This case dealt with the copyright status of video games, particularly whether video games are eligible for registration. Atari Games Corporation released the paddle and ball video game Breakout in 1976. Atari applied for copyright registration for the work in 1987. Copyright Registrar Ralph Oman denied registration on February 13, 1987, and again on May 22, 1987, because the work “did not contain at least a minimum amount of original pictorial or graphic authorship, or authorship in sounds.” Atari challenged Oman’s rejections.
The District Court granted summary judgment to Oman, noting that video games are not per se copyrightable, or more creative than other mediums. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision and held that Breakout was copyrightable because it is a fixed work that meets the minimum requirement for creativity in copyright. This is a seminal case that helped establish the copyrightability of video games in general.