"Kick Me"

So, I wrote an xscreensaver hack that does Flying Toasters, using images which apparently trace their (heavily edited, converted and scaled) genealogy back to the original After Dark hack.

What do you think, if I released this in xscreensaver, would someone sue me? If so, who? Berkeley Systems doesn't exist any more (apparently having been gobbled up by Sierra Online in 1998 or so, who where then gobbled up by Flipside and/or Vivendi?) After Dark was officially discontinued in 1999.

I'd like to think that whoever owns the copyright on these images doesn't care, or perhaps doesn't even know that they do, but I can't really figure out who that might be.

The safe thing would be to re-draw (or re-render) the images from scratch, but I have not the artistic skill for that.

Tags: , , , , ,

29 Responses:

  1. naturalborn says:

    It's unlikely that anyone would sue you. If you get any threatening letters, just make it no longer available.

    Good luck on having someone re-render it. There's an amazing scarcity of graphic design skill dedicated to open source projects.

  2. macguyver says:

    If you don't charge for it, I can't see how you'd have much liability.

    • shaver says:

      typically comes from damage to the other party, not gain for yourself, no?

      For criminal acts like theft, "converting to one's use" can be a key element of the crime, but I think civil stuff cares more about the plaintiff's losses.

      IANAL, blah blah ginger blah blah.


  3. flipzagging says:

    Didn't you go through anything similar with xmatrix? Or did you get someone's blessing for that?

    (BTW, thanks for that, it's causing my non-unix colleagues great envy).

    • jwz says:

      No, I created the xmatrix glyphs myself (they're just fuzzed-up backwards digits and Kanji.)

      • flipzagging says:

        Oh. You seem to be assuming that if you don't physically copy something, it's okay in the eyes of the law. But if you draw a good facsimile of Mickey Mouse and distribute that in a screensaver, I bet the lawyers could still send you a cease and desist. Especially if you called it xmickey or something.

        disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer, but I talk like one on LJ.

    • nester says:

      green with envy, as it may be...

  4. I think this would make a pretty cool xscreensaver: Sphere Turning Inside Out.
    I've seen this in <lj user="avva">'s journal.

  5. charles says:

    Copyright doesn't die. It doesn't fade. For the lifetime of xscreensaver, it'll have to deal with the possibility that somebody, somewhere will wake up one morning and realise "Oh shit, we own those!"

  6. thesliver says:

    If its Vivendi, then they're much more likely to sue.

    You could claim fair comment and that what you were presenting was a pastische, a retro nostalgic image. That the original flying toaster was originally retro and nostalgic would be an argument that you were creating art, post-industrial, post-structural comment on the reuse of images in society and the conversion of brands into image.

    Since a screen saver is intended to be used when no one is using a computer directly, one could also argue that there was no audience to view the breach of copyright and that it was not distribution of a copyrighted image.

    Actually the above paragraph is why screen savers of any kind zoom over my head in gerund quotient to real life.

  7. ivorjawa says:

    There was an Amiga flying toasters screensaver that I used to use.
    It's part of a screensaver collection called "Garshneblanker".
    Source is here: http://wuarchive.wustl.edu/aminet/util/blank/GBlanker36_src.lha

    Stuffit expander on the Mac is still able to open LHAs, so I didn't have to go
    tracking down a dearchiver.

    The screensaver in question lives at
    "GBlanker36_src Folder/GSource Folder/GSource/Blankers/FlyingToaster",
    and the images are four header files.

    I'm fairly certain that the images are unencumbered. I used it 10 years ago,
    and you can still get the source on the in-tar-net.


  8. jered says:

    To feed your paranoia: re-drawing or re-rendering might not be enough to sate the copyright monsters lurking at the heart of whatever megacorporation owns the festering remains of Berkeley Systems. Look and feel, baby, look and feel!

  9. benzado says:

    I would say release the toasters and if you are asked to cease and desist, do so. You can get a better copy of the toasters from here; I used them to make my own toasters saver for Mac OS X.

  10. gargargar says:

    I would just like to point out that the images of flying toasters originally appear on the "30 seconds over dreamland" album by Jefferson Airplane.

  11. ronbar says:

    I'd just lift whatever bitmaps you can find from the original or clones, with appropriate credits if you don't mind being googled by bored IP lawyers. Like somebody else mentioned, just take the module out if you later get a C&D or something similar. If in the worst case the current owners sue, ceasing and desisting makes the suit baseless.

    Somebody out there has to have made some images of the flying toasters and put it out under a redistributable license.

  12. jcurious says:

    are still being sold by infinisys infact they released an osx version of after dark not too long ago..

  13. cypherpunks says:

    IIRC, Berkeley Systems claimed flying toasters was their trademark. Dunno if it is registered or not. I do recall BS clamping down on copycats a decade ago. With a trademark, you can't even use your own images, for which you own the copyright, on a product in the same market.