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Topic: copyright for sudokus ?
Replies: 15   Last Post: Sep 16, 2005 2:41 PM

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Posts: 82
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: copyright for sudokus ?
Posted: Sep 15, 2005 9:36 AM
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guenter wrote:
> jaap wrote:
> >If a list of computer generated Sudoku's were tested by a real
> >person,
> >who then removed the ones that were uninteresting, then that list is
> >highly likely to be copyrightable.

> how would he prove that?

I don't know. Probably only by testifying it is so if it were to come
to a court.

> in which countries do you consider this "highly likely" ?

Any country that adheres to copyright laws (but again, let me just say
I am not a lawyer and have no court experiences at all).

> does the same apply to a list of random numbers ?

Not purely random numbers, no. If however a human has gone through
them, and selected them on some aesthetic criterion, then probably yes.

> I think, the selection process should have some individual character
> at least. Not just picking every 57th or each with a 3 in cell 42.

Indeed, it seems it must have some creative/authorial aspect to it.

> >If that selection method were automated too, then it is a much greyer
> >area. That becomes a judgement call, something to be tested in a
> >court.

> Wayne Gould e.g., a former judge and lawywer, who claims copyright
> for the puzzles in Times said that he generates them completely at
> random by his computer program.

If he doesn't filter out any of them, just blindly puts the next one
generated into the next issue, then I don't think it can be
copyrighted. At least, not as a puzzle in itself - an image of the
puzzle as it was printed in the newspaper probably is copyrighted due
to fonts/layout/design etc.

> >The only way someone else could
> >have the puzzles would be to take them from a published list, hence
> >infringement.

> .._if_ they were copyrighted in the first place.
> The way how someone else gets the puzzles can't render their
> generation process into creative work.

I agree that is how it should be, but I don't think that is how it
works in practice. Anything that is published automatically has
copyright (and since 1995 you don't even need to have an explicit
copyright message). Or rather, it is presumed to have copyright. It is
not the publisher/author who has to prove he has copyright, it is up to
the alleged infringer to prove it wasn't copyrightable.

Unfortunately there are no sanctions for claiming something is
copyrighted when it is not. I wish there were.

> >If the generating program were openly available to buy or download,
> >such a list of Sudoku's might not be copyrightable. However, it would
> >be hard to argue this in practice, since you would have to prove that
> >you could reproduce the exact same list with the program, and that
> >could be impossible without being able to set the random number seed
> >just right.

> well, if I'm accused of copyright infringement, then I think
> _they_ will have to prove it.

Yes, they will have to prove you copied the material from them, but
that part will be easy for them. It is easy to prove statistically that
sudoku's are unlikely to be exactly the same unless copying has taken
place. Your defense could be that you did not copy at all (e.g. "it
wasn't me" or "the program generated them"), but I doubt that would be

Assuming you did copy, you can argue that you were allowed to to so. In
that case arguing that it falls under the fair use provisions is I
think much easier than arguing that the copied stuff was
uncopyrightable. The material is presumed to be copyrighted unless
proven otherwise. It would be up to you to prove that it was
uncopyrightable. No doubt a good lawyer would try both defenses, as
they are not mutually exclusive.

I would actually like to see this tested by a court.

> >Remember however that copyright has exemptions. Fair use includes
> >things like having to copy something in order to comment on it
> >(including parody), or for educational purposes.

> suppose I put them on the web with a note: "for science and education
> only".
> Could it be illegal in EC ?

It depends. If you are profiting from it, or from some sources you are
copying a relatively large amount, it might be.

> >Because copyright is so strict, it can be an obstacle. Copyright
> >basically means that the original author is the only one who has the
> >right to copy the material. If you want to copy something beyond what
> >is considered fair use, you must get explicit permission from the
> >author. This can be very tricky, which is why many people now are
> >beginning to use the Creative Commons license scheme,

> only 38 hits with google for that term. Not so common yet.

I get 60 million hits for that phrase...

> I had got that from here:
> http://www.ivir.nl/publications/hugenholtz/PBHbk!.doc.
> "Dutch copyright law has gone through a storm in the first half
> of the present decade."

Interesting link. Thanks,


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