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 user 2007-06-20 at 11:23:00 am Views: 38
  • #18106

    United States: Court Rejects Copyright Protection For Computer Program Found Lacking Originality
    recent decision from the United States District Court for the Eastern
    District of Kentucky provides important guidance about the amount of
    creativity required to support copyright in a computer program and the
    nature of fair use in the context of interoperability. The court held
    that certain Lexmark software programs were not protected by copyright
    and that the use of those programs to achieve interoperability between
    devices was a protected “fair use.” Static Control Components, Inc. et
    al v. Lexmark International Inc., Case No. 5:04-cv-00084-GFVT Lexmark
    obtained copyrights on small programs that were used to measure toner
    in certain Lexmark printer cartridges. The binary code of these
    programs served as a lock-out code for the intended printers (i.e., if
    the printer could not read the specific combination of binary numbers
    from the inserted printer cartridge, the printer would not function).

    Static Control reverse-engineered the binary code to achieve
    interoperability between remanufactured cartridges and Lexmark
    printers, it unwittingly copied verbatim the executable aspects of the
    programs. Lexmark sued claiming copyright infringement. Static Control
    maintained that the programs embodied no creative expression and
    therefore, could not be protected by copyright.Lexmark argued that its
    programs were sufficiently creative because it had made a series of
    design choices when writing the programs. Static Control contended,
    however, that the mere existence of alternatives cannot endow the
    Lexmark code with originality it otherwise did not possess.

    court determined that the programs did not have sufficient originality
    to warrant copyright protection. The district court observed that
    whether functional alternatives exist in the abstract is not the issue;
    rather, the issue is whether the programmers actually expressed
    sufficient originality when creating the programs. The court held that
    the Lexmark programmers did not.Further, the district court found that
    Static Control’s use of the entire program was “fair” as a matter of
    law because “the purpose and character” of Static Control’s use of the
    programs did not result in Static Control profiting from exploiting the
    copyrighted work. There were actually two different purposes for the
    same computer code—as executable programs per se and as lock-out codes.
    Static Control only needed the string of binary numbers in their
    lock-out functionality in order to permit interoperability; it did not
    care about the toner measuring functions. As for any “creative” energy
    that may have been expended in writing the programs related to the
    measuring functions, Static Control was not seeking to benefit from it