Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Corp.
203 F.3d 596 (9th Cir. 2000)

  • Sony made video game consoles and licensed the rights to third-party video game developers to make games for their console.
    • The video games were designed to only work with Sony's console.
  • Connectix made an 'emulator' program that allowed people to play the video games on a computer.
    • Connectix got a Sony console, reverse engineered how the code on the computer chips worked, and then wrote a computer program that would do the same thing as Sony's code.
  • Sony sued Connectix for copyright infringement for copying the code on their computer chips.
    • Connectix argued that reverse engineering was protected by the fair use provision (17 U.S.C. 107).
  • The Trial Court found for Sony. Connectix appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that based on 107 there is a four-factor test for determining if something counts as fair use:
      • Is the purpose and character of the use commercial or non-commercial?
        • The Court found that Connectix's work was 'moderately transformative' because it let people play games on a platform they couldn't otherwise use.
        • The Court found that although Connectix's ultimate purpose was selling things, the direct purpose in copying Sony's code was just to understand how they worked.
      • The nature of the copyrighted work.
        • The Court found there were unprotectable elements within Sony's chips that could only be protected by a patent. Since Sony had no patent, Connectix could use those elements. And the only way to see those elements was to copy all of the code on the chip.
      • The amount of the original work used.
        • The Court found that Connectix did copy a substantial portion of Sony's copyrighted elements. However, that didn't mean much because the final product (the emulator) did not contain any infringing material.
      • The effect on the potential market.
        • The Court found that Connectix's emulator was a legitimate competitor to Sony. Any loss that Sony suffered as a result of this competition did not compel a finding of no fair use.
    • Based on their balancing of the four factors, the Court found that Connectix's copying was protected by fair use.