Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc.

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Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc.
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.svg
Court United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Full case name Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc.
Argued November 29, 1982
Decided April 11, 1983
Citation(s) 704 F.2d 1009
Case history
Prior action(s) 547 F. Supp. 999 (N.D. Ill. 1982)
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Walter J. Cummings Jr., Richard Posner, Luther Merritt Swygert
Case opinions
Majority Cummings, joined by a unanimous court

Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 704 F.2d 1009 (7th Cir. 1983), is a court case in which the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that aspects of a video arcade game were copyrightable even though the images that appeared on the screen were transient.[1] The case was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.[2]

Facts[edit]

The plaintiff, Midway Manufacturing sued defendant Artic International, Inc. for allegedly infringing copyrights on two of its video arcade games, Pac-Man and Galaxian. Artic was accused of infringing for sale of a "speed-up kit", consisting of a separate set of ROM chips,[3] that would modify the Galaxian game. Midway also challenged Artic for producing the circuit board for a video game called "Puckman." Artic's defense was that Midway's video games were not "fixed in any tangible medium of expression," as required for copyright protection under U.S. law.[4] Specifically, Artic claimed that the ROM chips in the Midway games never held pictures in any fixed medium, but rather contained instructions to generate pictures that were not themselves fixed. Additionally, Artic pointed to legislative history wherein a Committee Report[5] said that "evanescent or transient reproductions . . . shown electronically on [a screen] or captured momentarily in the 'memory' of a computer" were not protected under the definition of "fixation" as required for copyrightability.

District Court[edit]

District Judge Bernard Decker ruled against Artic, noting that the law does not require work to be written down in the exact way that it is perceived by the human eye. The judge was persuaded by Midway's demonstrations, showing that the images in the games' demo ("attract") modes repeated identically every time the games were turned on. The games also repeated in similar ways during subsequent plays. The court likewise rejected Artic's legislative history argument, finding that the discussion only meant to exclude images on TV or computer screens like live broadcasts that were not recorded or fixed elsewhere (e.g., on a memory chip or videotape) such that they could be reproduced.

The court granted Midway's motion for preliminary injunction.

Importance of the case[edit]

This case illustrates a challenge for understanding the concept of "fixation" in copyright law.

After Midway, the U.S. Copyright Office stopped allowing videogame manufacturers to register the display as an "audiovisual work" and the computer program as a "literary work." Now the registrant must choose which of the two aspects of the game are most prominent and only file as one type of work.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 547 F. Supp. 999 (N.D. Ill. 1982).
  2. ^ Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 704 F.2d 1009 (7th Cir. 1983).
  3. ^ Barbara B. Caretto, Copyright Infringement of Video Games: When the Chips Are Down, 5 Loy. L.A. Ent. L. Rev. 132 (1985).
  4. ^ 17 U.S.C. § 102(a).
  5. ^ H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 53
  6. ^ Craig Joyce et al., Copyright Law 77 (7th ed. 2006). See also Copyright Office Notice of Registration Decision, Docket No. 87-4, 53 Fed. Reg. 21817, June 10, 1988.