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Indefinite Hiatus

Categories: Notices


This Video Game Law blog is on an indefinite hiatus. I do expect to resume posting here in the future.

For the time being, I’m channelling my spare time into iPhone application development efforts and my wishhh.com service.

I will continue to blog regularly on The Daleisphere. Please join me there.

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Gibson Sues MTV, EA & Harmonix over Guitar Patent

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesRoyalty Disputes

Text of MTV/EA/Harmonix Complaint (March 20, 2008)
Text Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

After “good faith efforts to enter into a patent license agreement”, and subsequent yesterday’s filing of law suits against Activision’s Guitar Hero retailers, Gibson has filed another patent infringement suit against MTV, EA & Harmonix in the Federal District Court in Tennessee. Gibson owns patent no. 5,990,405.

Gibson claims Harmonix infringed its patent as the developer of Guitar Hero 1 and 2 (now published by Activision – previously published by RedOctane). After Harmonix parted ways with RedOctane, it was purchased by MTV. Harmonix subsequently developed the successful video game – Rock Band. EA distributes the game. Gibson claims that Rock Band infringes its patents and as such Harmonix, the game developer, MTV, the game publisher and EA, the game distributor, are all infringing its patents.

Harmonix has responded in an email to Wired Blog’s as follows:

“Gibson’s patent, filed nearly 10 years ago, required a 3D display, a real musical instrument and a recording of a concert. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are completely different: among other things they are games, require no headset and use a controller only shaped like a real instrument. It is unfortunate that Gibson unfairly desires to share in the tremendous success enjoyed by the developers of Rock Band and Guitar Hero,”

While Gibson previously threatened action against the current Guitar Hero publisher Activision, as far as I know, no law suit has been filed against Activision.

The 405 patent’s abstract reads:

A musician can simulate participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers. Audio and video portions of a musical concert are pre-recorded, along with a separate sound track corresponding to the musical instrument played by the musician. Playback of the instrument sound track is controlled by signals generated in the musical instrument and transmitted to a system interface box connected to the audio-video play back device, an audio mixer, and the head-mounted display. An external bypass switch allows the musician to suppress the instrument sound track so that the sounds created by actual playing of the musical instrument are heard along with the pre-recorded audio and video portions.

Dale’s Comment: I have not yet found the text of the claim online. If/when I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: Wired Blogs 1 | Wired Blogs 2 | CNNMOney.com (DJN) | Reuters | Joystiq | New York Times 1 | New York Times 2 | Wall St. Journal | MTV Blog | PC World | AP

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Jack Thompson Sanctioned by Florida Court for Abuse of Process

Categories: DecisionsJack Thompson

Text of Sanction Order (March 20, 2008)
Text of Show Cause Order (February 19, 2008)

wo Florida bar disciplinary proceedings are pending against Jack Thompson. On April 12, 2007, the Supreme Court of Florida warned Jack Thompson that he could be sanctioned if he continued to submit inappropriate filings. Thompson filed over 50 subsequent filings. On February 19, the Court issued a ‘show cause’ order:

It appears to the Court that you have abused the legal system by submitting numerous frivolous and inappropriate filings in this Court. Therefore, it is ordered that you shall show cause on or before March 5, 2008, why this Court should not find that you have abused the legal system process and impose upon you a sanction for abusing the legal system…

Apparently Mr. Thompson was unable to show such cause. The court decided Thompson’s “constant abusive filings” were repetitive, frivolous and insulting. As such the Court (per Curium – 7 concurring judges) has issued the following order sanctioning Mr. Thompson:

Accordingly, in order to preserve the right of access for all litigants and promote the interests of justice, the Clerk of this Court is hereby instructed to reject for filing any future pleadings, petitions, motions, documents, or other filings submitted by John Bruce Thompson, unless signed by a member in good standing of The Florida Bar other than himself. Under the sanction herein imposed, Thompson is not being denied access to the courts; that access is simply being limited due to his abusiveness. Thompson may petition the Court, but may do so only through the assistance of counsel, whenever such counsel determines that the filing has merit and can be filed in good faith. However, Thompson’s frivolous and abusive filings must immediately come to an end. Further, if Thompson submits a filing in violation of this order, he may be subjected to contempt proceedings or other appropriate sanctions..

Sources: GamePolitics.com | Joystiq | Wired | Next Generation | ars technica | Escapist | Law.com

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Gibson Sues U.S. Retailers Over Guitar Hero Patent Dispute

Categories: Controller CasesPatent Cases

Text of Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

As previously reported: (i) in January, Gibson pressed Activision to pay it royalty fees alleging the video game Guitar Hero infringes its patent; and (ii) on March 12, 2008 Activision filed a preemptive lawsuit in the District Court for Central California seeking, among other things, to invalidate Gibson’s patent claims.

In response to Activision’s lawsuit, Gibson has now filed suit against major U.S. retailers of Activision’s game, including GameStop, Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, Amazon and Toys “R” US, seeking to enjoin further sails of “Guitar Hero”.

March 21, 2oo8 Upate: While Gibson has since separately sued Harmonix, MTV and EA over alleged infringements in both Guitar Hero and Guitar Hero, as far as I’m aware Gibson has not yet filed suit directly against Activision.

Dale’s Comment: I have not found the text of the claim online. If/when I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: GameSpot | Dallas Business Journal | New York Times | Joystiq | msnbc (AP) | Yahoo! Tech | Gamasutra | CrunchGear | Silicon Alley Insider | Kotaku

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8th Circuit Upholds Permanent Injunction Against Minnesota’s Law Restricting Video Game Sales/Rentals to Minors

Categories: Violent Game Law Cases

ESA v. Minnesota (March 17, 2008 – 8th Cir Court of Appeals)
Click to hear Oral Arguments on Appeal (Feb 12, 2007)
Text of Appeal (Aug 29, 2006)
Permanent Injunction (July 31, 2006 – District Court)
Text of Complaint (June 6, 2006)
Text of Enjoined Bill (May 22, 2006)

In another of a long line of such U.S. First Amendment video game cases, The United States 8th Circuit upheld the July 2006 permanent injunction enjoining Minnesota from enforcing a law that would have: (i) imposed $25 fines on children under 17 who bought or rented video games rated M (Mature) or AO (Adults only); and (ii) required retailers to post signs informing consumers of the law. The appellate court’s reasoning was as follows:

  1. Video games are protected free speech (as per Interactive Digital Software Ass’n v St. Louis County, 329 F.3d 954, 958 (8th Cir. 2003)).
  2. As such, video game rental/purchase restrictions imposed by law must pass the ‘strict scrutiny‘ test, namely the law must: (i) be necessary to serve a compelling state interest; and (ii) be narrowly tailored to achieve that end.
  3. The state argued that the compelling interest at stake was that of ‘safeguarding the psychological well being and moral and ethical development of minors’.
  4. While the interest may be compelling in the abstract, in order to prevail the state must provide real and empirical support for its belief that ‘violent’ video games cause such harm – not merely conjecture.
  5. The court agreed that Minnesota offered substantial evidence in support of its contention that video games cause such harm, but nonetheless ruled that the evidence fell short of the statistical certainty of causation required by the Interactive decision.


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Major Video Game Piracy Raid in Mexico City

Categories: Piracy CasesPolice Actions

Five Hundred Mexican police officers raided four Mexican video game piracy operations in the Tepito area of Mexico City (the center of the local black market) netting some 28,000 pirated game copies, 290 DVD/CD burners and 900,000 game covers.

Sources: Bit-tech.net | Joystiq | Next Generation | Game Politics | Portalit | IGN | ESA Press Release

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UK’s Video Appeals Committee Rules in Favour of Manhunt 2 – Again

Categories: DecisionsGame BansGame Ratings

In June 2007, the British Board of Film Classification refused to rate Rockstar’s highly violent and controversial video game Manhunt 2 – effectively banning it from distribution in the U.K. The BBFC called it “unremittingly bleak, callous and sadistic”. An edited version of the game was submitted to the BBFC in October 2007. It too was effectively banned. This was the first video game ban in Britain since 1997.

Rockstar appealed the ban to the Video Appeals Committee of the BBFC which ruled last December, 4 to 3, in Rockstar’s favour. The BBFC sought judicial review of the VAC’s decision from the British High Court. The court found that VAC’s decision was flawed by a clear error of law (see here, here and here). The High Court requested the VAC to reconsider its decision under new guidelines specified by the court.

In January 2008, the VAC did reconsider under the new guidelines but voted once again, 4 to 3, in favour of giving the game a certificate 18 rating, meaning it can be sold in Britain but is suitable for adults only.

In view of the second ruling, the BBFC released a statement saying it will not challenge the ruling any further and will issue the ’18′ rating. The edited version of the game (which is the same as the ‘reworked’ version of the game released in the U.S. under an “M’ rating) is expected to be on U.K. store shelves in June.

Click here for Wikipedia’s Timeline.

Dale’s Note: I have not yet found the text of the High Court decision or the ‘new guidelines’ it presented to the VAC. If I do, I will post them here.

Sources: BBC | Telegraph.co.uk | GameIndustry.biz 1| GameIndustry.biz 2 | MCV | BCS | Joystiq | Computer Active | Dose.ca | vnunet.com | Games Digest | EuroGamer 1 | EuroGamer 2

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Activision Asks Court to Invalidate Gibson’s Guitar Hero Patent Claims

Categories: Controller CasesPatent CasesRoyalty Disputes

Text of Activision Complaint Seeking Declaratory Relief (March 11, 2008)
Text of Patent No. 5,990,405 (November 23, 1999)

Activision has a long-standing license to use guitar-maker Gibson’s trademarks in its Guitar Hero video game franchise.

Gibson owns a hitherto unknown and unenforced patent ’405 (A System and method for generating and controlling a simulated musical concert experience) and claimed in a letter sent to Activision in January, that the Guitar Hero franchise, expansion packs and controllers infringe this patent. In the letter Gibson sought royalty payments from Activision:

Gibson requests that Activision obtain a license under Gibson’s … patent or halt sales of any version of the Guitar Hero game software.

In response, Activision has filed a preemptive lawsuit in the District Court for Central California asking the court, among other things, to invalidate Gibson’s patent claims and to bar it from seeking damages.

The abstract of Gibson’s patent no. 5,990,405 reads as follows:

A musician can simulate participation in a concert by playing a musical instrument and wearing a head-mounted 3D display that includes stereo speakers. Audio and video portions of a musical concert are pre-recorded, along with a separate sound track corresponding to the musical instrument played by the musician. Playback of the instrument sound track is controlled by signals generated in the musical instrument and transmitted to a system interface box connected to the audio-video play back device, an audio mixer, and the head-mounted display. An external bypass switch allows the musician to suppress the instrument sound track so that the sounds created by actual playing of the musical instrument are heard along with the pre-recorded audio and video portions.

Sources: Gamasutra | Next Generation 1 | Next Generation 2 | GameSpot | InformationWeek | engadget | Joystiq | MacWorld | Wall Street Journal | CNet | Yahoo! News (Reuters)

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Harmonix Brings $14.5M Royalty Suit Against Activision – Sort-of

Categories: Controller CasesRoyalty Disputes

Harmonix is the developer of the first two wildly successful Guitar Hero video games – originally published by RedOctane. In June 2006 Activision purchased the publishing rights to the franchise from RedOctane and Harmonix, which was subsequently purchased by MTV, went its own way and developed Guitar Hero. Activision-owned Neversoft has since taken-up the development of Guitar Hero sequels.

Harmonix claims that under its original agreement with RedOctane (subsequently assigned to Activision), it is entitled to a higher rate of royalties, amounting to $14.5 million, for the use of its intellectual property in Guitar Hero sequels. Harmonix claims that Activision has paid royalties based only on a prior lower rate.

Viacom (the parent of MTV and Harmonix) has reportedly withdrawn the suit for now. The companies have agreed to continue discussions outside of court.

Dale’s Comment: I could not find the text of the claim online. If I do, I will attach it to this post.

Sources: Variety | Gamasutra | GameSpot | Wired Blogs | CutScene | ars technica | GameSpot | Spong | Kotaku | Game Informer | gameindustry.biz

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Temporary Hiatus – Developing Wishhh.com

Categories: Notices

My video game law blog is on a temporary hiatus. I have been developing a new, family-friendly, wishlist service called wishhh.com. It is in the final stages of beta testing with friends and family. I expect to launch publicly in early to mid December – with Facebook integration to follow. The service will be free for anyone to use. Here’s the site description from the splash screen:

establish private wishhh groups for the exclusive use of your family, friends, classmates, teammates, colleagues, worship group, whatever… invite others to participate in your groupspost wishhhes and ‘don’t wants’ for group members to seelink wishhhes to details on other websites tag another member’s wishhhes as ‘granted’ or ‘reserved’ pending purchase – without that person’s knowledge (… shhh!!!… it’s a secret) so other members won’t grant the same wishhh protect your children by using wishhh.com’s oversight functionsreceive only the gifts you really want

I do intend to resume blogging later this year or in early 2008. Thank you for your patience. And, please do visit wishhh.com after launch.


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Texas Student in Hot Water For Making Counterstike Map Based on his High School

Categories: Modding CasesPolice Actions

Police Report (April 26, 2007)
A day after the Virginia Tech massacre, police in Fort Bend Texas investigated an Asian high school senior, Paul Hwang, as a potential “terrorist threat” for making a counter-strike map mod based on his high-school, Clements High. His family’s home was subsequently searched.

No charges were laid but ornamental knives and a hammer were seized from his room. The student was transferred to another school. The parents are appealing the transfer.

Note: It is unclear from conflicting reports whether the student was arrested or not.

Dale’s Comment: This is an example of a talented Counter-Strike modder being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is nothing unusual about high-schoolers making mods for the popular Counter-Strike video game. In a twist on the common writing adage “write what you know”, this unfortunate student modded what he knew, and got caught up in a storm of contemporary controversy.

As a side note: This teen looks like he may have a career in the video game industry. As can be seen on this Fox News Video Report the mod is very good.
Fox News Video Report

Sources: FortBendNow | Houston Chronicle| GamePolitics.com | Kotaku | Kotaku II | Joystiq | Joystiq II

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I’m Back – A Fraction of my Former Self

Categories: Notices

You haven’t seen much of me here since January. From mid-December until now I spent all my free time working out. Using the P90X workout program I bulked up and lost over 40 pounds. I am now in better shape than I have been in over a decade! The program works.

Where to go from here? Over the next few days I intend to back-fill many of the more important video game law-related stories I’ve collected in the interim and then move forward with new stories.

Following my system-wide conversion to Vista 64 bit Ultimate Edition (so far so good), I updated this blog to WordPress 2.1.3. Let’s take her out for a spin shall we.

[Update: As of Sunday May 6, I have back-filled March stories and started in on April - see new stories below. This is taking longer than I thought but I'm plugging along. It's been a busy week.]

[Update: As of Friday April 27, I have back-filled some 20 stories for January and February. I'll be moving on to March and April as time permits. Stay tuned. I hope to finish the backlog next week.]

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Take Two Settles with Jack Thompson

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Jack ThompsonSettlementsViolent Game Law Cases

Settlement Agreement and Mutual Release (April 17, 2007)
Text of Amended Answer and Counterclaim (March 28, 2007)
- amended to remove all but one paragraph of the counterclaim
Text of Original Answer and Counterclaim (March 21, 2007)
Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

Take-Two and Jack Thompson have settled their GTA IV/Manhunt 2 suit and counter suit. Thompson has agreed:

  1. not to sue or threaten to sue over the sale and distribution of ANY game – not just Manhunt 2 and GTA IV as sought in the original complaint – designed, published, manufactured, distributed or sold by Take-Two, its affiliates, subsidiaries etc.;
  2. not to threaten such suits; and
  3. to communicate with Take-Two only through its lawyers.

However, Thompson will still be free to criticize the content and distribution of such games and to represent third-party plaintiffs in actions against Take-Two, its affiliates, subsidiaries etc. alleging individual harm.

Dale’s Comment: It is odd for a settlement to contain an explicit agreement to limit communication with an opposing party to communication through counsel as the rules of professional conduct in most jurisdictions specifically prohibit lawyers from communicating directly with persons represented by counsel.


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WeeWorld Suit Dropped WITHOUT Prejudice Despite Nintendo’s Opposition

Categories: Trademark Cases

Last month WeeWorld asked a judge to dismiss its WeeMee/Mii suit without prejudice (meaning they could re-institute the case at a later date) while seeking relief in the UK before resuming any action in the U.S.

Nintendo objected requesting:

  1. dismissal of the suit with prejudice (meaning WeeWorld would not be able to re-institute the case at a later date); and
  2. recovery of its legal fees incurred on the matter to date – estimated at around $400,000.

According to an open letter from WeeWorld’s CEO, Celia Francis:

The court has ruled in our favor and while we have been asked to pay a small part of Nintendo’s legal fees, the case was dismissed “without prejudice.”

Sources: Open Letter from WeeWorld

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Activision Settles with Two Former Guitar Hero Executives

Categories: Controller CasesCopyright CasesEmployment Law CasesInjunctionsMisc. Contract CasesNon-Compete CasesSettlementsTrade Secret CasesTrademark CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

In February, Activision launched a new lawsuit against The Ant Commandos (TAC), Reverb Communications and three former Red Octane executives/employees: former executive producer John Tam, brand manager [name removed on request] and hardware group member Jamie Yang. These former executives founded a new company with TAC – Loadstone Entertainment.

Activision has settled with John Tam and [name removed on request]. The two have consented to a permanent injunction restraining the two from:

  • distributing a demo created by TAM incorporating elements of Guitar Hero II;
  • using or disclosing any Activision trade secrets;
  • taking steps to develop drum, guitar or synthesizer-based games for the next year;
  • “working on” a guitar controller for the XBox 360 version of Guitar Hero II for six months after release; and
  • competing against an undisclosed list of peripheral devices for six months after Activision commercially releases them.

The two were also ordered to return all materials relating to Activision’s proprietary information.

As far as I’m aware, no settlement has thus far been reached with Jamie Yang, Reverb or TAC.

Dale’s Comment [written April 26, 2007]: On a personal note, I was one of the lucky one’s to pick up Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 on launch day. The local Best Buy had about 100 of them on the morning of the launch. As I understand it, they sold out within hours and, to the date of this writing (owing partially to extreme demand and problems with some versions of the initially released guitar peripheral), I still can’t find them for sale anywhere in Toronto. I would like to purchase a second guitar peripheral. I’m having a blast with this game. As one of the commentators in a recent Joystiq Podcast pointed out, my fingers ache and want to stop playing long before the rest of me does! :)

Sources: GameSpot | Gamasutra | GameIndustry.biz | 1Up.com | CVG | Kotaku

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Denver to Allow M-Rated Game Ads on Transit

Categories: AdvertisingAgency/Board Actions

On the advice from counsel, Denver’s Regional Transportation District authority voted 12-3 to permit the continued advertising of M-rated and above games on its regional transit system. Such bans exist in Portland and Boston.

Sources: Rocky Mountain News | GamePolitics.com

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Mother Sues Vivendi and Sony over Alleged Spyro-Enduced Seizures

Categories: Product Liability Cases

Despite a warning notice on the inside front cover of the instruction manual warning that some users may experience epileptic seizures (a warning contained on most every video game I’ve ever purchased), a New York woman is suing Vivendi, Sierra Entertainment and Sony alleging that her young son suffered seizures as a result of playing the Spyro video game.

Nintendo obtained a summary judgement in its favor over a similar lawsuit in 2003 when a woman claiming her son died of a seizure when playing Nintendo 64 failed to respond to the summary judgment motion.

Dale’s Comment: Given the warning label, this doesn’t seem like a winning case. Parents may wish to take these precautions suggested by epilepsy action to minimize the possibility of their children experiencing video-game related seizures.

Sources: GameSpot | EuroGamer | joystiq | GamesDog | Kotaku

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GRAW 2 Seized by Mexican State Chihuahua

Categories: Disgruntled CountriesGame Bans

All copies of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warefighter 2 are to be seized in the Mexican State of Chihuahua. The game depicts U.S. special forces military actions to stop terrorist attacks, including a nuclear strike, from being launched from that state against the U.S.

Dale’s Comment: In my opinion GRAW 2 along with Gears of War are the best shooters released on the 360 to date. Terrific Game! But, Halo 3 is just around the corner.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | Kotaku | Yahoo@ Games | XBox 360 Fanboy | joystiq

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Telefilm Announces Video Game Developer Competition Finalists

Categories: Canadian DevelopersGame Industry IncentivesStartup Game Developer Issues

Competition Rules

The Canadian federal agency, Telefilm, has announced the four finalists in round 2 of its video game developer competition. The finalists are:

The finalists were chosen at this years’ Game Developers Conference.

In the prior round, each finalist had won $50,000 to explore their proposed game, seek venture capital etc.. In this round 2, each of the four finalists received a further $250,000 to develop a prototype of their game. In September a winner will be chosen at Vancouver’s VidFest. The winner will receive a further $500,000 to launch their game.

In addition to the four finalists above, on January 15, 2007 the following additional $50K round 1 winnners were announced:

Good luck to all.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameCareerGuide.com | CBC.ca | PlayBack | Canada.com

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Jack Thompson Countersues Take-Two

Categories: "Inside Baseball"Jack ThompsonViolent Game Law Cases

Text of Amended Answer and Counterclaim (March 28, 2007)
- amended to remove all but one paragraph of the counterclaim
Text of Original Answer and Counterclaim (March 21, 2007)
Text of Complaint (March 13, 2007)

In response to last-week’s Take-Take-Two law-suit seeking to preemptively stop him from bringing suit:

  1. to stop the sale and distribution of Manhunt 2 (due out in the summer of 2007) and GTA IV (due out in October 2007); and
  2. seeking pre-publication review of the games;

as he did in the past with Bully, Thompson has predictably brought a countersuit accusing Take-Two of racketeering and violation of his civil rights.Astonishingly, Thompson, in the original counterclaim (subsequently amended), Thompson accused Take-Two of conspiring with prominent online gaming publications GamePolitics, Kotaku, Spong, Joystiq, Gamespot, IGN, Game Informer, Electronic Gaming Weekly, Penny Arcade, and others to commit racketeering activities!Specifically, Thompson originally claimed that such “conspiracy” violated section 18 USC 241 which states, in part:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in ny State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or njoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;… They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both;

Wow, this is, err, novel! As noted by GamePolitics.com, however, Thompson subsequently amended the counterclaim from 20 pages down to the following single pargraph:

If the court finds that it has jurisdiction over this matter, it should review the video games in question, allow a review of those games by this defendant and then hear argument if requested by this defendant as to wherein the Plaintiff should be enjoined from distributing video games to minors.


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Nintendo Objects to WeeWorld’s Request to Drop Mii Suit Without Prejudice

Categories: Trademark Cases

According to GameSpot, last November UK-based WeeWorld filed suit alleging Nintendo’s Mii Avatar system infringed its similar WeeMee avatar system.

WeeWorld’s system allows users to create cartoon-like avatars for use with Skype, AIM, Windows Live Messegner and other instant messaging programs. The Nintendo Wii allows users to create Nintendo Mii avatars for use with the Nintendo Wii’s gaming system both on and offline.

Recently, WeeWorld asked the judge to dismiss the suit without prejudice (meaning they could re-institute the case at a later date) citing an intent to seek relief in the UK before resuming any action in the U.S.

Arguing that its Mii system does not infringe upon WeeWorld’s WeeMee trademarks because there is no possibility of confusion, Nintendo has filed an objection to WeeWorld’s dismissal request, seeking both:

  1. dismissal of the suit with prejudice (meaning WeeWorld would not be able to re-institute the case at a later date); and
  2. recovery of its legal fees incurred on the matter to date – estimated at around $400,000.

Sources: GameSpot | GameStooge | Kotaku | GamePro.com | Qj.net | Open Letter from WeeWorld

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Getting Up Distributed Via Downloads in Australia Despite Ban

Categories: Game BansRetail Sales

Despite the February 2006 ban of Marc Ecko’s Getting up by The Board of the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), an Australian computer software distributor, Mindscape, was distributing the game in Australia via downloads from its quicky.com.au website.

It appears the game was being hosted by the website’s U.S. service provider without Mindscape’s knowledge.

Since the story broke the game was taken off the site. The Australian Communications and Media Authority told Screen Play that penalties of up to $110,000 may apply to corporations selling computer games that have been refused classification.

Sources: Syndey Morning Herald | GamePolitics.com | theage.com.au

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Nova’s Pool-Cue Game Mechanics Not Protectable by U.K. Copyright

Categories: Copyright CasesDecisions

Text of Decision , HTML version, RTF Version (UK Court of Appeal – March 14, 2007)
Text of Decision , HTML version, RTF Version (England & Wales High Court – Chancery Division – January 20, 2006)

In what seems to be little more than another “look and feel” decision specific to the video game industry, the U.K. Court of Appeal upheld a prior Chancery Division decision ruling against Nova Productions in finding, yet again, that general ideas behind computer games, or in this case specific game mechanics, and other programs are not protectable under U.K. copyright:

“Merely making a program which will emulate another but which in no way involves copying the program code or any of the program’s graphics is legitimate,”

In this case, the court found no copyright in the “imagery” relating to either: (i) lines of dots indicating the direction of a pool shot; or (ii) an “in-time” mechanic that permits the player to alter the power of a simulated pool shot by timing the shot relative to a pulsing power level – see the images in the Annexes of the HTML version of the Chancery Division decision. Providing similar, but different, “imagery” to depict the same game mechanic idea is not infringing.


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Mid-Way Sued over Psi-Ops

Categories: Copyright CasesRoyalty DisputesTrademark Cases

Midway Games is being sued by William L. Crawford III, a Los Angeles County screenwriter, over its Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy sci-fi stealth-action game. Crawford claims the premise, plot and characters were stolen from a screenplay he wrote in 1998 – also called Psi-Ops.

Crawford claims that Midway should have known about his screenplay and its premise because:

  • he had set up websites with concept art;
  • he attended the 2001 E3 to promote it.
  • his company, Mindshadow Entertainment, had received media coverage for a possible  Psi-Ops movie project.
  • he had registered “Psi-Ops” with the U.S. Copyright Office six years prior to Midway’s registration.

Crawford seeks an accounting and share of revenue made from “Psi-Ops” sales in an amount no less than $1.5 million.

Dale’s Comment: On a personal note, immediately following its release I purchased this game for the original Xbox. It was unplayable. Like several games of its era, it made me nausious within five minutes of firing it up. Too bad. It looked like a fun game.

Sources: GameSpot | gameindustry.biz | SoftPedia | Yahoo! Games | Kotaku | IGN | 1Up.com

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RollerCoaster Tycoon Case to Proceed to U.K. High Court

Categories: Misc. CasesPublisher/Developer CasesRoyalty DisputesTortious Interference

Atari was sued by RollerCoaster Tycoon developer Chris Sawyer in November 2005 alleging unpaid royalties.

Atari counterclaimed Sawyer alleging he induced game developer Frontier to breach its contract with Atari in creating a demo based on the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise.

Apparently the UK’s law on inducement to breach is in flux and the outcome of Atari’s counterclaim is contingent on two cases pending before the House of Lords. Nonetheless Judge Lord Justice Chadwick is permitting the RollerCoaster Tycoon case to proceed to trial, but subject to the outcome of the other two cases.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz

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