I'm responding to Paul Wilson's request (January 1982, page 14) for information on copyrighting an adventure game. Since it hasn't been that long since I was wondering how to do the same thing and wishing I could write programs for a living, I know the problems and questions that occur when trying to get your feet wet in the game writing business. I hope this letter will be of help to all who are at that stage now. When I wanted to copyright my first adventure game. Castles of Darkness, I called the local offices of my congresswoman and was given the phone number for the Library of Congress. I called that number and asked for the Copyright Office (the correct name is Register of Copyrights) and I was answered by that rarity of rarities: a governmental worker who was not only sympathetic but knew what she was talking about! Whenever anyone completes a work (program in our case), that person automatically owns the copyright—in other words a copyright is a by-product of authoring a work. So you don't apply to Washington for a copyright, you register your copyright. In fact, under the latest law you don't even have to register it.
To quote Copyright Office circular Rl, page 7, "Except in one specific situation, registration is not a condition of copyright protection." That situation occurs when a copyright notice does not appear in the work. There are advantages to registering your copyright, and to doing it within three months of publication of the work. For one thing, quoting from the same page, "Statutory damages and attorney's fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available." Registering your copyright costs $10. You fill out Form TX and, for most programs, get a printout of the first and last twenty-five pages of the program listing. You then send your $10 check, form, and listing to: Register of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559. Requesters may order forms from the Copyright Office by telephoning (202) 287-9100. In addition to Form TX (ask for several copies of it), you should order copies of the following circulars (they're all free) : Rl, Rlf, 31, ML-182, and ML- 212. These circulars are explanatory and should answer any remaining questions.
As far as marketing a new program goes, I suggest that you contact several software houses and request a nondisclosure agreement (reputable software houses each have their standard form) from each of them before sending a copy of your program. The agreement should say something to the effect that your program will not be shown to anyone outside the company and no manufacture will begin until a further written agreement is signed. You may also consider approaching a local store (making sure it's a good one) and asking them if they are interested in manufacturing software. There are advantages and disadvantages to both routes. When you get bids on your programs, they will almost certainly be given as the percent of manufacturer's gross to be paid as a royalty. When comparing bids, be siore to consider the method of payment (for example, quarterly, semiannually) and whether or not the company is going to receive retail and/or distributor prices for your program.
Mike Cashen, Baltimore, MD - V2N8