Copyright Issue/Exercise

Subject: Copyright Issue/Exercise
From: John Russell <JRussell -at- DATAWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 7 Oct 1996 15:02:00 -0400

I've been having a discussion/debate with a colleague concerning
graphics copyrights.

I've concluded that it comes down to the word "graphic." How would/does
copyright law define graphic a "graphic?"

My company recently developed a set of Microsoft Visual Basic .VBXs for
interface development to our main product (a full-text search engine).
The online help development for our .VBXs has seen several iterations.
The latest command from on high is to "make it look like Microsoft's."

So, a week and a half ago I began formatting the information to mimic
Microsoft's Visual Basic 4.0 help. In doing so, I learned that
Microsoft's Contents screen is a single graphics file. It is what I
would call "a graphic." This file entails six icon-like images and some
text. In order to achieve the same effect, I created a comparable
graphics file (using theirs as a model) for my Contents page, added some
(different) icon-like images and some text.

My colleague (he is not a lawyer) argues that this is not copyright
infringement because what matters is not the fact that it is one
graphics file from which substantial portions were copied, but rather
how the information is perceived; that is, it is perceived as text and
six images (or graphics?). While the formatting of the text is similar,
the text itself is different--no copyright problem there. The six
images (graphics?) are different--no copyright problem there. I'm safe,
even though all of these elements are aspects (pieces) of a single
graphics file--a single image.

I, on the other hand, argue that because I copied what I believe is a
"substantial portion" of the graphic/image (that is, of the single file
that entails several images), that I may be in the copyright gray area.

What do you think?


jrussell -at- dataware -dot- com

K. John Russell
Dataware Technologies, Inc
5 Computer Drive South
Albany, New York 12205

Anagram of the year:

Information Superhighway
New utopia? Horrifying Sham!

(This began with the copyright issue recently raised here, and also with
the article "Copyright and the Visual Arts" by Marjorie Baer in the
October 1996 issue of Macworld.)

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