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Atari Games Corporation v. Oman
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
979 F.2d 242 (1992)
Atari Games Corp. (plaintiff) developed a video game entitled Breakout in which a rectangular paddle was moved along the bottom of the screen in order to hit a ball against a wall. The wall was comprised of eight rows of rectangles arranged in four monochromatic stripes. When the ball hit a rectangle, the rectangle disappeared. When the ball broke through the wall of rectangles to the space above, it ricocheted at an increased speed until it reemerged. Both the ball’s speed and the size of the rectangular paddle changed during the game. The ball’s movement, rather than follow the laws of physics, depended solely on where it impacted the paddle. In his second refusal to register Breakout, the register of copyrights (defendant) characterized the representations of the paddle, ball, and wall as simple geometric shapes and coloring, which were per se not copyrightable. Viewing Breakout as a whole, the register found “no original authorship in either the selection or arrangement of the images or their components.” The register therefore refused registration. Atari Games sought review of the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment to the register, based on the register’s refusal to register Breakout.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)
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