What's all this?
This page describes how The Tetris
Company is trying to remove all freeware &
shareware tetris-style games from distribution. They are claiming that
they have copyright on "the look and feel" and "trade dress" of Tetris.
This is not legal and is an invalid claim.
Many freeware and shareware tetris game developers and
distributors have received threatening e-mails from "The Tetris Company"
about their game being a copyright infringement.. I received one such
e-mail in December 1997 in
regards to my freeware tetris clone "Bedtris". I subsequently changed
the name to "Bedter" and put in disclaimers that it was not an official
"Tetris" game. On the 18th of February 1999 I received another
e-mail that states that I am
still infringing their "look and feel" copyright.
However, I left the game available on this webpage and as of yet (Feb
2011) I have received no further threats.
Other author's tales:
Hasbro had sued a number of retro games companies over alledged
copyright violations. One of those companies it sued, Webfoot
Technologies has settled out of court. One of the owners of Webfoot
posted a comment on slashdot and they gave me permission to repost that
US Copyright Law An idea or concept can not be copyrighted. The
Tetris Company's code, graphics, music (etc) is copyrighted, but the
actual concept can not be. They can copyright the written rules to the
game, but they can't actually copyright the generic rules themselves.
This means if I copied out a section of their HOW TO PLAY manual I would
be infringing copyright. At
www.bitlaw.com they say
"Ideas, procedures, principles, discoveries, and devices are all
specifically excluded from copyright protection. As stated in the
Copyright Act: In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship
extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation,
concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is
described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work."
Ideas can be patented, however The Tetris Company is not claiming a
patent on Tetris. They are claiming a "look and feel" copyright.