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Sega enterprise, Ltd. v. Accolade, Inc., 977 F.2d 1510 (1992) p.657


fair use doctrine


Accolade reverse engineered Sega's product in order to discover the requirements for compatibility with the Genesis console. Accolade transformed the machine readable object code into human readable source code.


District Court rejected Accolade;s contention that the intermediate copying of computer code does not constitute infringement. The district court enjoined Accolade from dissasembling, using or modifying Sega's code, developing and selling Genisis compatible games.


Whether the Copyright Act permits persons who are neither copyright holders not licensees to disassemble a copyrighted computer program in order to gain an understanding of the unprotected functional elements of the program.


When a program is decompiled for a legitimate reason and has no other means of access to the unprotected elements, such dissasembly is as a matter of law a fair use of the copyrighted work.


Decompiling was a fair use.


Intermediate copying of computer object code may infringe the exclusive rights granted to the copygithe owner.
Fair use elements:

  1. USE - the fact that copying is for a commercial purpose weighs against a finding of fair use; no evidence that accolade sought to avoid performing its own creative work; nor did it simply copy Sega's code - rather it wrote its own procedures based on what it learned through the disassembly; Accolade copied Sega's code for a legitimate, non-exploitative purpose
  2. NATURE - this factor weighs in favor of Accolade; Accolade had no other way to find out how to make their games compatible
  3. AMOUNT/SUBSTANTIABILITY - weighs against Accolade; as here, this factor is of very limited weight where the ultimate use is limited
  4. EFFECT ON MARKET - Accolade only sought to become a legitimate competitor; Accolade's disassembly no doubt affected the market; however, an attempt to monopolize the market by making it impossible for others to compete runs counter to the statutory purpose of promoting creative expression cannot constitute a strong equitable basis for resisting the invocation of the fair use doctrine


Factor four - look to what was used and the effect on the copyrighted work

Created on: Tuesday, October 26, 1999 at 18:56:33 (PDT)

Copyright © Thompson Resources, 1999, all rights reserved.