No Protection for Computer Game Idea

In a case involving three computer game makers, a UK Court of Appeal decision (Nova Productions Limited v. Mazooma Games Limited & Others [2007] EWCA Civ 219) has confirmed that the general ideas and structures underlying a computer game do not enjoy copyright protection.  The decision, handed down last week, confirms that as long as the source code and graphics are not copied, the ideas and structures may be copied without infringing copyright. 

The law is very similar in Canada. One of the leading cases analyzing the question of copyright infringement in software is Delrina Corporation v. Triolet Systems Inc., a 2002 Ontario Court of Appeal decision.  Generally, Canadian copyright law is clear that ideas and structures are not protectable by copyright.  To arrive at that conclusion however often requires an exhaustive analysis of the code and the underlying structures.  Courts will consider whether one work is a “substantial” copy of another.  In measuring what is “substantial” the court will disregard elements of the work that either have no originality, are dictated by functional considerations (such as underlying structures) or are otherwise not protectable by copyright (such as ideas).


Calgary – 10:32 MST


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