Atari declares copyright war on Pac-Man rivals

Source: POPULAR COMPUTING WEEKLY
Vol. 1 No. 19 (Page 4; "News Desk")
By: David Kelly
26 August 1982

ATARI has fired the opening shots in what promises to be a copyright war with far-reaching implications. Commodore has been the first to feel the effects but other companies, including Bug-Byte, A and F Software and Micropower are also involved. Graham Daubney, Atari's software manager, would not comment on his company's actions but issued the following official statement. "Atari International (UK) Inc is at present campaigning against video games which infringe the Pac-Man copyright. The campaign is being pursued to protect the customer against imitations. "As part of the campaign, Atari is applying for an injunction against Commodore Business Machines (UK) Ltd, Jellymonsters. "Atari allege that Jellymonsters is an infringement of their copyright. Atari are pressing for a full hearing as soon as possible and will claim substantial damages." Atari's campaign is being conducted on two fronts. Both the Commodore and Bug-Byte actions concern Vic-20 cassettes. In each case the companies have been instructed to stop sale of the tapes, to surrender all remaining stocks and promotional material to Atari, to pay Atari all revenue gained through their sale and to allow Atari access their businesss records. Commodore is not prepared to comment on the situation at present. A spokesman for the company would only say: "We are aware of the Atari claim." Bug-Byte, however, has agreed to abide by the first two of Atari's instructions. It has stopped all sale of its Vic-Men program and has surrendered all remaining stocks and promotional material to Atari. "We had the choice of doing what we did or getting involved in a very expensive legal battle that could have cost tens of thousands of pounds," said Bug-Byte's managing director, Tony Baden. "We do not agree that they have got copyright except on the Pac-Man program listing - and all our listings are completely different," he told Popular Computing Weekly. "There is no way that we can afford to stand up against a company the size of Atari, but it obviously needs something like this to go to court to sort out the position. "In the long term I suppose it will be good for the industry. The arcade situation is becoming stale at the moment and it will force companies to think up original games. "Atari's action has not affected us at all. Admittedly Vic-Men was one of our most successfull games but we will survive." In the other series of moves A and F Software and Micropower have received instructions to send copies of certain programs to Atari for inspection. Mike Fitzgerald, managing director of A and F Software explained: "The letter from Atari requested us to send them a copy of our Polecat program for the Acorn Atom to look at and play. If they decided that the program is not an infringement then Atari would send us the recommended retail price of the cassette. "We have no intention of sending them a copy of Polecat. It does not, in our view, infringe the Atari copyright. If Atari wish, they are quite welcome to call and we will demonstrate the program. "Whatever happens, we are not removing our program Polecat from the market and it will need a court order for us to do so. "A and F fully intend to go ahead and develop the Polecat program for any computer we choose. "We believe that the program does not infringe Atari copyright either in machinecode or visual image." Micropower has now received three letters similar to that received by A and F, relating not only to alleged infringements of the Pac-Man copyrights but also that of another Atari game, Centipede. Managing director, Bob Simpson, said: "It is unlikely that we shall be supplying copies of any of our games. We have over 150 games on sale and if we start sending out tapes in this way, where will it all end? "There is no doubt, though, that any injunction taken out against us would be quite damaging, bearing in mind that the average life of a computer game is at most three or four months."


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