[Phpwm] (fwd) [SB] Court of appeals decision on software copyright

David Goodwin david at codepoets.co.uk
Wed Mar 21 20:37:32 GMT 2007

<forwarded message from SB Lug>
From: Stephen Booth <stephenbooth.uk at xxxxx.com> (nee Google's mail)
To: Birmingham Linux User Group <sb at mailman.lug.org.uk>,
Subject: [SB] Court of appeals decision on software copyright

Thought this might interest some people on the list.  What it seems to
boil down to is that, so long as you don't actually reuse someone's
propietry code, it is not a breach of copyright to create software
that performs the same functions and looks the same.

As the last paragraph indicates this should kill off attempts to
copyright underlying algorithms or the look and feel of packages.

Computer software copyright – new Court of Appeal decision

The recent Court of Appeal judgment in Nova Productions v Mazooma
Games & Ors (14 March 2007) will be of immense interest and potential
concern to software developers and the owners of copyright in computer
programs.  In its judgment, the Court of Appeal confirmed that:

  1. it is not an infringement of copyright to make a computer
program which emulates another program (including its look and feel)
but which does not copy the other program's code or graphics;
  2. ideas which underlie computer programs are not protected by copyright; 
  3. no additional copyright protection, over and above protection as
individual graphic works, is given to a series of images displayed in
a computer program.

The judgment was handed down by three Court of Appeal judges, with the
main judgment being given by Jacob LJ.  The appeal was brought against
a first instance decision of the High Court which had decided that
copyright in an arcade game, based on the game of pool, was not
infringed by two competing arcade games, also based on the game of
pool.  Although the two allegedly infringing games were "inspired by"
the first game, and incorporated some (but not many) similar elements,
both the High Court and the Court of Appeal held that there was no
copyright infringement.

The Court of Appeal also tacitly approved the High Court decision in
Navitaire v easyJet (2004), which reached the same conclusions in
relation to software copyright.  At the time it was made, the
Navitaire judgment was considered to signal a death knell for any
arguments that copyright could subsist in ideas underlying computer
software or in the overall look and feel of software.

David Goodwin 

[ david at codepoets dot co dot uk ]
[ http://www.codepoets.co.uk       ]

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