A Harrowing Pre-DMCA Story From Wayne Green

Wayne Green was one of the early pioneers of microcomputing (before it was even called desktop computing) and one of the several magazines he published was called Byte.

Wayne has moved on to other interests but he has a blog too.

In his entry for 7/2/12, titled Shack (there is no direct link so search for that word), he relates a tale of Copyright terrorism well before the days of the DMCA.

I quote some portions of it:

Two years later Radio Shack announced their TRS-80 computer. Ed Juge had closed his store, joined Radio Shack, whose headquarters was right there in Ft. Worth, and spearheaded their TRS-80 computer project. With stores in just about every major American city, they quickly became the largest personal computer maker, with some 40% of the market.

With such sales, entrepreneurs quickly started making accessories and software programs for it. But, Lew Kornfeld [then-president of the Radio Shack Division of Tandy Corporation] previously had worked for IBM, which was well-known for protecting their minicomputers and mainframe computers from such outside products, so he wanted Radio Shack to be the sole source of software and accessories for their TRS-80.

Lew was so committed to this that he had his people go to computer shows, and when they found any booth advertising a TRS-80 accessory or software program, they took them from the show floor to court for copyright infringement!

Meanwhile, I started the first computer-specific magazine, 80 Micro, in 1979, where all it had was third party accessories and software for the TRS-80. Lew said any Radio Shack store owner allowing a copy of the magazine in their store would be fired.

By 1982 80 Micro had grown to some 500 pages a month, the third largest magazine in the country, and the computer shows were thick with TRS-80 software and accessories exhibitors.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Now here’s the kicker:

Anyway, Chaz [Cone] somehow managed to convince the IBM-Junior development team to open up their operating system. He went around to all of the TRS-80 supporting companies and offered them access to the IBM-Junior operating system, plus how many computers would they need for the project?

At the next major computer show, in Las Vegas, there was not a TRS-80 supporting product to be seen. They were all now with the IBM-Junior. And that, pretty much, was the end of the Radio Shack TRS-80, which was now left only with it’s meager array of accessories and software. And they had Radio Shack president Lew Kornfeld to thank for losing out on what would grow to be one of the largest industries in the world.

And we think the API Copyright Wars and DMCA takedowns of today are all new.

No, these tactics have all been used before. They just didn’t have the names we’re all too familiar with today.

It’s as if some people just never learn!

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