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US District Court: Game Elements In Tetris Clone Infringe Tetris Co.'s Copyright

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the there's-a-tetris-company?! dept.

The Courts 138

elegie writes "In the US, a District Court has ruled that the Tetris clone "Mino" infringes the Tetris Company's copyrights with regard to elements of the Tetris game design and gameplay. On one hand, a lawyer said that 'a puzzle game where a user manipulates blocks to form lines which disappear' would be noninfringing. At the same time, the Mino game's reuse of such Tetris elements as the dimensions of the playing field and the shape of the blocks constituted infringement. In addition, the Tetris game's artistic elements were not inseparably linked to the underlying mechanics and replicating an underlying idea and/or functionality (which would likely be uncopyrighted) would not justify copying visual expression from an existing game."

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Oh good (5, Funny)

jesseck (942036) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396991)

I'm glad we can make a non-infringing block game, now we just need to figure out how to get those blocks to not infringe.

Re:Oh good (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397447)

easy, make your own shapes, colors, dimensions and game play. instead of falling have them come in from all directions.

there have been so many Sim City/Civilization clones over the years and each one has been unique. it just takes a little work

Re:Oh good (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397689)

Tetris itself is not new. It's based on a very old Russian toy/puzzle.

Re:Oh good (1)

Phasma Felis (582975) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398443)

Tetris itself is not new. It's based on a very old Russian toy/puzzle.

Source, please.

Re:Oh good (3, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399117)

Tetris itself is not new. It's based on a very old Russian toy/puzzle.

Source, please.

http://www.ma.utexas.edu/users/smmg/archive/1997/radin.html [utexas.edu]
It may not be Russian, but polyomino tiling puzzles are at least 100 years old.

Re:Oh good (2)

spazdor (902907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401485)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetris [wikipedia.org]
Come on, it's in the very first line.

Tetris (Russian: ) is a tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. It was released on June 6, 1984,[2] while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow.

Re:Oh good (4, Informative)

kanto (1851816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397715)

easy, make your own shapes, colors, dimensions and game play. instead of falling have them come in from all directions.

there have been so many Sim City/Civilization clones over the years and each one has been unique. it just takes a little work

I think you need to read the history of Tetris [wikipedia.org] to understand the irony of the situation.

Re:Oh good (4, Funny)

zzyzyx (1382375) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398023)

Yeah, all they had to do was come up with their own arrangements of 4 square block pieces.

Re:Oh good (2)

spazdor (902907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401537)

Good thing there are more possible tetrominoes than the ones used in Tetris.

wait, hang on.

Re:Oh good (4, Informative)

makomk (752139) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398519)

The Tetris pieces are just tetrominos [wikipedia.org] - they're every possible shape you can create by joining four squares together. You can't come up with your own similar shapes because there aren't any more of them.

Re:Oh good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40400359)

You could join three or five squares together. Or you could join triangles together.

Re:Oh good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40400391)

The Tetris pieces are just tetrominos [wikipedia.org] - they're every possible shape you can create by joining four squares together. You can't come up with your own similar shapes because there aren't any more of them.

What if - better sit down, I'm about to blow your mind here - what if you used a number of squares that wasn't four?

Re:Oh good (4, Insightful)

spazdor (902907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401601)

I'm afraid "four" is not a complex or original enough concept to warrant intellectual property protection.

three would yield a total of 2 possible shapes, and five yields 24 shapes, which quickly makes things unwieldy and complex. Using tetrominoes rather than pentominoes or triominoes is an obvious decision for anyone skilled in the field of game design.

Re:Oh good (1)

Deep Esophagus (686515) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397965)

So does this mean the "look and feel" decision against Visicorp was in error? This comes about 40 years too late for Dan Bricklin.

Re:Oh good (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397993)

The summary tells you what you need to change - just how much spoon feeding do you need?

Re:Oh good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398301)

The fact that you need to change anything is in itself pathetic. Copyright's intention is to protect innovation. Tetris is old and can no longer be considered innovative, so these lawsuits are completely pointless and are wasting everyone's time.

Re:Oh good (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400907)

Wrong. Copyright's intention is to SPUR innovation. It does that by telling people 'if you invent something, it is yours. We will prevent others from doing the same thing for a period of time'. Yes, you could of course retroactively cancel the copyrights, but then you lose the whole thing that copyrights are supposed to provide.

deja vu (1)

KraxxxZ01 (2445360) | more than 2 years ago | (#40396997)

deja vu

XXXX (-1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397003)

xxxx


xxxx
x


xx
xx


x
xx
x


_xx
xx


(Also, First! And this paragraph goes in to fool the filter into letting it pass. Because the characters-per-line average just needs me to write a big block of stuff somewhere to push it over the limits.)

Re:XXXX (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397013)

Forgot the reverse squiggly!

xx
_xx

Re:XXXX (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398815)

You also for got this one:
xxxx
___x

Re:XXXX (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399005)

And we both used five Xs, not four.

Re:XXXX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397075)

xxxx
x

For shame! it's not pentis!

Re:ooo (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397225)

Can't the new game be in groups of 3 or 5 so that it doesn't infringe?

ooo

o
oo

oo
o

Or similarly, get all the groupings of 5 that can be generated?

Personally, I liked a variation of Tetris called SuperTetris.

Re:ooo (1)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397749)

The triominoes will be boring, the pentominoes will be very, very hard.

Re:ooo (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398813)

Ok, maybe have a combination of the 2 - triominos and pentominos. Either can fall @ random

Re:ooo (2)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399249)

The triominoes will be boring, the pentominoes will be very, very hard.

And how: http://www.cathelius.co.uk/flash/pentrix [cathelius.co.uk] I gather the author had to add the 'settling' mechanic because otherwise it was as friendly as one of those statistically-worst piece Tetris games.

Here's a thought.... What if you made a game where you could choose an upper and lower bound on the piece size? Set it to 4 and 4 and you have Tetris, but set it to, say 3 and 5 and you'd have a mix of tri-, tetr-, and pentominoes. Is it still infringing if the config options can be tweaked to mimic Tetris?

Not a good precedent (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397017)

The Tetris Co. has been pushing very, very hard for this decision for years, and it's a bad one for everyone except Tetris Co. Where does this begin and end - is Activision going to sue everyone for making a team-based playing-soldiers first person shooter, because it infringes on the Call of Duty copyright? In fact how does this translate to the copyrighting of 'real life' game concepts and other similar idea-based concepts? Are we going to be able to patent games now?

This is a very, very bad precedent. Yay for the typical scenario of 'person or company with the most money de facto writes the laws.'

Re:Not a good precedent (2)

RivenAleem (1590553) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397153)

Not really. You see, Tetris is a very simple game, there's no hidden levels of depth to it. It's blocks falling and you arrange them to make lines that disappear.

There does not need to be more games involving blocks that fall and need to be arranged into lines so they disappear.

Call of Duty, though, can have different stories to tell in the campaign, can have different mechanics for weapons, different maps, multiplayer options, squad sizes. There's plenty of scope for the games to be sufficiently different.

Just like you can have Bejeweled, Bubble Shooter and others where you have different puzzle, but some comparable qualities, you don't have falling blocks of set shape, but you do have "create a pattern to make items disappear for points"

What you have here is a game that is so similar to Tetris that it is not innovative, just a clone to take advantage of Tetris' success.

Re:Not a good precedent (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397251)

This!

I am generally against stupid software IP laws, but really, Tetris was a unique and simple game. Cloning it is blatantly dishonest and taking an extreme shortcut at the expense of the creator and to me really is unacceptable. Just write a new game with new ideas! We would all benefit from that more anyway. I'm ok with cloning certain elements, but not with cloning the core freaking game!

It's like taking a symphony that you did not write, re-transcribing it on different paper and getting a different orchestra to play it, and then claiming it's a different product, which obviously it is not.

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398083)

I would say that it's too simple to qualify for copyright protection in the first place.

Just by *watching* tetris being played I can write a tetris clone in a single hour of programming, it's not that hard. And I can do it without looking at source code.

It's trivially easy to reverse engineer even if you don't have source code to look at.

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401603)

Who cares how long it takes to write the code? That is a completely meaningless metric. 'The code' is not what is in question here, 'the game' is. So, answer the proper question 'can you create a new, original game that millions of people around the world will want to play'. If you say 'yes', why haven't you done it?

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398363)

In orchestral non-vocal music, the melody is the only protectable part of the composition. So at that point, your analogy fails.

But, just to give everyone a bad analogy to abuse me for: giving protectability to the shapes and grid size is akin to giving protection to an arrangement's choice of the key of F, because that made it easier for the clarinets to perform.

Based on the linked summary of ruling, it seems the judge was convinced that the grid size constituted expression. However, as explored by Judge Alsup's recent ruling in Oracle v. Google, not all choices are expressive, merely consequential to the idea, and to extend copyright protection to these choices is to grant a back door monopoly to the ideas. I hate the histrionic hyperbolic absurdity question, so call this a nine-month early birthday present: armed with this ruling, could a terminal application developer sue others for infringement for also having used a 60 x 40 grid?

As to your essential point about the fairness of Tetris's developers not realizing their maximum revenue because heretofore the law had allowed the basics to be replicated, frankly not all idea and expression vocations are equally protected. Just ask any stand-up comic friend about their recourse for joke-stealers. My takeaway is that with games the reason that people enjoy them, the mayhem, the puzzles, the manipulation of elements, the mise-en-scene of the fantasy, etc., are fair game, meaning there is a limit to the upside, and thus development costs should be constrained. I think in the grand scheme, it's better this way. The alternative is the manifesting Line 4 having its "????????" replaced with "Sue."

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

DannyO152 (544940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398429)

... not all choices are expressive, merely consequential to the idea, and...

This would have been better said as "... not all choices are expressive, some are consequential to the idea, and.."

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398583)

Just write a new game with new ideas!

Yeah! Instead of suing people who make clones of your old game, do something productive and make a new game.

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

vinehair (1937606) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397253)

Not really. You see, Tetris is a very simple game, there's no hidden levels of depth to it. It's blocks falling and you arrange them to make lines that disappear.

The fellows over at harddrop.com [harddrop.com] that prefer the licensed Tetris Grand Master series and the 'ripoff' Lockjaw game would like a word with you.

For many extremely detailed reasons that would make your head explode, these aforementioned games are far better for very advanced play, versus the rules currently mandated by Tetris Co. that basically castrate the game if you play Tetris seriously - such as infinite floor kicks (allowing you to stall indefinitely just by constantly rotating a piece even on the ground) and the fine details of how pieces rotate being a pain for 20G play (top-speed.)

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398097)

The fellows over at harddrop.com [harddrop.com] that prefer the licensed Tetris Grand Master series and the 'ripoff' Lockjaw game would like a word with you.

Lockjaw appears to have already been taken down. Is the Tetris clone in Emacs next?

Re:Not a good precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398873)

Is that you Tepples? Do you have a smurf account on slashdot now?

Re:Not a good precedent (3, Funny)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397431)

[quote] You see, Tetris is a very simple game, there's no hidden levels of depth to it. It's blocks falling and you arrange them to make lines that disappear.[/quote]
Sir, I pray for your soul that no serious Tetris fanatics get a hold of this comment. You do not fathom the degrees and tournament rules they have developed over what is or isn't allowed. Dare I even mention the black market, and underground games? The unlicensed, hard core stacking where two people enter, one person leaves?

I would recommend that you start packing your bags now and moving to a third world country. I fear they may already be planning for you to wake up with the head of a T block in your bed tomorrow.

Re:Not a good precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398727)

Heathens aren't worthy [youtube.com]

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397827)

There does not need to be more games involving blocks that fall and need to be arranged into lines so they disappear.

There does not need to be a monopoly on such games either.

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398323)

There does not need to be more games

No games need to exist in the first place.

What you have here is a game that is so similar to Tetris that it is not innovative

Tetris in itself is not innovative. It's now an old game, and such decisions do nothing to further the alleged original intentions of copyright law.

Re:Not a good precedent (0)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401207)

Bullshit. The original (and current) intentions of copyright law is to spur innovation by giving people control of their inventions for a period of time. The creators of Tetris did their part - they made the game. Now it is our turn to honor our part of the deal. What you are suggesting is nothing less than welshing on the deal.

The idea that once the game is 'old' it is no longer an innovation is just stupid.

If these bozos would come up with their own, original ideas they would have exactly the same protection as the creators of Tetris. In fact, there are many variations of the basic game that are in fact innovations and not infringements, so apparently the 'original intentions' still work.

Re:Not a good precedent (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400639)

Call of Duty, though, can have different stories to tell in the campaign, can have different mechanics for weapons, different maps, multiplayer options, squad sizes. There's plenty of scope for the games to be sufficiently different.

Call of Duty VII: Kill the Lawyers

The Real Crime (5, Insightful)

cffrost (885375) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397041)

The real crime here is that Tetris is still protected under copyright.

Re:The Real Crime (4, Funny)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397127)

You say it like copyright was supposed to expire one day...

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397129)

The real crime here is that Tetris is still protected under copyright.

Tetris isn't that old, you know.

Release 1984, I believe. Less than 30 years ago. Even those arguing for shorter copyright terms would probably be okay with that still being protected.

Re:The Real Crime (4, Interesting)

neyla (2455118) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397265)

Some of them perhaps. I think copyright should be determined experimentally in that it is progressively shortened until such point where you clearly see a fall in new works, then left at a point where they're short enough to hurt creators noticeably, but long enough that the effect is "noticeable" not "catastrophic".

For videogames, I think that'd mean 10 years. Certainly not 30. If all 10-year-old video-games where freely available, I think this would harm the new-game market noticeably, but not catastrophiccally. (notice how that's already close to true: 10 year old video-games, even AAA titles, can be had for a dollar a piece or something like that)

Copyright aren't supposed to stop people from independently creating their own similar works though: just because painter A made a portrait of a woman looking to the left while sitting in front of an oak-tree with a red apple in her hand, it doesn't stop painter B from doing the same thing.

The shape of the pieces in tetris aren't creatively distinct, instead they are mathemathically determined: they're the full set of all possible 4-squares connected pieces.

It's like claiming 000 001 010 011 100 101 110 111 is a creative selection of 3-digit binary numbers, when infact it's just an exhaustive list of *all* 3-digit binary numbers.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397821)

Interesting idea, but the problem is that it's hard to tell whether a certain length of copyright hurts the market because it decreases the financial incentive, or because it makes old works available thus saturating the market. In the first case, lengthening the duration of copyright would encourage the creation of more works. But in the second case it wouldn't be a good move, as works that could only compete if access to old works was restricted aren't a worthwile addition to our culture and shouldn't be encouraged.
Another problem is that with Hollywood accounting you can never be sure when the industry is actually hurt, and if they really are it's also very hard to tell whether that was a result of decreased copyright length or some other reasons.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398103)

If all 10-year-old video-games where freely available,

All 10 year old video games are freely available.

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398375)

Historical data suggests that your proposal would completly eliminate copyright for all types of work.

Here's a very short English-language summary of a book by Eckhard Höffner: http://governancexborders.com/2010/08/11/der-spiegel-on-the-explosion-of-knowledge-in-19th-century-germany/

Re:The Real Crime (1)

Qwertie (797303) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398401)

Baby steps. The copyright lobby got 95 year copyright terms in the U.S. Even 50 years would be a major improvement, and most all of us slashdot types could agree to reduce copyright to 30 years.

10 years probably suffices for industry to turn a profit, but when you're fighting powerful companies and ideologues who want perpetual copyright, who fear competition from 50-year-old works, who would claim it's an injustice that every single person that reads Mark Twain should pay their great-great-grandkids...

30-year copyright would be an enormous victory. We would have the right to freely play and remix numerous early NES games, to distribute the original Star Wars (the one with the less honorable Han Solo), to have free collections of oldies, disco, Elvis and the Beatles bundled with every new iPod, and so forth.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399667)

Better yet, institute commercial copyrights. Anything released commercially without a commercial copyright is in the public domain. Commercial copyrights would last for one year and use the following fee structure: Dollar down and double each year. The first year cost $1, the second $2, the third $4, etc. By the time 20 years is up, a commercial copyright costs over a million dollars. At 30 years, over a billion. Once the fee is no longer paid, into public domain it goes.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400743)

Copyright is already commercial. There are many forms of taxation but I'm amazed that anyone would seriously promote an exponential one. Do you really think the government needs that money? The artist already pays income tax. Why should your rights to creative works depend on how much money you have in the bank? Not to mention that as a tax, this one is extremely regressive, favoring the large studios which produce few works.

This idea is profound -- it is bottomlessly stupid.

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40402155)

Copyright is already commercial. There are many forms of taxation but I'm amazed that anyone would seriously promote an exponential one. Do you really think the government needs that money? The artist already pays income tax. Why should your rights to creative works depend on how much money you have in the bank?

It shouldn't -- if your work is commercially successful such that it will make more in the next year than the renewal fee, you'll have no problem getting a loan for it. If it's making less than the upcoming fee per annum, you'd be a fool to purchase the extension no matter how much you have in the bank.

The point is not about the money. The point is to force worthless content into the public domain quickly (there's no point protecting them, and perhaps someone clever can reuse parts of it), while still providing reasonable duration of protection for works of high value, and doing that without establishing an arbiter of supposed value -- you let the copyright holder determine the value of their work, and the fee gives them motivation to be honest.

Not to mention that as a tax, this one is extremely regressive, favoring the large studios which produce few works.

No, it favors the ones who produce successful works, no matter how many or how few. Do you suppose it's more worthwhile to incentivize success, or failure? Granted, it rewards economically successful works, and we might wish for a subtler definition of success, but the simple fact is, it's quite simple to impose monetary incentives that will invariably be weighed against economic success, and damn hard to implement any incentive that will be accurately weighed against artistic or philosophical success. I don't say it's perfect, but it's far from stupid.

This idea is profound -- it is bottomlessly stupid.

Note that this whole scheme only makes any sense under the incentive-based justification of copyright -- that authors have no inherent right to prevent copying, but that government chooses to encourage them by granting a limited monopoly to make content creation more worthwhile. If you believe in the notion that authors do have a natural right to impose their will on everyone who reads their work, then of course tying it to cash is ludicrous. But then, if you believe that, you've already established that you're not quite right in the head.

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40398453)

No one has ever said "Let's make this movie/video game/album and we'll make a killing over the next 10 years!" The goal is to make money in the first 6 months to 2 years after you release. In terms of incentives to make art, there is no difference between a hypothetical 10 year term and our current horrendously long copyright term.

When the vast majority of copyrighted works are out of print and currently unavailable, you know that the copyright term is way too long.

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397367)

Copyright in the U.S. is 14 years + 1 extension for a total of 28 years (far too long already);
ex post facto laws are expressly forbidden by the United States Constitution.
For new IP, the new laws take effect, but IP prior to those changes fall under this category.

CAPTCHA = indented

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397443)

Unfortunately, SCrOTUmS already ruled on that issue elsewhere and held that treaty obligations trump that. It was one of the most asinine rulings the court has made since it appointed President Bush with no justification.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397567)

Huh? US Copyright is 125 years. It started at 50 years, but companies lengthened it dramatically.

I don't know how copyright comes into play here. They would have need to make an exact copy of the blocks. If they remade it themselves, it wouldn't be a copyright violation. Much like if I tried to paint a Jackson Pollock. Am I missing something?

Re:The Real Crime (2)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397721)

Actually, no. It started at 14 years, and is currently 70 years from death of the author; if a corporate work, 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

theedgeofoblivious (2474916) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397387)

There's no reason that copyrights should last anywhere near 30 years. The fact that they do is the reason that almost every television show(Hawaii 5-0, Dallas, The Munsters, Teen Wolf, Charlie's Angels, Melrose Place, 90210, Nikita, Beauty & The Beast, Bewitched, The Flintstones, The Rifleman, The Simpsons[oh, wait, The Simpsons has just been on forever?]) and every movie(Spider-Man, Nightmare on Elm Street, King Kong, Dirty Dancing, Annie, Child's Play, Snow White, RoboCop, Short Circuit, The Crow, The NeverEnding Story, Escape From New York, Porky's, Romancing The Stone, Scarface, Lethal Weapon) are remakes of things that have been under copyright for decades. There is no incentive to make anything new.

Copyright should last 5 years MAYBE...

Re:The Real Crime (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397783)

Except that most of those are not remakes, they are new scripts using existing characters. As far as these works are concerned, about the only thing protected by copyright that they have re-used are the titles and names of the characters.

It is really funny that you included Snow White as an example of things still under copyright meaning nothing new has to be created. The Snow White you are referring to is NOT a Disney movie (it is Universal). It does NOT use any elements of the still-under-copyright Disney Snow White, but instead uses the original not protected Snow White.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

beaverdownunder (1822050) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397969)

Dallas is a bad example -- it's not a remake, they've picked up the storyline 20 years later.

(It's not bad, BTW, but that's a bit OT)

Re:The Real Crime (1)

CanEHdian (1098955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398039)

The real crime here is that Tetris is still protected under copyright.

Tetris isn't that old, you know.

Release 1984, I believe. Less than 30 years ago. Even those arguing for shorter copyright terms would probably be okay with that still being protected.

No, they wouldn't. See e.g. Dr. Rufus Pollock's research [rufuspollock.org] or the position paper of the European Greens/European Freedom Alliance [greens-efa.eu] faction in the EU parliament.

1984 + 20 = 2004, so the game would be Public Domain (as in expiration of the "commercial copyright") on January 1st, 2005.

So, how long ago was 1984? Let's see... TEN YEARS before Windows '95? Indeed, there WAS no Microsoft Windows in 1984: Windows 1.0 was from November 1985. No bell ringing? OK, how about the year of the famous 1984 Super Bowl commercial introducing to the world the Apple Macintosh with a whopping 128 kilobytes of RAM?

Yes, THAT is how long ago 1984 was!

Re:The Real Crime (1)

CanEHdian (1098955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398155)

Darn, forgot the UNIX crowd;

"In 1984, four Berkeley students—Douglas Terry, Mark Painter, David Riggle, and Songnian Zhou—wrote the first Unix implementation, called The Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) Server."

Yes, UNIX people wanting to standardize were actually still busy with HOSTS.TXT from SRI-NIC.ARPA (see RFC 952).

Re:The Real Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397739)

How is that a crime? Honestly, what is the proper change that should be made? What is the proper time frame or requirements for something to fall into Public Domain? From my understanding its either so many years after the death of the original author or so many years after the original publication. From a quick look on Wiki the standard seems to be Life of Author + (50-70) years or (50-70 years) after original publication Additionally, if the copyright holder doesn't continue to protect their copyright they can lose it which is why you see these lawsuits.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398393)

How is that a crime?

Some people seem to think it's absolutely ridiculous.

Honestly, what is the proper change that should be made?

Shorten copyright.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400351)

Still?

That simple concept doesn't deserve copyright protection period. I could write a tetris clone in my sleep after watching someone else play it for just 20 seconds.

This decision basically says that functionality can itself be creative.

I say bullshit, that's what we have patents for.

Re:The Real Crime (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 2 years ago | (#40401349)

The real question is not 'could you write such a game after seeing someone play it', but 'could you write such a game having never seen it or had it described to you'. Answering 'yes' to the second question shows creativity, something worthy of protection. Answering 'yes' to only to first question shows some trivial programming skills and no creativity, and is worthy of nothing.

Huh? (5, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397043)

shape of the blocks constituted infringement

That's absurd. The shape of the blocks comes from the fact that those are all the possible 2D geometric arrangements of 4 connected blocks on a grid. If anyone is infringed here, it's basic geometry.

Re:Huh? (1)

vinehair (1937606) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397099)

I really dislike that part of the ruling as well.

I also strongly suspect that, magically, this ruling will do nothing to help those poor developers who have been utterly ripped off by Zynga, in several well-known cases like this one. [macgasm.net] Call me cynical, if you will.

Re:Huh? (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397483)

i played both, there were similarities but Dream Heights had much better art and game mechanics were different

Re:Huh? (1)

Krioni (180167) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399915)

Apparently one problem is that the Xio's expert made a terrible mistake:

Xio’s own expert admitted there are “almost unlimited number” of ways to design the pieces and the board and the game would still “function perfectly well.” Pl. Motion, at 35.

Basically, the judge was given wrong information about the realistic possibility of using blocks of other shapes or configurations. While there may be some other piece designs that would work, there are not that many that would avoid introducing a fairly complex and thus hard-to-play geometry.

The judge also seemed to believe that a falling block game was a completely novel idea, without any real-world counterpart. I'm puzzled by this, and think she didn't comprehend the gravity of the situation (puns intended).

Re:Huh? (3, Funny)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397219)

If anyone is infringed here, it's basic geometry.

It's The Tetris Company. Don't give them ideas.

Re:Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397839)

Alexey himself stated that the shapes were taken by a wooden tetromino game he had. So I guess Tetris itself infringes on that IP.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397867)

They could use triangles, hexagons, melded circles. Not necessarily square blocks. Then there is the style of fonts and the background - they could use metallic background with LCD counters, wooden blocks with engraved letters.

Re:Huh? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398695)

Then you should look at Hextris [hextris.com] .

Re:Huh? (2)

multicoregeneral (2618207) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398309)

Not only that, but copyright doesn't cover any of this stuff. Functionality is covered by patent, not copyright. Copyright only the actual physical code. This was established decades ago when Novell sued Microsoft over menus.

Why are they still fighting over Tetris? (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397115)

Why is a court/patent fight still allowed over Tetris? I mean, it's an old game from 19-freaking-84!!! The answer must, as usual, be $$money$$. (from Wikipedia...) Tetris (Russian: ) is a tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. It was released on June 6, 1984, [2] while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. [3] He derived its name from the [Russian] numerical prefix tetra-(all of the game's pieces contain four segments) and tennis, Pajitnov's favorite sport. [4][5] It is also the first entertainment software to be exported from the USSR to the U.S. and published by Spectrum Holobyte for Commodore 64 and IBM PC. The Tetris game is a popular use of tetrominoes, the four element special case of polyominoes. Polyominoes have been used in popular puzzles since at least 1907, and the name was given by the mathematician Solomon W. Golomb in 1953. However, even the enumeration of pentominoes is dated to antiquity. (from Wikipedia)

Ask Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney... (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397353)

Given that Mickey Mouse is still successfully covered by copyright/patent etc. I think the lawyers for Tetris will argue that they are just following precedence and would like at least another 50 years protection.....

Re:Ask Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney... (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397743)

Mickey Mouse is a trademark. Works containing Mickey Mouse happen to still be under copyright. Nothing involving Mickey Mouse is patented, except perhaps indirectly (like a device that happens to resemble Mickey Mouse for marketing purposes).

District court judge confuses copyright and patent (1)

American Patent Guy (653432) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397173)

A patent protects the functionality of a product. The way the blocks are manipulated in the game is functional.

Until this is heard on appeal ... there will be a multitude of authors of famous games who will be threatening the copycats under this stupid decision.

(Oh, and copyrights are worldwide ... this judge has effectively granted the author a game a world-wide patent upon it. Let the games begin!)

Re:District court judge confuses copyright and pat (1)

multicoregeneral (2618207) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398343)

Right. Unless they're actually using source code from the original to do it. The implications of this kind of decision, if allowed to stand would change the whole landscape of the software industry.

Dr Mario, Bejewleled Etc (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397363)

Are all similar but do not violate the copyright. So there is some hope for similar, non-infringing games.

Re:Dr Mario, Bejewleled Etc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40399933)

You can take my Super Puzzle Fighter from my cold dead hands.

Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (2)

TraumaFox (1667643) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397383)

You don't need to break down and analyze which individual details make a Tetris clone a Tetris clone that violates copyright versus a Tetris clone which doesn't; it's quite clear at first glance that Mino is just simply Tetris. I know this sort of thing is a popular debate, and this is hardly the first example of its kind, but the extremely wide range of Tetris clones that survive without legal problems do so because their developers make at least the bare minimum effort to change something fundamental. Note, that's not to suggest TTC doesn't go after several of these as well, but they are certainly far less successful in those cases.

I think the point here is that if EA had taken this exact game and released it as their official licensed version of Tetris for iOS, no one would be the wiser. I understand that EA's official version isn't spectacular and we all wish we could play something much better without threats of legal action being thrown around, but the decision is really clear cut in this case, so I don't think it's unreasonable to cut TTC some slack here, or the DC judge in this case.

For anyone still shaking their fists in anger at TTC, I'd just like to point out this snippet from the article: "Xio readily admitted that Mino purposefully and deliberately copied from Tetris." He wanted this fight, and he lost.

Re:Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397471)

Except that the elements that it allegedly infringes upon aren't subject to copyright normally. Which is why iD software doesn't completely own the FPS genre, for most of the '90s the vast majority of the FPS games out there would have been infringing upon iD's copyright under the logic asserted in this ruling.

If it doesn't get tossed out it's going to be a serious set back for gaming.

Re:Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (1)

TraumaFox (1667643) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397861)

That's not really a fair analogy, since you're equating the differences between games in the FPS genre to differences between Tetris clones. Tetris is a very simplistic game with minimalistic elements, so it is only defined by a very limited set of qualities. You can only imitate so many of those before you go from Tetris clone to just Tetris. After all, that's why we liberally use "Tetris clone" or "Insert first puzzle game to use these mechanics here clone" to define puzzle games, rather than just calling them Puzzle games. FPS games have more complex engines, mechanics, and a far wider array of qualities that can vary. As the judge in this case said, you can't base the infringement on the mechanics of the game - but without its mechanics, Tetris can really only be defined by limited details such as block shapes and well size. Besides all of that, 90s developers might have been trying to ride the success of Doom and the rising FPS genre, but none of them actually said, "Yeah, we're purposefully and deliberately copying Doom just to see if id can enforce their copyright."

Look at this another way: 90s FPS games were successful on their own without being exact copies of Doom. That also applies for puzzle games which are not Tetris. However, plenty of people want to play Tetris itself, not "sort of Tetris but with a fundamental gameplay mechanic changed to get around legal trouble." Mino would not have met with success if it was not an exact clone of Tetris, and I can say that confidently because of how upset people get over developers not being able to make exact clones of Tetris. There's more money in Tetris than sort-of-Tetris, and that is exactly why TTC goes after copies.

Re:Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398071)

it's quite clear at first glance that Mino is just simply Tetris.

It is, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. The party in the wrong here is the one who claims copyright over the set of polygons that can be constructed out of 4 congruent squares. Them, and the court that agreed with them.

What's next, a copyright claim on the 5 platonic solids?

Re:Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (1)

TraumaFox (1667643) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398341)

That's the kind of nitpicking which is just as stupid as you'd like to make copyright law look. If Tetris was such a simple concept that it shouldn't deserve copyright protection, then why would official Tetris be so much more popular than profitable than not-quite-Tetris? There are plenty of similar block-dropping games which use different types of blocks, varying mechanics and so on which are very similar to Tetris, but different enough that they don't encounter legal trouble, yet none of them reach the level of ubiquitous popularity and recognition that Tetris itself has. Why?

Tetris is more than just a "set of polygons that can be constructed out of 4 congruent squares," and that is precisely why it is and should be protected. If none of this were true, no one would bother trying to make exact copies of Tetris such as Mino, and people wouldn't get all flustered trying to argue such copies should be legal. There is a high demand for Tetris, not sort-of-Tetris, and that's why TTC and its licensees are the only ones allowed to profit from it whether you like it or not.

Re:Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398761)

Tetris is more than just a "set of polygons that can be constructed out of 4 congruent squares,"

It's a falling block game, where the blocks are composed of 4 squares. If I make a falling block game where the blocks are composed of 5 squares, or of 4 triangles, I'd be OK under copyright law.

But if I use blocks made out of 4 squares, suddenly I'm in violation of copyright law? How does that not amount to a copyright claim over simple geometric shapes?

Re:Is it Tetris if the 'R' isn't backward? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40399143)

Tetris is more than just a "set of polygons that can be constructed out of 4 congruent squares," and that is precisely why it is and should be protected.

Should be protected? What innovation is this encouraging? It's an extremely simple, old game. I don't care if it was a direct copy, protecting it is a waste of time.

Duration of copyright is simply ridiculous.

The Gool Ol' Look and Feel (1)

edibobb (113989) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397451)

It's nice to see the old "Look and Feel" copyright claims in back from oblivion. Thought to be obsolete after the advent of SSPs (Stupid Software Patents), "Look and Feel" copyright claims have made a comeback in the decisions of the clueless judiciary.

Tetrinet (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397469)

How would this affect Tetrinet?

...seriously? (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397509)

I've seen so many exact Tetris clones that I thought it no longer had any sort of copyright.

Why is there a Tetris company? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40397731)

This was one simple game from decades ago. It's like having a banging rocks together company.

Hey Milton Bradley, here's your new cash cow! (1)

gblues (90260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397903)

Alright M-B,

Sue Zynga over "Words with Friends" again, but this time instead of claiming that they're copying your game, just claim copyright on the letters 'A', 'B', 'C', etc. Want to make a clone? Use Chinese characters or the Greek alphabet or something. No English letters for you!

Re:Hey Milton Bradley, here's your new cash cow! (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40399085)

Does Words with Friends use exactly the same game board positions for double,triple letter/word scores as Scrabble? Do they use exactly the same dimensions for their game board? Just curious - I never played. Those are the kind of things we're talking about. Your argument is purely reductio ad absurdum.

Re:Hey Milton Bradley, here's your new cash cow! (1)

amoeba1911 (978485) | more than 2 years ago | (#40400823)

Yes and No. Words with Friends uses the same board dimensions, the same number of letters, the same scoring. The placement of the bonus blocks is a little different, but the properties of the bonus blocks are identical.

I think with this precedent, Hasbro could easily go after the multi-million dollar knock-off like Words with Friends. They have a case. The same thing with Taito and their wildly popular game Bust-A-Move which has had a large number of clones ever since it came out. Taito never went after these clones, to the point where some people think Snood is an original game.

visual objects vs. mathematical objects (2)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#40398077)

The VISUAL shape of the objects and dimensions of the grid may be copyrightable, but the MATHEMATICAL ones should not be. If there is only one reasonable visual shape that matches the mathematical shape, then it, too, should not be copyrightable.

Remember Rubik's Cube? There were knock-off puzzles of various shapes including spheres, cubes with the corners cut off, various different color schemes, etc. But they were all mathematically identical to the Rubik's Cube.

A Tetris-like game with squiggly-snake-shaped pieces - or even "snakes" themselves - and a grid that is based on rectangles or any other shape that stacks as rectangles do that is the mathematically the same number of units wide and tall as the original Tetris can have identical game play but should be sufficiently different as to avoid copyright protection.

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