HP Calculator Microcode Copyright Status

In the United States, for works created before March 1, 1989, a copyright notice must be present to secure a copyright, except in very limited circumstances as defined in 17 U.S.C. 405(a), quoted below.

The microcode contained in HP handheld calculators introduced before 1984 did not bear any copyright notices. There are no printed copyright notices on the calculator, or the packaged ROM integrated circuits, nor were there any copyright notices stored in the digital content of the ROMs. The microcode also does not qualify for any of the exceptions listed in 17 U.S.C. 405(a). The microcode is thus not copyrighted by HP in the United States.

I have verified the absence of both printed and machine-readable copyright notices on the following HP calculator models:

series models notes
Classic HP-35
Classic HP-45, HP-55, HP-80 verified object code from patent listings, not ROM chips
Woodstock HP-25, HP-67
Spice HP-32E, HP-33C, HP-34C, HP-37E, HP-38E, HP-38C
Nut HP-41C, HP-41CV, HP-41CX Peripheral ROMs and application module ROMs also appear to have no copyright, but I have not verified all of them
Voyager HP-11C, HP-12C, HP-15C, HP-16C

I have verifed the absence of printed copyright notices on most other models of those series, as well as the Topcat and Sting series, but have not yet checked them for machine-readable notices.

Machine-readable copyright notices were present in the ROMs of the HP-71B handheld computer introduced in 1984, and in many if not all later HP calculators. Most of these models will present the copyright notice on the display under some conditions such as self-test or cold reset.




Sec. 405. Notice of copyright: Omission of notice on certain copies and phonorecords

(a) Effect of Omission on Copyright. — With respect to copies and phonorecords publicly distributed by authority of the copyright owner before the effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, the omission of the copyright notice described in sections 401 through 403 from copies or phonorecords publicly distributed by authority of the copyright owner does not invalidate the copyright in a work if —

See also the full text of 17 U.S.C. 405.

Disclaimer: IANAL, TINLA

I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Consult a qualified and licensed attorney for all legal issues.

Last updated May 25, 2005

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005 Eric Smith


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