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Foresight Research Corp. v. Pfortmiller, 719 F. Supp. 1006 (D. Kan. 1989) (full-text).

Factual Background[]

Plaintiff, Foresight Resources Corporation (Foresight), owned a copyright for a computer program. Defendant, Pfortmiller, took the program and added files to come up with another program. A third party used the new program in its business. Some of the files used to enhance Foresight’s program were taken from another project Pfortmiller was working on, which Pfortmiller sold to a Dutch corporation.

Trial Court Proceedings[]

Foresight contended that Pfortmiller infringed its copyright and sought to enjoin Pfortmiller from further sales of the altered programs. The trial court found it unlikely that Foresight would succeed at a trial for infringement. Case law supported the notion that 17 U.S.C. § 117, which provided for non-infringing adaptations of computer programs, was to be construed broadly.

The trial court held that when Section 117 is construed broadly to cover the enhancements Pfortmiller made to the third party’s copy of Foresight’s program, then it serves two important goals of the copyright laws. First, it allows sophisticated software users who enhanced copies of copyrighted programs they have purchased to eliminate the need to choose between either buying the latest version of a program or possibly infringing the program owner’s copyright. Secondly, it allows such enhancement that are used only in-house to preserve the market for improvements made by the copyright holder.

Thus, the trial court determined that Pfortmiller’s program used by the third party was not infringement, but the court barred Pfortmiller from selling it to anyone other than the third party to preserve the market for improvement by the copyright holder. The trial court denied the injunction for the program sold to a Dutch corporation because there was no evidence that Pfortmiller copied Foresight’s program.