Subject: Re: your mail
To: Adam Lang <email@example.com>
From: Bill Johnston <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 01/09/1994 00:49:36
> Hypothetical question for you: if Microsoft created an exact duplicate of
> the Macintosh user interface, down to the menu bar (but put a little blue
> box up in the left hand corner or something), but didn't copy any of the
> Macintosh code, would that be a) a copyright violation, b) 'unfair' but not
> illegal or c) none of the above?
Ask a lawyer. I'm not an expert in copyright law. Before Apple
and Lotus attempted to assert copyright on the "look and feel"
of the Mac interface and Lotus 1-2-3, software copyrights were
considered to cover two things: 1) the text of source code,
and 2) compiled machine code. Evidence of substantial similarity
in either between two programs would be considered evidence of
Mere similarity in the way a finished product looks or acts
has not been held to be a violation of copyright in any court,
to my knowledge, but both Lotus and Apple have used the threat
of lawsuit to drive several smaller competitors out of business
simply by *claiming* that their copyright covers look and feel.
Fortunately Microsoft had the money and power to stand up to
Apple and its unprecedented claims. If Apple had not lost,
the software world would be in utter chaos today -- any twit
who introduces the slightest innovation in the course of
writing a cheesy video game - for example, a "panic screen"
that covers your Tetris game with a fake spreadsheet, or an
"OK" button in a modal dialog box - could claim the right to
prevent others from doing something similar.
The result would be that no two software programs could share
a compatible user interface, and programmers would have to
spend even more time dealing with lawyers than writing code.
Microsoft did everyone a favor by refusing to pay extortion
money to Apple for the few trivial similarities that exist
between the user interfaces of MacOS and Windows. That time
would have been better spent addressing the fundamental technical
ugliness that underlies BOTH MacOS and DOS-under-Windows systems
It is Apple that ultimately loses the most, because they spent
their money and effort on lawyers while Microsoft spent it on
improving their product, which now controls the lion's share
of the market for GUI software, something that Apple could
boast before it decided to lay off programmers to feed its lawyers.
Now Microsoft has Windows NT, IBM has OS/2 2.0, and Apple's
customers still haven't been given a clue as to when they'll
see an OS with protected memory and preemptive multitasking.