Asshats of Arrakis

By Alec Meer on April 10th, 2009 at 3:09 pm.

A while back, we made a Hivemind vow to steer clear of Second Life reportage, as it’s an MMO that so often suffers a ridiculously inflated, distorted profile in its press coverage, and we really don’t want to add to that. Occasionally though, there’s a story that isn’t about some past-it band holding a fake gig there or someone else revealing that they regularly have fake sex in it, and it’s worth a mention here.

In this case, it’s the news that The Trident Media Group, which is responsible for the much-milked Frank Herbert Estate, has dealt out a harsh smackdown to a few Second Life Dune Fans – demanding they remove all direct references to the books from their carefully-made Arrakis-inspired areas because…. because…. well, you tell me.

An ill-thought out fear that too many people might get wind of it, and enjoy a near-free Dune Online? Simple knee-jerk IP-protection? Whichever, it’s very hard to see what the demands to remove all Herbert-derived names’n’areas’n’characters achieves, bar driving a wedge between Dune fans and the Dune property. If, as is more than possible, it’s because there’s an official Dune MMO in the works (and it’s a well-suited license to one, in all honesty), surely this would have made a fine testing-of-the-waters, rather than a threat?

As another demonstration of quite how futile an action this was by Trident, SL’s Dune area had just 130 members, only 20% of which were estimated to be active players. What’ll now probably happen is the membership of the now-generic but still existent space-desert zone will suddenly swell because loads of folk have heard about it as a result of news stories. Good work, Trident. Not only have you created a swathe of bad will towards the Dune license, but you’ve shot your own nasty plan in the foot.

Nonetheless, it’s extremely worrying that SL owners Linden have complied with Trident’s demands, as it potentially opens the door to any number of similar IP vampires sinking their soulless fangs into the necks of modders and fans. Let’s hope this is a one-off.

Full, original story at New World Notes, via BoingBoing.

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48 Comments »

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    Stense says:

    So they shut down this yet allow for a series of horrendous prequels to be vomited onto paper and sold? There is no justice.

  2. Theoban says:

    The Dune Foundation’s easy guide to endearing yourself to your fans.

    Step 1: Threaten them with lawsuits

    Well done! Your fans now love you.

  3. cliffski says:

    I am a staunch defender of copyright and creators rights.

    In this case, what the fuck are these idiots thinking? There is ‘defending your IP’ and ‘needlessly pissing off people who love your stuff’.
    When your only income is milking a series of books from decades ago, surely you want people to do stuff that keeps it in the news?
    *sheesh* as the americans say,

  4. Chis says:

    Second Life suffers for its reputation of being a haven of porn. Having spent some time on SL, I know for a fact that it’s not all full of shit.

    I tried one of these Dune sims a while back. If you wade through the 1000s of other sims full of crap, you’ll eventually find something like this. A very well crafted area designed to encourage role-play. And I once happened upon some fans giving some very convincing RP there.

    Sometimes gravy-train experience mining isn’t required for a solid online “gaming” experience. It’s a shame Trident have taken this stance, as there’s obviously a fanbase out there that desire more Dune games.

  5. Xercies says:

    Corporations sending cease and dissist latters to their fans because their breaking some old books IP because they made some sand Dunes and some bars in the name even though these fans love the book. Not actually very surprising really.

    I think I have truly lost my faith in Business.

  6. Sof says:

    In order to maintain IP protection, you have to go after everyone who violates, no matter how little the effect of that particular violation. To not do so leaves yourself open to the precedent screwing you over when you want to go after something important. Sure, they look like dicks doing this, but they don’t really have any other option.

  7. SuperNashwan says:

    In America if you fail to defend some types of IP you can lose certain rights in respect of that property. Nothing to see here, just a legal department doing their job.

  8. cyrenic says:

    Mmmm mmmm I love a good Streisand effect.

  9. lumpi says:

    This is ridiculous. Copyright needs an overhaul for the new Digital Millennium…

    wait…

  10. pillxthrills says:

    “We don’t talk about those books anymore… we aren’t allowed to.”

  11. Alex McLarty says:

    The spice must flow.

  12. Doug F says:

    I’m pretty sure “defend it or lose it” only applies to trademarks, not copyrighted works of art.

  13. Uglycat says:

    Frank Herbert estate lost all credibility when they started producing those abominations of prequels/sequels.

  14. MrBejeebus says:

    whoever controls the spice controls the galaxy eh?

  15. Chis says:

    @Uglycat

    Those new novels were written by Frank’s son Brian, and other writers. Lets not put the blame on the man himself for any of this.

  16. Tei says:

    Lame.

    And If a Dune mmo is ever launched, it will sux.

  17. Citizen Parker says:

    @SuperNashwan Despite all the noise regarding trademark infringement issues, which this seems to be, I’m not sure that they’re really that well tested (and thus defined) at the moment. It’s that fact which I think is the root cause of many of these kinds of things. It’s still a bit unclear what happens in this scenario:

    1. I set up a DuneWorld Online that I make no money whatsoever from.
    2. Trident is made explicitly aware of this product
    3. Trident takes no action against me in a reasonable time frame.
    4. I monetize the product directly (via subscription) or indirectly (via ads).

    I think it’s this fact that what happens next is somewhat nebulous that scares them away. Trademarks are handled almost exclusively as private litigation in the US, and as such penalties can be levied against either party. That means if Trident sued me in the above scenario, one of the possible outcomes is that they could lose their trademark protection over Dune, simply because they sued me.

    Until some of the trademark / copyright fair-use laws in the US are expanded and/or clarified by legal challenges to claims like this, I don’t think it’s going to stop any time soon.

  18. Citizen Parker says:

    Of course, it should be said that I’m a amateur hobbyist at best in this kind of thing, so take it all with a grain of salt. =)

  19. subedii says:

    @Chris:

    I’m certainly not putting any blame on Herbert, but let’s face it, the franchise is strung out, and it’s because the estate was churning out crap spinoffs.

    It’s ironic really, they did actually have a decent property for games, I mean Dune II was the prototype for the entire modern RTS genre. If they were smart about this they could have easily spun this idea into a moneymaker. Even after all this time, there’s still an opportunity for a franchise as loved as Dune to make a comeback in some form. IIRC the TV mini-series was met with a fair amount of love for what it did.

  20. cliffski says:

    he who controls the spice girls controls the universe

  21. Uglycat says:

    @Chis
    I’m referring completely to the new books, not FH’s own.

  22. Dizet Sma says:

    A Dune MMO? 99% playing Fremen hoping for that lvl50 Sandworm mount? Sounds like fun, eh?

  23. Nitewatchman says:

    >_>

    Dear Lord, have any of you ever been on Second Life?

    There isn’t much game to the Dune sims. They’re Role Play sims, which are just a community of creative writers ating out the roles of various characters. It’s not really like an MMO, to be honest. The only game-like element to it is WASD movemen controls and the possibility of vehicles. there’s also the Dynamic Combat System, but that’s only used when role play leads to combat, and even then there are other options to the system. There’s no leveling or classes, unless you count the DCS classes that are…mostly just fancy titles, and come with only a few extra DCS abilitis, which people rarely use.

    But this is troubling…I my slef am an avid role player, and I especially like the Star Wars sims. If Lucas ever got cranky and started mucking with the Star Wars sims, SL would become pointless to me.

    On top of that, if all the companies started scouring SL for copyright enfringement…well, SL would close down. As in there would be a very large amount of content that would need to be removed, because SL’s a twisted parody of real life. It’s like the movies! They play up the sex and violence and get less and less origional every day.

    Oh, and kudo’s to you, RPS, for having the dignity to stay off the “WTF SECOND LIFE!?” bandwagon.

  24. Gabanski83 says:

    I’ve often thought a Dune inspired MMO would be awesome. You’ve the different Houses (both Major and Minor) which would be your character ‘race’, different professions (spice hunter, water merchant, ornithopter spotter/scout, Fedaykin/Sardaukar warrior, etc), different planets to explore (Arrakis, Ix, Tleilaxu, Caladan, Geidi Prime, etc), maybe chuck in some space combat/trading too, with the game tech starting to allow seamless transition between planetside and space (See EVE, Jumpgate Evolution).

    There’s already a staggering amount of lore and backstory to draw on too, deep with political machinations from the Guild, the Sisterhood, Tleilaxu, etc.

    Dammit, I want a Dune MMO. Done properly, mind, not botched like Star Wars Galaxies or anything.

  25. rocketman71 says:

    Right holders are usually idiots. No surprises there.

    And Dune is trash, except for the first book. And the wonderful first two games (the adventure and the RTS).

  26. loci says:

    “I once happened upon some fans giving some very convincing RP there”

    sandhunk: lolz your worm is massive

  27. ChampionHyena says:

    [Scene opens on a high school library, circa 2003]

    ME: Man, this stuff is amazing! I don’t know why I never heard of Dune before! I just wish the series didn’t end so suddenly.

    [Pan to shelf, focus on Dune: House Atreides by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson]

    ME: What are these, prequels? Awesome! I didn’t even know these existed!

    [Time-lapse 15-30 minutes]

    ME: What the hell is this shit?

    [Fade to black]

  28. DD says:

    I really want to read those newer Dune books, but everyone says they are so bad….

  29. Mr Lizard says:

    I agree with rocketman71, the book series was heading downhill rapidly even before Frank Herbert passed away.

    But a Dune RTS (Dune III?) would be highly marketable even today.

  30. Psychopomp says:

    “*sheesh* as the americans say,”
    Actually, from my experience, we seem more apt to say “Fucking Gay.”

    We’re a charming bunch, really.

  31. dishwasherlove says:

    @Mr Lizard

    There was a Dune III

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Battle_for_Dune

    And it was actually quite good. Filled with loveable Westwood FMVs :)

  32. cjlr says:

    Battle for Dune was good. Also I think there was a Dune 2000 somewhere in there. Oh, Westwood, how we miss you.

  33. Calistas says:

    Don’t worry folks! Your endless hard core porn, BDSM, furry, gay, fetishist, gorean, capture, vore roleplay sims STILL EXIST! Heaven forbid Linden Labs try and talk some sense into people trying to stifle creativity in SL. And heaven forbid LL do anything to promote anything that isn’t to do with your sexual parts or your wallet.

  34. Weylund says:

    Hmm. And here I was, thinking that the first book alone was a masterpiece and everything that followed was shit. Herbert wasn’t a genius – he told a great story and then f’d it up long before his idiot son got involved.

    I wish there was someone else I could blame for the last couple Hitchhiker’s books. Herbert got lucky, having little Brian jump in. Everyone blames him, forgetting Frank’s own transgressions.

  35. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    I thought one or two of the books right after Dune to be “alright.” Then people started turning into sandworms and I read the prequels.

    Big mistake. >:|

    Gotta re-read Dune but it’s always out of my library these days…

  36. ChampionHyena says:

    @Weylund: I dunno, pretty much all the Hitchhiker’s books drove me up a friggin’ wall.

    As for the topic at hand, I’m not sure how to feel. I’ve messed around with SL, and found it equal parts barren and wholly creepifying. This smacks of Trident overstepping the bounds of courtesy, but…

  37. Grahame says:

    On Moddb there are more than a few teams attempting faithful recreations of a film or book universe.
    To the best of my knowledge they don’t receive legal hassle.

  38. Chaz says:

    Strangly enough I was looking at this old Strafe Left cartoon featured in the “Revist an old Story” box. Which linked to an old forum topic about Northrop Grumman trying to squeeze money out of developers for featuring “their” planes in WWII sims.

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2007/11/18/strafe-left-the-formative-years-4/

  39. Treesus says:

    I wish they had sent a similar cease and desist to Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson. It would have done a lot more to protect the Dune licence from harm.

  40. Ysharros says:

    Trident media are afraid that any Dune-related content they don’t own might be better than what they’ve done (and allowed to be written) in the name of that estate. They should be — wouldn’t be hard to be better than the “Dune in name only” pap they’ve published in the last decade or so.

  41. hitnrun says:

    This is like a driver who sees another driver run a stop sign and plows into him on the off chance he might manage to injure himself and win a settlement.

    Dune is not a household name. It’s a franchise that needs cultivating or it will fall out of pop culture completely. Then what will these people milk?

  42. MrDeVil_909 says:

    I really want to read those newer Dune books, but everyone says they are so bad….

    They’re not that bad. I wouldn’t go buy them, but definitely worth picking up if you find them in the library.

    People just love to be internet drama queens regarding their sacred cows.

  43. Capital-T-Tim says:

    I know the topic of this post is copyright-asshattery, and not RPS’s particular journalistic bent, but:

    A while back, we made a Hivemind vow to steer clear of Second Life reportage, as it’s an MMO that so often suffers a ridiculously inflated, distorted profile in its press coverage, and we really don’t want to add to that.

    I don’t get this. Second Life is a topic that is badly reported on, and therefore you’ve decided not to report on it at all? Maybe I’ve misunderstood your intention, but that’s just ridiculous.

  44. Capital-T-Tim says:

    (I would’ve edited my previous post to append this bit, but I can’t, so:) The RPS I know and love would, I hope, prefer to address bad journalism about a game by providing better journalism, not by avoiding the game altogether!

  45. Sanjassi says:

    I loved the first book and i *LOVED* the god emperor of dune. They other books? Hmmmm, kinda acceptable but nothing special.

    The thing for companies to do in situations like this is to give limited permission to the people doing fan-things like this, if they are forced to admitt that they are aware of it. Like what T. Pratchett does for discworld mud. Using the “cease-and-decist” sledgehammer on small projects like the SL one just makes them look like assholes.

  46. NoNamePls says:

    Wasn’t there an aborted Dune MMO way back in 2002? Cryo is it?

  47. Bassem B. says:

    @ChampionHyena: My first exposure to Dune was House Atreides… or House Harkonnen… and since I hadn’t read the original material yet, I enjoyed them a lot. At least now I can read Frank Herbert’s book as a step up.