I'm going to assert that distribution of the Atari System ROMS is legal and that Atari do not own any copyright on them. I'm looking for peer review of my research here.
The ROMS I'm talking about are the AtariOSA, AtariOSB, AtariXL, BASICXL, and 5200 roms.
These programs were written and published between 1978 and 1989, that is a period in time when copyright law required there to be a copyright notice on a work for it to be protected.
Curt Vendel says that the source listings all have copyright notices on them.
- That is not acceptable however as the notice must be:-
"affixed on publicly distributed copies and phonorecords in such a manner and in a location that provides reasonable notice to the public of the claim to copyright.
In all cases, the acceptability of a notice depends upon its being permanently legible to an ordinary user of the work and affixed to the copies in such manner and position that it is not concealed from view upon reasonable examination." --- 2206.1
- There is a copyright notice printed onto the rom chips but this is not acceptable either because:-
"A concealed notice that is permanently covered so that it cannot be seen without damaging or tearing the work apart is unacceptable. The U.S. Copyright Office considers such works to be published without notice. To be acceptable, a notice must be legible to an ordinary user of the work under normal conditions of use and affixed to the copies in such a manner and position that when affixed it is not concealed from view upon reasonable examination by the Office or the ordinary user." --- 2206.7
- There is no copyright notice within the ROM code.
- There is no copyright notice on the label in the bottom of the Atari machines.
I searched the copyright office for Atari copyrights and only found a regestration for the 65XE OS and that was registered in 1990 (TX0002705413 / 1990-01-09).
"Copyright registration is the process by which a formal claim of copyright is filed on a work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is not a condition of copyright protection, although it is a prerequisite for filing a copyright lawsuit on U.S. origin works. However, it is possible to file a lawsuit on a previously unregistered work merely by filing an application for registration immediately prior to initiating the lawsuit.
Even though registration is not a requirement for copyright protection, the Copyright Act does provides several inducements or advantages to encourage copyright owners to file for copyright registration. Among these advantages are the following:
If registration is made within 3 months after publication of the work, it is possible to collect statutory damages and attorney's fees in infringement actions (otherwise only actual damages may be collected);
If made before or within 5 years of publication, registration will establish prima facie evidence in court of the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in the certificate;
Registration establishes a public record of the copyright claim and allows for the recordation of transfers of ownership of the copyright; and
Registration allows the copyright to be used to prevent the importation of infringing copies."
Aside from this, the ROMS were distributed with PC Xformer, The current copy from emulator, inc. (v3.80) still has the roms in it, The About box says the roms are used with permission from Atari and I found:-
"Reprinted From MICHIGAN ATARI
MAGAZINE by permission.
By John Nagy
DAREK MIHOCKA's ATARI
800-in-an-ST-Program WILL BE RELEASED
with ATARI's approval!
NEIL HARRIS, spokesman for ATARI, has
agreed (in a public message on the
GEnie ATARI SIG) to allow both USE
and DISTRIBUTION of the ATARI code
within Darek's emulator. The
permission is contingent on Darek's
PUBLISHING the SOURCE CODE for his
emulator, so that other programmers
may be able to add their efforts......."
This is mention of ST Xformer, which became PC Xformer.
Aside from this, Atari released the ROMS into the public domain in the Translator disk for the XL.
I tried emailing the current Atari, Inc. asking them to formally release the roms into the public domain but I've had no reply. I think from the above, they already have and we can all stop dancing around the how or where of obtaining of these ROMS.