Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"Verbatim copying"; a requirement for infringement rules US Court

You can copyright your words, not your ideas—and in an erudite opinion concerning two consulting firms duelling, a federal judge amplified that longstanding principle.
Judge William G. Young of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts dismissed a copyright infringement suit brought by Situation Management Systems (SMS) against ASP Consulting Group, despite finding that that ASP did copy SMS’s workbooks.

“The ruling appears to limit claims of copyright infringement of business publications to instances of near verbatim copying,” said James J. Foster, a senior litigator with Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., in Boston, which represented ASP.

“The backdrop to this suit is a bitter struggle between a company and its former employees,” Young wrote. Two ex-SMS employees, who helped create SMS’s workbooks, went on to become ASP’s cofounders. ASP charged that the pair infringed the copyright of three of its workbooks when they created similar SMS workbooks.

Young ruled that they did copy, but changed the wording sufficiently: “the copying is not actionable because ASP’s works are not substantially similar.”

Young’s witty 33-page decision quotes many sources on copyright and even tosses in a Shakespeare sonnet.

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