WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?
The UK Court of Appeal recently decided a case involving copyright infringement and video games. Nova Productions Limited had created a computer pool game called "Pocket Money", and claimed that games created by two other companies -- "Jackpot Pool" by Mazooma Games Limited and "Trick Shot" by Bell Fruit Games Limited -- infringed its copyright.
The trial court found that there was no copyright infringement, and the Court of Appeal upheld that finding.
The basis for the decision was the key principle that copyright protects expression, not ideas. The games had some similar elements -- after all, they were all computer pool games -- but there was no evidence that any substantial part of "Pocket Money" was copied in the defendants' games. As the court said, "what was found to have inspired some aspects of the defendants' game is just too general to amount to a substantial part of the claimant's game".
The claimant's barrister argued that this approach meant that there is no effective protection for computer games if the rules of the game but not its graphics can be copied. The court did not accept this argument -- to protect such general ideas as the claimant was relying on would make copyright law an "instrument of oppression" rather than an "incentive for creation". Ideas themselves cannot be protected by copyright.
Coverage here: http://tinyurl.com/2bzvoe (Out-Law.com)
Decision here: http://tinyurl.com/2joscf