can’t Just Copy Tetris 0

Cloning Video Games is Copyright Infringement: You Can’t Just Copy Tetris

Posted by on Jul 10, 2012 in Computer Law, Copyright

On May 30, 2012, a Federal District Court in New Jersey granted summary judgment to Tetris in an infringement case against Xio Interactive, Inc. for their iPhone game “Mino.” In Tetris Holding, LLC v. Xio Interactive, Inc., the judge ruled that Xio infringed upon Tetris’ copyright and trade dress. The decision is an important gain for game developers, who are often offered little protection against infringement by game studios who produce clones of popular games for profit. Many game developers have trouble protecting their intellectual property rights against companies who create clone games to cash in on successful designs. Clones copy the look, feel, and mechanics of a popular game for a profit, but, until recently, the original developers had trouble proving these clones crossed the line into copyright infringement. Often, developers like Xio successfully argued that they copied only functional elements of the game, such as the underlying rules or theme, and not that game’s particular expression of them. The New Jersey court ruled for Tetris, however, holding that Xio’s clone copied various parts of “Tetris” that may have been acceptable individually, but, taken together, constituted infringement. While the holding is well argued, the court may also have ruled for Tetris after Xio openly admitted to downloading Tetris’...

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Copyright Royalty Board Ruled Unconstitutional

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Copyright

On July 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Copyright Royalty Board violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. The Copyright Royalty Board is a board of three judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress to set the rates paid for copyright licenses. Since the market for copyright licenses can be very unique, the Board balances a variety of considerations to ensure that licensing prices remain fair. The Appointments Clause of the Constitution requires that “principal officers” be appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Intercollegiate Broadcasting System, Inc. argued that the Judges of the Board exercised power as principal officers without being appointed constitutionally. The court agreed that the judges could be considered principal officers, but solved any constitutional issues by eliminating limitations on the Judges’ removal. If the Librarian of Congress can remove the Judges at will, then the Judges of the Board can be considered inferior officers and avoid violating the Appointments Clause. While the Librarian of Congress oversees the Copyright Royalty Board to a degree, the Board enjoys a great deal of independence. The Librarian can only approve their procedural regulations, issue their ethical rules, and oversee logistics. Also, the librarian can...

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Tacit Consent to E-mail Snooping

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 in Computer Law

Thanks to a New Jersey court ruling, if you’re one of the many people who check their personal email at work, you might be concerned. Forgetting to log off a public computer could be even more stressful after a jury found that failing to log off constituted tacit authorization to snoop around. The case, Marcus v. Rogers, included excerpts from the emails in question. On June 28, a New Jersey Appellate Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling in a digital snooping case in an unpublished opinion. The court found no error in a trial judge’s refusal to grant summary judgment for the plaintiffs based on the evidence presented throughout the trial. The defendant, a teacher, sat down in the computer lab of the school to check his email before work. When he put down his drink on the desk between two computers, he woke up the inactive computer next to him and revealed another teacher’s private email. After noticing some of the messages in the Yahoo inbox mentioned him, the defendant read and printed the emails. He then confronted the plaintiffs with the emails. The plaintiffs filed a claim under N.J.S.A. 2A:156A-27, which prohibits unauthorized access of computer files or emails. At several points during the trial, the plaintiffs...

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What Can I Copyright? (Not Yoga Poses)

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 in Copyright

You might wonder “What can I copyright?” There are several restrictions on individual works, but copyright protections for compilations of multiple individual works have been controversial, even among courts and agencies that regularly deal with copyright law and policy. Compilations have always been considered copyrightable, but recently, the requirements for a compilation to be copyrightable have been under question. Effective June 22, 2012, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a statement of policy clarifying copyrightable compilations. While it also clarifies the wider policy of the U.S. Copyright Office pertaining to compilations, the statement specifically addresses the controversy over whether sequences of exercises, such as yoga poses, are copyrightable. The statement by the Copyright Office was issued as a result of pending litigation in a California District Court over the use of a company’s yoga methods by former instructors. The lawyers for the former instructors pointed to a previous statement by the office that yoga routines were ineligible for copyright, and the office decided to issue a complete and detailed statement of their policy toward compilations, such as yoga pose routines. Compilations have been recognized as copyrightable in the past, but the U.S. Copyright Office issued the current policy statement to clarify a number of previous theories on compilation copyrights. The...

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Personal Right to Copyright Protection Under the Constitution

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 in Copyright

While the current Supreme Court term will undoubtedly be remembered for the recent ruling on the Affordable Care Act, the court also issued an important ruling on Congress’ ability to reissue copyright protections for works currently in the public domain. The case, Golan v. Holder (132 S.Ct. 873), was decided in January and offers copyrights to previously unprotected foreign works. The dissent expressed concerns about the use of public domain works online and the spread of public domain knowledge across the world. The Supreme Court’s ruling comes as a result of efforts to synchronize U.S. copyright law with a variety of international laws and agreements. In 1994, the U.S. passed a federal law to implement a global trade agreement, the Uruguay Round Agreement. The court ruled 6-2 against a constitutional challenge of the law with Justice Elena Kagan not taking part. The challenge was based largely on an argument that placing public domain works back under protection violates the first amendment free-speech rights of individuals who used the work when it was unprotected in the public domain. The public domain includes works like books, songs, movies, and art that are no longer protected under intellectual property laws and are available for use without permission. Generally, works enter the public...

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