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Williams Elecs., Inc. v. Artic Int'l, Inc. - 685 F.2d 870 (3d Cir. 1982)

Rule:

Where plaintiff possesses certificates of registration issued by the Copyright Office, under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 410(c), these certificates constitute prima facie evidence of the validity of plaintiff's copyright. Defendant, therefore, has the burden of overcoming this presumption of validity. 

Facts:

Plaintiff Williams Electronics, Inc. ("Williams") manufactured and sold coin-operated electronic video games. In Oct. 1979 Williams began to design a new video game, ultimately called DEFENDER, which incorporated various original and unique audiovisual features. Williams obtained three copyright registrations relating to its DEFENDER game: one covering the computer program; the second covering the audio-visual effects displayed during the game's "attract mode;" and the third covering the audiovisual effects displayed during the game's "play mode." Defendant Artic International, Inc. ("Artic") was a seller of electronic components for video games in competition with Williams. Williams created and sold a circuit board "kit" produced audiovisual effects and a game almost identical to DEFENDER. Williams filed a copyright infringement action against Artic in federal district court. The district court found that Artic had infringed Williams' program copyright for DEFENDER by selling kits which contained a computer program that was a copy of Williams' computer program, and that Artic had infringed both of Williams' audiovisual copyrights for DEFENDER by selling copies of those audiovisual works. The district court entered a final injunction permanently restraining and enjoining Artic from infringing Williams' copyrights. The district court further held that Artic's copyright infringement was "willful and deliberate." Artic appealed.

Issue:

Did the certificates of registration in possession of Williams constitute a prima facie evidence of the validity of Williams' copyright.

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court upheld the injunction issued by the district court, refusing to accept Artic's claim that infringement of a computer program was limited to copying of the computer program text, but not to duplication of a computer program fixed on a silicon chip. Artic had the burden of overcoming the presumption of validity because Williams possessed certificates of registration that, under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 410(c), constituted prima facie evidence of the validity. Under 37 C.F.R. § 202.20(c)(2) (1981), the deposit of videotapes was a satisfactory method of complying with the statutory requirement for audiovisual works. The fixation requirement was met if the work was sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be reproduced for more than a transitory period. Although there was player interaction with the machine that caused the audiovisual presentation to change in response to the player's participation, there was always a repetitive sequence of a substantial portion of the game, and many aspects of the display remained constant. However, the district court erred by finding "willful and deliberate" infringement without a hearing to determine the issue. The case was remanded to give Artic the opportunity to present evidence rebutting the charge of willful and deliberate infringement in a determination of damages.

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