[The Spectrum ROMs collection]

Philip Kendall - The Spectrum ROMs collection

NB: Microdigital as referred to on this page was a Brazilian company from the early 1980s, as is in no way related to the current UK Microdigital.

Anyone looking at the TK-90X and TK-95 ROMs will fairly quickly note that they are almost exactly identical to the standard 48K ROM, but with translated error messages and the occasional new feature. These modifications were made without Sinclair's permission, which would be a flagrant violation of copyright in most countries, but Microdigital were allowed to sell them in Brazil. Some more information, with thanks to Osvaldo Pinali Doederlein:

"Back in that time, the Brazilian market was completely "closed" for computer technology (it was forbidden by law to import any HW/SW for which there was any "national equivalent"). That was an idea from our government to foster the local industry. One side effect is that the Brazilian companies could ignore international copyright laws completely, so Microdigital was among the companies that simply copied stuff; they translated the system messages and introduced a couple of features (like UDG) to present the result as national technology, so when Sinclair tried to sue them, the case was quickly dismissed by the law that protected Microdigital, and they never paid a cent to Sinclair. The protectionist law was a heritage from our military dictatorship (1964-1985), fortunately it was revoked in the closing of the 80's because it was a really stupid idea."

There are a couple of scanned (Portuguese) articles about this on the web, from November 1983 and July 1985. A brief summary, again from Osvaldo:

"The lawsuit actually started with ZX-81, which Microdigital copied just as well (TK-82C and later TK-85). I don't know if they extended/tried to sue again for the Spectrum vs. TK-90X/95 or if they desisted after losing the original lawsuit. The second article says that Sinclair lost the case because they didn't register any copyright locally in Brazil (before Microodigital copied the machines) and that was necessary because (at that time) Brazilian IP laws didn't respect international copyrights for software (part of the market protection). Additionally, the judge accepted the technical argument that although the ROM's first 12K were identical, the last 4K were not (that's where the modifications, like translated system messages, were stored); it's a ridiculous argument today, but 20 years ago I wouldn't expect the legal system in Brazil to understand anything about computer technology so they were easily manipulated."

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