At the risk of starting a long controversy (or maybe it's been mentioned
before, I dunno) I'd like to ask what other people think about ATARI's
policy of prosecuting individuals or firms that sell software games which
resemble their products. We are not dealing with software piracy, in the
strict sense. Rather, their intent, if I understand it (and I am very willing
to be corrected on this) is to suppress the distribution of "look-alike"
games which are completely "original" pieces of software, sharing no code
with the ATARI version, but, of course, share a similar appearance or
I bring this up to this news group, since "pacman" is now completely
"owned" by ATARI in the US. Where do we stand? I have to admit that
I was really flabbergasted when I read ATARI's announcements in major
newspapers of their intentions, and I don't feel very sympathetic.
It's very much a Goliath vs David thing. Can you imagine what furor
there would be if AT&T tried to carry out a similar policy towards
"UNIX-like" systems? How can they do this? Is there any precedent
for their behavior?
I have been told that Atari's attempts to fight copiers have involved
copyrighting the screen image, as well as the pictures of the monsters
and the pacman. In this way if somebody has a pacman program that draws
something like a pacman maze or a creature that looks like a pacman, they
say - Hey, he stole our copyrighted design of a screen. This is quite
Protecting an idea is another study. The mechanism for that is the patent, and
such things are almost never given for software.
...copyrighting the screen image doesn't seem fair. I have worked
for some time in the typesetting industry, where the copyright laws
gave very little protection from copies of typeface designs. It turns
out that the typeface design itself was not 'copyrightable,' only the
name of the typeface design. Consequently, other companies would
copy the typeface design and give it a different name. We couldn't
touch them. Any attempt by Atari to circumvent that ruling without
asking for revision of the copyright laws should be bound to failure.
As to expecting any revision, many of you may recall that many major
changes to the copyright laws were made a few years ago. The issue
above was under consideration, but was rejected (the company I
was working for was lobbying for a change at the time).
Now here's another response, which was somehow cut off from the other responses: https://groups.googl...man/KoX7BrNAo2A
Actually, in March 1981, the U.S. Supreme court held
that virtually all software and firmware inventions
are patentable (!) Also, algorithms can be patented.
And another one, which mentions K.C. Munchin specifically: https://groups.googl...man/KlnxIB2HL5s
I want to add my feelings to a subject brought up a couple of days ago
about ATARI's attitude toward ODYSSEY's K.C. Munchkins cartridge. It's
true that ATARI bought the American rights to "homevideo" versions of
pacman, but as was pointed out, ODYSSEY doesn't call their game Pacman
and the game is slightly different. As an ODYSSEY II owner, I have a
slightly biased view of the subject. Even so, I think that after
ATARI saw how successful K.C. Munchkins was, they got a little scared.
I know I would be if I were in their shoes. After playing both versions
of the game, I can say that the ODYSSEY version is a whole lot more fun
to play. Maybe the scoring, etc, is not the same as Pacman but it was
never intended to be. I am sure it helped to sell many ODYSSEY II games
while it was available. It's just a shame that something couldn't be
resolved without bring the judicial system into it, but that seems to
be standard operating practice anymore. Too bad...