MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc.
991 F.2d 511 (9th Cir. 1993)
MAI made computer software.
After the software was installed on a customer's computers they often
maintained the customers' computer systems for an additional cost.
A few MAI employees defected
to a competitor named Peak. Peak stole some of MAI's maintenance
MAI sued Peak for copyright
MAI argued that in order to
perform maintenance, you had to run the program. That entailed making a
copy of the program from the hard drive onto the computer's RAM.
MAI argued that they had
sold a license to the users to make copies, but that license did not
allow third parties like Peak to make copies.
The Trial Court found for MAI.
Peak argued that they were
not making a copy by running the software, because the image of the
program on the RAM was temporary and therefore not fixed.
17 U.S.C. §102(a) requires that a work must be fixed in a
tangible medium of expression.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court looked
to the statutory definition of the word 'copy' in 17 U.S.C. §101 and found that loading the software onto the
RAM met the definition.
The Court found that the
image on the RAM was "sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it
to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of
more than transitory duration." Therefore it was fixed for purposes of §102(a).
This was a silly result,
because Peak could just ask the licensee to boot up the software and there
would be no copyright violation. MAI was mostly suing because they just
didn't like Peak stealing their computer maintenance business.
MAI wasn't interested in
copyright per se, they were just trying to leverage copyright law in an