35 years since the first video game copyright


With games now at the forefront of our world and a business in itself it is amazing to think it's 35 years since the first two games Lunar Lander & Asteroids in the arcade received their first (US) copyright. We reflect on this.

Atari Logo Ft

It seems crazy to think that videogames were once developed without protection of their brand and IP - but pre-1980s this was the case for games (rather than consoles) in the USA. To prevent duplication of the brand and to protect the replication of elements of the game this was first brought into play on 17th June 1980 - exactly 35 years ago today.

Lunar Ander Flyer

The two games in question were the legendary Lunar Lander and Asteroids both developed at the height of the videogames book by Atari Inc. Both distinct in their design of artwork they stood out in the heady days when players went to the arcade to get on the high score tables.

The names being protected as well as the artwork was a key consideration for Atari at the time. Protecting the gameplay of a video arcade game was more difficult. 

Asteroids Flyer

In fact - In 1981, the company attempted to sue arcade manufacturer Amusement World for its title Meteors, a space shooter clearly influenced by Atari’s classic, Asteroids. It lost however, with the court deciding only the idea, not the tangible assets, was copied. (Source Guardian

Atari had it's own fair share of legal proceedings with Magnavox years earlier and Activision splitting off later in 1982. 

The overall aspect is that video games by their very nature as a creative piece of work are sometimes original some or often close copies. But they 'borrow' like any art form from one another.

However the key aspect is not to directly clone a videogame - make it exactly the same. Do this now in 2015 and you'll face the court and judge for sure - because protection using copyright has come a long way since Asteroids and Lunar Lander to massive IP's like Fifa, Call of Duty, Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy and many others we see at E3 launching new products today. 

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