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U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE DECLARES FONT GENERATION PROGRAMS REGISTRABLE; RULING IS A VICTORY FOR CAMBRIDGE-BASED PROGRAM DEVELOPER BITSTREAM

U.S. COPYRIGHT OFFICE DECLARES FONT GENERATION PROGRAMS REGISTRABLE; RULING IS A VICTORY FOR CAMBRIDGE-BASED PROGRAM DEVELOPER BITSTREAM
 BOSTON, March 10 /PRNewswire/ -- A long-awaited ruling from the U.S. Copyright office allows developers of computer programs used in the digitizing and printing of type fonts to register their programs with the copyright office and receive the protections thereby guaranteed.
 The ruling is a victory for Bitstream, a Cambridge-based font generation program developer that was among the first to argue that the copyright office's refusal of registration was legally wrong and left them vulnerable to wide scale piracy of their products.
 "Developers of high-quality, font generation programs invest heavily to produce efficient, fast software that will generate excellent typographic images," said Steven J. Henry, an attorney with Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, the Boston firm that represents Bitstream. "Until this ruling, they have had no clear means of protecting that investment against unauthorized copying and distribution."
 Historically, font generation programs have been excluded from copyright protection because of an earlier copyright office regulation prohibiting copyrighting of typeface designs -- regardless of mode generation -- on the basis that they are utilitarian and produced an unprotectable, functional result.
 According to Henry, the copyright office would not recognize a distinction between the copyrighting of typeface designs and the copyrighting of the computer programs that generate those designs.
 In the early 1980s Bitstream and others -- including Adobe Systems, Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., -- argued that they needed and were entitled to copyright protection to safeguard their investment in the computer programs necessary for reproducing typeface designs. They publicly renounced protection for the underlying typeface designs their programs generated.
 The Copyright office was not convinced. Following a period of public inquiry, the copyright office issued a decision in 1988 which stated that font programs would be registrable only if they contained a disclaimer saying that the typeface data itself was not protected. However, it was that very digital expression that the creators wanted to protect.
 Bitstream and others argued that the language of the decision was confusing and made no viable distinction between the uncopyrightable "data" and copyrightable "programs". "Most programs are an inseparable blend of data and instructions. It was unclear what was left after the disclaimer," said Henry.
 As a result of new hearings held last October -- at which Bitstream and Adobe urged that font generation programs should be treated no differently than any other computer programs -- the copyright office announced that it will issue registrations on all applications for font generation computer programs providing that the authorship is for a computer program. Only "typeface as typeface" applications will now be declared unregistrable.
 According to Henry, the new ruling has broad implications for the computer industry. "No program will now be denied registrability because its output or input is unregistrable. The originality of the program itself will now determine whether copyright protection is available, not the originality of the output produced by the program."
 For example, it appears that a new (perhaps more efficient) program for painting a graphical interface should be registrable even if the output it produces is a screen looking indistinguishably like the Lotus 1-2-3 or Windows interfaces.
 Moreover, notes Henry, "Bitstream and others have succeeded in bringing the copyright office's registration policies into consonance with modern technology."
 -0- 3/10/92
 /CONTACT: Amy Blumenthal of Blumenthal & Associates, 617-983-9112/ CO: Bitstream; U.S. Copyright Office ST: Massachusetts IN: CPR SU:


TM-DD -- NE006 -- 6825 03/10/92 11:08 EST
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 10, 1992
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