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View Full Version : MERP slapped with a C&D, trying to desperately remain alive



AgamemnonV1
05-09-2012, 04:24 PM
If you haven't heard (http://www.dsogaming.com/news/merp-middle-earth-role-playing-mod-for-skyrim-receives-a-cd-letter-from-warner-bros/), MERP (Middle-earth Roleplaying Project), a mod that was being developed to bring Middle-earth to Skyrim, was hit with a cease and desist letter from Warner Bros. Unfortunately we all know how this usually goes for mods that get hit with the good ol' c&d (Halogen, the mod for C&C: Generals, which was shut down to make way for super-sucky Halo Wars). The MERP team is hopeful, however, and thinks signing a petition (http://www.dsogaming.com/news/merp-middle-earth-role-playing-mod-for-skyrim-is-not-dead-yet-modders-asking-fans-for-their-support/) will get WB to realize there's marketing potential in the mod if they just let it come out.

As much as I'd like for the mod to stay alive, I think we obviously know a petition won't save it. It's unfortunate that this is the fate a mod with multiple years of development now has to face. At least I still have Third Age: Total War for Medieval 2: Total War. Still, as a Tolkien fan, I'm starting to come to terms that there will never actually be an RPG in the Middle-earth mythos that's partly close to the source material.

Berzee
05-09-2012, 04:48 PM
I've always been confused about the rules...it's illegal to make something based on copyrighted characters even if you're making it as a non-commercial, free personal project?

Nalano
05-09-2012, 04:51 PM
I've always been confused about the rules...it's illegal to make something based on copyrighted characters even if you're making it as a non-commercial, free personal project?

It's not a personal project if you're planning on releasing it publicly. Fair use protects satire and reviews, but not reproductions, as they may potentially harm the original IP through folks misunderstanding that it is not a licensed or official production.

gundato
05-09-2012, 04:53 PM
Berz: I think it falls into a grey are and is more about the copyright older being concerned that said game may be viewed as "official".

And crap like that DOES happen. I can't think of a specific gaming example (someone can cite one), but it happens all the time with music. There are entire generations who think Weird Al makes "original" music (he does, but you know what I mean). Hell, I was watching IFC the other day and saw a commercial for R Kelly (will pee on you!) and his musical thing "Trapped in the Closet". Until then, I thought that was just something South Park did to bash Scientology.

Cooper
05-09-2012, 05:04 PM
Hell, I was watching IFC the other day and saw a commercial for R Kelly (will pee on you!) and his musical thing "Trapped in the Closet". Until then, I thought that was just something South Park did to bash Scientology.That's not the same thing as developing an IP and distributing it without the approval of the copyright holder.

It may be mostly a naming issue. The mods so early stages that it's likely a result of some lawyer googling for "middle earth game" and having a go at anything not official. WB probably have the rights to any computer games with "Middle Earth" in the name.

Protection for fan works vary by country. Traditionally print and even television and film media have been open to fan works (they see it as free publicity) but games publishers much, much less so.

Feldspar
05-09-2012, 05:33 PM
With the release of the Hobbit film looming, you can bet Warner Bros are going to be very touchy about the copyright, so my guess is there'll be no leeway there, petition or no. CBA to Google it, but didn't a pub recently have to change its name from something Tolkieny? (Tolkienish?)

caljohnston
05-09-2012, 05:38 PM
Why do modders even bother? Didn't the several dozens of mods that were killed by lawyers not clue them in that this won't work out? What were they thinking?

Also, I'm pretty sure they could just change the name of the mod, and names of characters/monsters and places and be fine.

Tikey
05-09-2012, 05:46 PM
Why do modders even bother? Didn't the several dozens of mods that were killed by lawyers not clue them in that this won't work out? What were they thinking?

Also, I'm pretty sure they could just change the name of the mod, and names of characters/monsters and places and be fine.

And then suddenly a small mod comes out of nowhere that changes all the names to the lotr equivalent. Of course the original modders have nothing to do with this new mod, it's the internet fault!
A flawless plan.

Sakkura
05-09-2012, 06:16 PM
It's too bad, but I'm not outraged and pitchforky over it. The copyright holders need to have the right to do this sort of thing, though I wish less of them were dicks about it (having a right doesn't mean you always have to exercise it, at least apart from some broken aspects of the US legal system).

I do wish copyright periods were shorter though. This stuff is from the 1950s, come on. Give people 30-40 years of protection; if they can't make a buck on it in 30 years, they frankly don't deserve to. And some megacorporation that buys up the rights long after mr. Genius died doesn't deserve to either.

victory
05-09-2012, 06:18 PM
It would seem to me that a non-profit project like this is impossible for an IP holder to stop or substantially harm if the project crew doesn't want to stop and is prepared to take some precautions.

Shut down project hosting and coordination? Nope, private and secure.
Limit publicity? Nope, and any moves made by WB would themselves generate huge publicity.
Prevent releases? Yeah no.

There's no legal entity to sue other than individual developers. Any vulnerable devs could "drop out" of the project and resume under pseudonyms. The only remaining question seems to be what the legal exposure is for devs continuing with their own name; presumably this would depend on country.

Would be really interesting to see this kind of thing go down. "MERP: GG, Warner Bros! Edition"

gundato
05-09-2012, 06:20 PM
It's too bad, but I'm not outraged and pitchforky over it. The copyright holders need to have the right to do this sort of thing, though I wish less of them were dicks about it (having a right doesn't mean you always have to exercise it, at least apart from some broken aspects of the US legal system).

I do wish copyright periods were shorter though. This stuff is from the 1950s, come on. Give people 30-40 years of protection; if they can't make a buck on it in 30 years, they frankly don't deserve to. And some megacorporation that buys up the rights long after mr. Genius died doesn't deserve to either.
Note: Is this copyright or trademark? I forget. Assume we are all using the right word :p

What about a long-running series? Should they lose their copyrights even if they are actively making new stuff? Or should they get it reset every time they make "new content"? Because that IS what is happening.

Or what about when a company goes out of business and a spiritual successor pops up or a competitor buys them out? FASA started with Battletech and died. I didn't follow Battletech's journey, but we got some damned good games and whoever owns the rights these days is even re-publishing all the books in ebook form (for which I am VERY happy) and might even be planning to start hiring writers to do more books. That is what we all dream of when we are little kids...

Nalano
05-09-2012, 06:32 PM
It would seem to me that a non-profit project like this is impossible for an IP holder to stop or substantially harm if the project crew doesn't want to stop and is prepared to take some precautions.

Shut down project hosting and coordination? Nope, private and secure.
Limit publicity? Nope, and any moves made by WB would themselves generate huge publicity.
Prevent releases? Yeah no.

There's no legal entity to sue other than individual developers. Any vulnerable devs could "drop out" of the project and resume under pseudonyms. The only remaining question seems to be what the legal exposure is for devs continuing with their own name; presumably this would depend on country.

Would be really interesting to see this kind of thing go down. "MERP: GG, Warner Bros! Edition"

Once they have real names, your ass is grass. Anonymous isn't that anonymous.

AgamemnonV1
05-09-2012, 06:51 PM
They haven't clued folks in what the C&D specifically entails, but it's largely against their favor. Fair Use would be in their favor if they didn't state in their mission objective that their artwork inspiration was directly based from the New Line Cinema movies. In fact fans had previously argued that they should stick more closely to what's in the books because it would mean that, down the road, if something like this happened they'd have a stronger case. As it is, all the weapon, armor, and building models are directly modeled after what we see in the movies.

Sakkura
05-09-2012, 07:45 PM
Note: Is this copyright or trademark? I forget. Assume we are all using the right word :p

What about a long-running series? Should they lose their copyrights even if they are actively making new stuff? Or should they get it reset every time they make "new content"? Because that IS what is happening.

Or what about when a company goes out of business and a spiritual successor pops up or a competitor buys them out? FASA started with Battletech and died. I didn't follow Battletech's journey, but we got some damned good games and whoever owns the rights these days is even re-publishing all the books in ebook form (for which I am VERY happy) and might even be planning to start hiring writers to do more books. That is what we all dream of when we are little kids...
Trademarks are fancy Coca-cola letters and suchlike.

I have nothing against copyright. I think copyright holders should be allowed to do stuff like this. I just think the copyright period is excessively long. Tolkien's been dead for four decades.

But if you disagree, just answer me this: What common good is served by Warner Bros. holding the copyright to Tolkien material this long after the death of its creator?

Nalano
05-09-2012, 07:53 PM
I just think the copyright period is excessively long.

Well, sure. But that's of little consolation when lawyers are currently breathing down your neck.

Kelron
05-09-2012, 08:44 PM
Is this by the same people that were making LOTR mods for Morrowind and Oblivion that never materialised?

victory
05-09-2012, 09:06 PM
Once they have real names, your ass is grass. Anonymous isn't that anonymous.You can be pretty anonymous if you want to.

Anyway, to the "your ass is grass" part. Let's say, for whatever reason, they are 100% convinced that a certain person is an active dev on the project. What are they actually going to do? A C&D would at best get that particular developer to quit, assuming he doesn't want to risk going back with a new pseudonym. I suppose a copyright infringement lawsuit is the other option, but that won't do anything to the project either. Not sure how hard they could hit a dev in the US and at what cost. No profit motive, no obvious damages. Even showing amount and nature of involvement seems like it could be a lot of work.

In Finland the risk for a developer in a project like this would be just about zero. If I understand correctly, the worst possible outcome in court would be a misdemeanor and a small fine, and I would be very surprised if anyone ended up in court in the first place unless they posted a video confession on Youtube.

Moraven
05-09-2012, 09:11 PM
They should not have based their assets to portray the look of the movie.

But there copyright to use the book as source material. Sierra had the rights to the book while EA had rights to the movies. EA has both now. Although Turbine has rights to produce the MMO in middle earth from Tolkien Enterprises.

Maybe if they went with the book they could get the Tolkien Enterprise to allow it.

deano2099
05-09-2012, 09:12 PM
But if you disagree, just answer me this: What common good is served by Warner Bros. holding the copyright to Tolkien material this long after the death of its creator?

Would the films have happened without it? (They might have, but it seems less likely).

gundato
05-09-2012, 09:32 PM
Trademarks are fancy Coca-cola letters and suchlike.

I have nothing against copyright. I think copyright holders should be allowed to do stuff like this. I just think the copyright period is excessively long. Tolkien's been dead for four decades.

But if you disagree, just answer me this: What common good is served by Warner Bros. holding the copyright to Tolkien material this long after the death of its creator?

As mentioned, the movies. They managed to take Lord of the Rings (or, as I like to call it, "The start of Tolkein's descent into scenery porn") and make some damned fine movies. I am kind of annoyed that they are spreading out THe Hobbit (which had really good pacing), but shinies

And I have nothing against a company owned copyright so long as the author is okay with it (I haven't heard about Tolkein's family bitching too much over the movies). I don't care who invented the Atlas (and I barely care if the original creator is happy :p), that is my favorite mech and I am perfectly okay with the current owners of the copyright making me happy.

Or we can take Superman or Batman or all the other characters whose original creators are going crazy over (or, at least, their families are). Regardless of how you feel about how DC and Marvel got those copyrights, they have them. And they are doing a pretty damned good job with them. I don't see any reason those should time out and become public domain if the copyright holders are still using them.

Is there room for abuse? You betcha. But I would rather err on the side of protecting the rights of the creator (or legal equivalent) rather than the fanfic author who was sad that she couldn't publish her bondage porn with the vampire intact.

Sakkura
05-09-2012, 10:10 PM
Would the films have happened without it? (They might have, but it seems less likely).
Of course they would. You see Robin Hood movies and series all the time, even though that story's pretty firmly in the public domain.

SirKicksalot
05-09-2012, 10:21 PM
I wish EA still owned the rights. All WB has for The Hobbit's launch is a shitty DOTA clone made by the corpse of Monolith. The games they released so far are also shit.

AgamemnonV1
06-09-2012, 01:31 PM
They should not have based their assets to portray the look of the movie.

But there copyright to use the book as source material. Sierra had the rights to the book while EA had rights to the movies. EA has both now. Although Turbine has rights to produce the MMO in middle earth from Tolkien Enterprises.

Maybe if they went with the book they could get the Tolkien Enterprise to allow it.
Yeah, you really don't know what you're talking about.

Tolkien sold the merchandising rights to the books back in 69 to the Saul Zaentz Company. SZC, in turn, created a subsidiary company to deal primarily with contracting licensees--this company is called Middle-earth Enterprises (it was known as Tolkien Enterprises but they changed the name because the Tolkien Estate took issue with the family name usage). Middle-earth Enterprises has whored the license out to anyone willing to dish out the money. Currently WB has been one of the biggest contenders--they now hold the license to develop video games based off of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. They'll also double on the venue because they're also in charge of The Hobbit movie, which means they can make movie games as well. Triple bonus points as Turbine was bought by WB.

The Tolkien Estate still retains the rights of the books. If the makers of this mod had sourced their work from the books, then it would be up to the Tolkien Estate to hand them a cease and desist, but authors rarely do so for fan creations unless they're trying to market on said fan creations (also there's that little thing called Fair Use).

All that has happened here is WB lawyers have sent the mod creators a cease and desist letter. Let me reiterate--no legal action has actually happened. WB is just flexing its muscles saying, "You better stop, OR ELSE".

Nalano
06-09-2012, 07:16 PM
You can be pretty anonymous if you want to.

And yet they figured out where to send the Cease & Desist.

victory
06-09-2012, 07:44 PM
And yet they figured out where to send the Cease & Desist.
Hurr durr. It's a public project with a contact address, of course they can be sent a C&D. Doesn't mean they can't wipe their ass with said C&D if they choose to go anonymous.

gwathdring
06-09-2012, 07:59 PM
Hurr durr. It's a public project with a contact address, of course they can be sent a C&D. Doesn't mean they can't wipe their ass with said C&D if they choose to go anonymous.

The trouble with that is that most ISPs are more than willing to sell you to the dogs. Going truly anonymous requires a fair bit of maintenance work. It's easy to do it for a short while, but not while running a big project that requires lots of collaboration, communication, uploading, downloading, and accessing of major websites.

Sure, there's TOR networks (or smaller onion routing systems), PGP-based re-mailers, PGP-based IM/VOIP clients (Gaijim is pretty well featured as an IM client, Zfone I haven't tried but apparently works for VOIP) and all kinds of similar tools and systems ... but it would be a pain to go through all of that for something as massive as a total conversion modding project in the Skyrim engine. And as long as you leave a way for community members to contact you, however separate it is from your offline identity, you leave a way for them to serve you a C&D. Which really only exists so they can say they warned you if they feel it's worth taking action later. Or so they can intimidate you into stopping without needing to take action.

Lastly, being anonymous won't help if they figure pinning you down isn't worth the bother and just give all of the modding resource websites that host your content an order to remove the infringing material. Or send similar requests to your ISP or whoever you rented the domain name of your personal website from ... etc. If your mod has a clear and public distribution channel and isn't relegated to P2P downloads and a small community with relatively closed/inaccessible communication, you can be stopped.

gundato
06-09-2012, 08:15 PM
Simply put: If they start going out of their way to "go anonymous"

1. It pretty much guarantees they can't use this in their portfolio which makes most people with "real talent" not care
2. I am no expert on the law, but I am willing to bet money that just about every country has laws about avoiding lawsuits by "hiding". And those are MUCH worse penalties than a copyright infringement
3. They have already been given the C&D. So it doesn't matter what they do or who they do it as, they are aware of it.


So basically, the best they can hope for is to work on something "out of love" in a manner that will almost assuredly get them a cellmate named Bubba. All while making sure nobody will ever want to hire you.

gwathdring
06-09-2012, 08:29 PM
Simply put: If they start going out of their way to "go anonymous"

1. It pretty much guarantees they can't use this in their portfolio which makes most people with "real talent" not care
2. I am no expert on the law, but I am willing to bet money that just about every country has laws about avoiding lawsuits by "hiding". And those are MUCH worse penalties than a copyright infringement
3. They have already been given the C&D. So it doesn't matter what they do or who they do it as, they are aware of it.


So basically, the best they can hope for is to work on something "out of love" in a manner that will almost assuredly get them a cellmate named Bubba. All while making sure nobody will ever want to hire you.

I hadn't even thought of the resume issue caused by anonymity. It's an awful idea, all around. Getting a C&D on a project like this is the end unless you're willing to risk a fight or manage to barter your way into official acceptance. Or hastily re-theme everything to make it passably different.

Koobazaur
07-09-2012, 01:19 AM
I've always been confused about the rules...it's illegal to make something based on copyrighted characters even if you're making it as a non-commercial, free personal project?

Nalano pretty much covered it, BUT also consider a C&D is not "you cant make this" - it is a "we will take you to court if you continue making this." So very well the mod devs could take it on and go to court and even win. But that would require a lot of expensive lawyers, which is the biggest deterrant to small, unfunded, hobby mod teams.

victory
07-09-2012, 02:10 AM
The trouble with that is that most ISPs are more than willing to sell you to the dogs. Going truly anonymous requires a fair bit of maintenance work. It's easy to do it for a short while, but not while running a big project that requires lots of collaboration, communication, uploading, downloading, and accessing of major websites.I was thinking of simply running the repos and collaboration tools as Tor hidden services. That shouldn't be a ton of work to set up. This might have bandwidth problems on a large project, but that could be dealt with with a more elaborate setup.

Lastly, being anonymous won't help if they figure pinning you down isn't worth the bother and just give all of the modding resource websites that host your content an order to remove the infringing material. Or send similar requests to your ISP or whoever you rented the domain name of your personal website from ... etc. If your mod has a clear and public distribution channel and isn't relegated to P2P downloads and a small community with relatively closed/inaccessible communication, you can be stopped.As far web presence / publicity goes, they could post across all sorts of forums and use threads as public blogs of the project, create free blogs for that purpose, etc. and just make new ones if IP owner wants to play whack-a-mole. It's not the same as having your own site, but in practice could work out very well and serve many of the same purposes. The hard lifting of distribution would be via BT and filelockers.

I think they could also use a public site that nominally doesn't belong to the project, is dressed up as a news/fansite of sorts (parody, if you like - "performing a public service and serving Jesus by keeping an eye on these copyright infringing scoundrels!"), refrains from posting any infringing stuff so it can't be popped, but - among other things - gives instructions for getting to the real website which is a Tor service.

I wouldn't be surprised if the IP holder would eventually just abandon enforcement attempts if they don't find any profitable angle, and versions of the mod just keep coming out and being played by a ton of gamers already. If enforcement blows over, the mod might be able to creep back into the bigger mod databases as well.

unruly
07-09-2012, 02:29 AM
The Tolkien Estate still retains the rights of the books. If the makers of this mod had sourced their work from the books, then it would be up to the Tolkien Estate to hand them a cease and desist, but authors rarely do so for fan creations unless they're trying to market on said fan creations (also there's that little thing called Fair Use).

Apparently you aren't all that familiar with the Tolkien Estate. The Last Ringbearer can't be legally published pretty much anywhere outside of Eastern Europe because of their views that anything involving Middle-Earth should belong to them regardless of actual content, and they've sued over a self-published book using a fictionalized version of Tolkien himself. Imagine if Winston Churchill's or FDR's family tried to sue to prevent any book from being made which used them as characters and you'll see how stupid that idea is. Basically, if you so much as say the word "Tolkien" without the Tolkien Estate's permission, they'll threaten to sue you, regardless of how innocent your usage of the word is. Your last name is Tolkien too? Better change it, or we'll sue you for distorting our IP!

If it weren't for the fact that Tolkien himself sold off the movie and merchandising rights then we'd probably never have gotten any movies or games based on the novels. But that still didn't stop the Tolkien Estate from suing over the movies, despite the fact that, you know, they didn't control the movie rights anymore.

Moraven
07-09-2012, 02:47 AM
Yeah, you really don't know what you're talking about.

Tolkien sold the merchandising rights to the books back in 69 to the Saul Zaentz Company. SZC, in turn, created a subsidiary company to deal primarily with contracting licensees--this company is called Middle-earth Enterprises (it was known as Tolkien Enterprises but they changed the name because the Tolkien Estate took issue with the family name usage). Middle-earth Enterprises has whored the license out to anyone willing to dish out the money. Currently WB has been one of the biggest contenders--they now hold the license to develop video games based off of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. They'll also double on the venue because they're also in charge of The Hobbit movie, which means they can make movie games as well. Triple bonus points as Turbine was bought by WB.

The Tolkien Estate still retains the rights of the books. If the makers of this mod had sourced their work from the books, then it would be up to the Tolkien Estate to hand them a cease and desist, but authors rarely do so for fan creations unless they're trying to market on said fan creations (also there's that little thing called Fair Use).

All that has happened here is WB lawyers have sent the mod creators a cease and desist letter. Let me reiterate--no legal action has actually happened. WB is just flexing its muscles saying, "You better stop, OR ELSE".

Thanks for summing up what I said but in more detail!

Sierra Entertainment had the video game rights to the book. (Given by Tolkien)

EA has the video game rights to the film. (Given by WB.)

EA now has both. (Battle for Middle Earth 2 being one of the first games to source from both.)

victory
07-09-2012, 02:50 AM
Simply put: If they start going out of their way to "go anonymous"

1. It pretty much guarantees they can't use this in their portfolio which makes most people with "real talent" not careAnyone who was on the project before it went dark could use it in their portfolio. So could anyone like me whose jurisdiction doesn't actually punish for a thing like this. Some could take credit after statute of limitations is over. Any dev could take credit privately at any time when necessary.


2. I am no expert on the law, but I am willing to bet money that just about every country has laws about avoiding lawsuits by "hiding". And those are MUCH worse penalties than a copyright infringementNo, you must be confusing this situation with something else like avoiding the police/courts. Here we are talking about people who have not been sued. You don't have a legal responsibility to make yourself easy to find, or easy to sue. So being smart, you can use anonymity and good security practices now to make it hard to start or win any lawsuits against you in the future.

gundato
07-09-2012, 02:56 AM
Anyone who was on the project before it went dark could use it in their portfolio. So could anyone like me whose jurisdiction doesn't actually punish for a thing like this. Some could take credit after statute of limitations is over. Any dev could take credit privately at any time when necessary.
...
Statue of limitations being... when the copyright expires?

Let me point out the logical step and clarify for you. You seem to be confused or intentionally living in a movie where everyone spites "the man"

It pretty much guarantees they can't use this in their portfolio in any meaningful fashion within the next decade or so (at the very least), which makes most people with "real talent" not care


No, you must be confusing this situation with something else like avoiding the police/courts. Here we are talking about people who have not been sued. You don't have a legal responsibility to make yourself easy to find, or easy to sue. So being smart, you can use anonymity and good security practices now to make it hard to start or win any lawsuits against you in the future.

Apologies, let me once more add the logical step that I thought would be obvious.

If you repeatedly ignore the C&D, they WILL press charges. At that point, what I said holds.

victory
07-09-2012, 03:44 AM
...
Statue of limitations being... when the copyright expires?LMGTFY.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

Here in Finland a misdemeanor copyright infringement expires in two years. So after that I'd have no problem publicly taking credit.

Let me point out the logical step and clarify for you. You seem to be confused or intentionally living in a movie where everyone spites "the man"

It pretty much guarantees they can't use this in their portfolio in any meaningful fashion within the next decade or so (at the very least), which makes most people with "real talent" not careYou seem to have skipped over everything in my comment except the statute of limitations part. Most importantly, the dudes who used to develop the mod under their own names, and quit or "quit" when the first C&D hit, could take credit just fine.


Apologies, let me once more add the logical step that I thought would be obvious.

If you repeatedly ignore the C&D, they WILL press charges. At that point, what I said holds.You mean they'd like to press charges. But what charges, against whom, and in which courts, if all they have is an anonymous bunch of devs on the internet?

AgamemnonV1
07-09-2012, 06:05 AM
Apparently you aren't all that familiar with the Tolkien Estate. The Last Ringbearer can't be legally published pretty much anywhere outside of Eastern Europe because of their views that anything involving Middle-Earth should belong to them regardless of actual content, and they've sued over a self-published book using a fictionalized version of Tolkien himself. Imagine if Winston Churchill's or FDR's family tried to sue to prevent any book from being made which used them as characters and you'll see how stupid that idea is. Basically, if you so much as say the word "Tolkien" without the Tolkien Estate's permission, they'll threaten to sue you, regardless of how innocent your usage of the word is. Your last name is Tolkien too? Better change it, or we'll sue you for distorting our IP!

If it weren't for the fact that Tolkien himself sold off the movie and merchandising rights then we'd probably never have gotten any movies or games based on the novels. But that still didn't stop the Tolkien Estate from suing over the movies, despite the fact that, you know, they didn't control the movie rights anymore.
These are examples of people who tried to sell stories based off of the books. Christopher Tolkien has such a low opinion on the current level of technology that the only console he can probably name is "Nintendo", and that's a stretch at best. Third Age: Total War is a great example of this. The Tolkien Estate has no idea because they are more concerned about what they do with the movie adaptations and defending the publishing rights of the books.

unruly
07-09-2012, 07:02 AM
These are examples of people who tried to sell stories based off of the books. Christopher Tolkien has such a low opinion on the current level of technology that the only console he can probably name is "Nintendo", and that's a stretch at best. Third Age: Total War is a great example of this. The Tolkien Estate has no idea because they are more concerned about what they do with the movie adaptations and defending the publishing rights of the books.

Yes, a book which uses a fictionalized JRR Tolkien himself as a part of a person's journey towards discovering their family (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/26/mirkwood-jrr-tolkien-legal-battle) is trying to tell a story based on the Lord of the Rings. Like I said, imagine the uproar if Churchill's relatives tried to do that. There would more hate spewed at them than there is towards Martin Luther King Jr's kids for locking up his "I have a dream" speech. Yet the Tolkien Estate gets nothing but a "Well, they're just trying to protect the books."

All in all, crap like this is why I'm a staunch proponent of returning copyrights to, at most, the 14 years plus one file-able 14 year extension that it was back in the early 1800's. As it is, one person can do something of worth and then their great-grandkids will profit off of it for a significant portion of their lives because copyright length is now at something like life+70 years for personally-owned works. If a maximum of 28 years was considered good enough time to make a profit in the days of horse and buggy travel, manual printing presses, and physical distribution only, then it definitely should be enough time to turn a profit in the days of bullet trains and instantaneous digital transmission.

I suppose I have Victor Hugo, Walt Disney, and Sonny Bono to thank for the state of modern copyrights. So here goes - Thanks a lot you greedy assholes.

gundato
07-09-2012, 01:43 PM
LMGTFY.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_limitations

Here in Finland a misdemeanor copyright infringement expires in two years. So after that I'd have no problem publicly taking credit.
You seem to have skipped over everything in my comment except the statute of limitations part. Most importantly, the dudes who used to develop the mod under their own names, and quit or "quit" when the first C&D hit, could take credit just fine.
So they stop doing anything after the first concept art when they get the C&D? Okay, works for me AND for the copyright holders.

Oh? They are supposed to keep working "off the grid"? Then we are right back to "can't take credit". Because more C&Ds and more ACTUAL lawsuits are gonna come down that pipeline.


You mean they'd like to press charges. But what charges, against whom, and in which courts, if all they have is an anonymous bunch of devs on the internet?
Company A files C&D against Dev Team B. Dev Team B goes "off the grid" and keeps working
Company A sees that Dev Team B' is making the exact same thing that Dev Team B got a C&D for. Company A gets their lawyers so that Dev Team B' (who are NOT as anonymous as you seem to think people on the internet are) can go meet Bubba. And Dev team B' (who are so totally not Dev Team B at all...) are not going to stand a chance in court after ignoring the C&D and outright trying to "beat the system"

But fine, let's say that you can live off hobo wine and 50 cent bread rolls for a few years while you make your LOTR game. And let's say that you never take any credit at all, meaning you just wasted a few years of your life. What is the point?

Silgidorn
08-09-2012, 12:50 PM
Anyway, if RPS is planning to talk about this i'd love to help for the headline:

My current favorite would go to: "The Elder scolds..."

Nalano
08-09-2012, 05:06 PM
In this thread, Victory thinks Finland is a magical Shangri-la where lawsuits can't happen.

gundato
08-09-2012, 06:30 PM
In this thread, Victory thinks Finland is a magical Shangri-la where lawsuits can't happen.
What does that contribute to the thread?

Seriously, while Victory might be a whee bit bonkers (I just think he is more focused on the ability to evade the law, rather than the rationale behind doing it), posts like that do nothing but increase the likelihood of flame wars where nobody contributes anything to a discussion outside of personal attacks.

Nalano
09-09-2012, 12:33 AM
What does that contribute to the thread?

It summed up a page of verbal diarrhea and circular arguments, while stating my opinion that saying "but in Finland..." isn't a particularly effective retort.

But then, considering you think I "exist to do nothing but troll (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?6006-What-s-Your-Opinion-On-Cyber-Manner-Especially-in-Competitive-Multiplayers&p=183310&viewfull=1#post183310)," I wonder why you even care.

victory
10-09-2012, 08:58 PM
Oh? They are supposed to keep working "off the grid"? Then we are right back to "can't take credit". Because more C&Ds and more ACTUAL lawsuits are gonna come down that pipeline.

Company A files C&D against Dev Team B. Dev Team B goes "off the grid" and keeps working
Company A sees that Dev Team B' is making the exact same thing that Dev Team B got a C&D for. Company A gets their lawyers so that Dev Team B' (who are NOT as anonymous as you seem to think people on the internet are) can go meet Bubba. And Dev team B' (who are so totally not Dev Team B at all...) are not going to stand a chance in court after ignoring the C&D and outright trying to "beat the system"Cool strawman. I do not think "people on the internet" are anonymous. I know that people who actually try to be anonymous and are not stupid about it can accomplish significant things while staying anonymous.

Team B gets a C&D and quits. Team C picks up their work, and credits everyone who used to be on Team B whether they want it or not. That does not prove any particular Team B member to be a Team C member.

And then there's the other approach I outlined, and you ignored, where developers simply wait to take credit at a point where they no longer face meaningful negative consequences.
But fine, let's say that you can live off hobo wine and 50 cent bread rolls for a few years while you make your LOTR game.That project and many like it were not commercial in the first place, so where do "hobo wine and 50 cent bread rolls" come from?
And let's say that you never take any credit at all, meaning you just wasted a few years of your life. What is the point?While I believe there are many ways to take credit for a project like that, credit is not the only reason people make things.

victory
10-09-2012, 09:24 PM
It summed up a page of verbal diarrhea and circular arguments, while stating my opinion that saying "but in Finland..." isn't a particularly effective retort.I haven't made a "retort" like that. Finland is just one example of a jurisdiction where the consequences of contributing to a copyright infringing mod are slight, so suing individual developers wouldn't be very effective; there are probably many others. As well, after two years pass from your last contribution, the statute of limitations is over. If my reading of the law is correct, you are untouchable even if you take credit.

gundato
10-09-2012, 09:43 PM
Cool strawman. I do not think "people on the internet" are anonymous. I know that people who actually try to be anonymous and are not stupid about it can accomplish significant things while staying anonymous.
Uhm, actually, I was positing the exact same example you do in the next mini-quote.


Team B gets a C&D and quits. Team C picks up their work, and credits everyone who used to be on Team B whether they want it or not. That does not prove any particular Team B member to be a Team C member.
Uhm, why would they? If the work is being picked up (assuming they open-sourced everything, otherwise that raises some HUGE ass red flags), we are on Team B' again. If it is different work, then I wonder why you think modders deserve to have their intellectual properties respected while Tolkein's Money Grubbing Children don't :p

And if we ARE assuming "all open source, release to the community", which in and of itself probably violates the C&D (thus the original party gets sued no matter what :p), lawyers aren't stupid (just evil). Think of all the dead open source projects. They will keep a VERY close eye and will probably assume that Dev Team C is really B'.


And then there's the other approach I outlined, and you ignored, where developers simply wait to take credit at a point where they no longer face meaningful negative consequences.That project and many like it were not commercial in the first place, so where do "hobo wine and 50 cent bread rolls" come from?While I believe there are many ways to take credit for a project like that, credit is not the only reason people make things.
I didn't ignore it.
You live "off the grid" and keep your entire internet life compartmentalized (apologies for making the hobo-wine joke) while you wait for all the law suits to stop coming. I am pretty sure that even Finnish law will allow for lawsuits to continue to be filed if the files are being actively distributed (and even P2P networks are a grey area for most laws).
Either way, I suspect that there is an entirely different statute of limitations with respect to actively avoiding trial. Because as I mentioned earlier: If the copyright holders have reason to believe that a C&D is not effective, they'll crank it up to real legal action. And all they have to do is tie the hobo-developer to the title at one point (like when said modder takes credit for it :p) and BAM, obstruction of justice and all those other catch-all laws that boil down to "Don't mess with the legal system or we will ream you in the ass".

So, correct me if I am wrong, but your argument is: the modders can keep "working behind the scenes", release it, wait until the lawsuits stop, and take credit.
First, why would they do that? Nobody who would be willing to put in the amount of effort required to make something people care about is going to wait X years before saying "Yeah, I released that thing X years ago".
Second, that "X Years" can increase to "kX years" pretty quickly.
Third, I can't be arsed to read finlandish law, but as I mentioned above, there are other legal avenues the copyright holders can take.

And as for "people don't need to take credit". Yes they do. At least, when they do anything of the size and magnitude of a mod that would get hit with a C&D. That is a LOT of manhours for making assets and coding/scripting. And considering it was public enough to get hit with a C&D, the modders were going for hype and PR.

victory
18-09-2012, 01:36 AM
Uhm, why would they? If the work is being picked up (assuming they open-sourced everything, otherwise that raises some HUGE ass red flags), we are on Team B' again. If it is different work, then I wonder why you think modders deserve to have their intellectual properties respected while Tolkein's Money Grubbing Children don't :pWhat I think anyone deserves isn't relevant. I'm discussing feasibility.

And if we ARE assuming "all open source, release to the community", which in and of itself probably violates the C&D (thus the original party gets sued no matter what :p), lawyers aren't stupid (just evil). Think of all the dead open source projects. They will keep a VERY close eye and will probably assume that Dev Team C is really B'.If I'm reading this correctly, you are asserting that after Dev Team B has complied with a C&D and shut down, its members can still be sued to oblivion at any time for what Dev Team C does, without actual proof that those members are in Dev Team C? Or Dev Team B can still be sued to oblivion at any time for what they did before they received the C&D? In which jurisdiction and with which laws can they accomplish these things?

You live "off the grid" and keep your entire internet life compartmentalized (apologies for making the hobo-wine joke) while you wait for all the law suits to stop coming. I am pretty sure that even Finnish law will allow for lawsuits to continue to be filed if the files are being actively distributed (and even P2P networks are a grey area for most laws).Statute of limitations runs from the last less-than-legal action you take. Other people choosing to re-distribute the content are not you.

Either way, I suspect that there is an entirely different statute of limitations with respect to actively avoiding trial.

Because as I mentioned earlier: If the copyright holders have reason to believe that a C&D is not effective, they'll crank it up to real legal action. And all they have to do is tie the hobo-developer to the title at one point (like when said modder takes credit for it :p) and BAM, obstruction of justice and all those other catch-all laws that boil down to "Don't mess with the legal system or we will ream you in the ass".At least here, there is no "entirely different statute of limitations". In the law I see an option for a prosecutor to apply for a one-year extension to charge a case due to difficult investigation circumstances; I'm not sure if that would be applicable to misdemeanor copyright infringement and realistically I don't see a prosecutor touching a case like this in the first place. "Avoiding trial" is what some people do after they have actually been charged, and irrelevant to this matter.

So, correct me if I am wrong, but your argument is: the modders can keep "working behind the scenes", release it, wait until the lawsuits stop, and take credit.
First, why would they do that? Nobody who would be willing to put in the amount of effort required to make something people care about is going to wait X years before saying "Yeah, I released that thing X years ago".No, that's not my argument. That's just one thing I think people may be able to do, among many other things which you have ignored. If my reading of the law is correct, around here X=2. Two years isn't very long. Any dev in any jurisdiction would also be able to take credit privately at any time before they are able to do so in public; in many cases, that would work for them as well as public credit does. There are other jurisdictions where the whole thing might be legal, full stop, and any old and new devs from those jurisdictions could work openly.

Third, I can't be arsed to read finlandish law, but as I mentioned above, there are other legal avenues the copyright holders can take.No need to bother to read Finnish law since I already did that. But I would be happy to hear what the relevant law says in your jurisdiction, or whatever jurisdictions you are familiar with. Hand-waving and talking about "Bubbas" and "ass-reaming" doesn't take us anywhere. Frankly, I find it mind-boggling that you think it's easy to mount a legal case against anonymous people on the internet. Even establishing that a particular court has jurisdiction to hear a particular case doesn't seem easy to me. If I recall correctly, some US courts have thrown out infringement cases where the complainant had geo-located a list of infringers' IP addresses to the court's jurisdiction, because the process doing the locating did not sufficiently establish jurisdiction in the court's view. With Tor or equivalent, you don't even have addresses to work with.

gundato
18-09-2012, 02:12 AM
What I think anyone deserves isn't relevant. I'm discussing feasibility.
If I'm reading this correctly, you are asserting that after Dev Team B has complied with a C&D and shut down, its members can still be sued to oblivion at any time for what Dev Team C does, without actual proof that those members are in Dev Team C? Or Dev Team B can still be sued to oblivion at any time for what they did before they received the C&D? In which jurisdiction and with which laws can they accomplish these things?
If Dev Team C is using the same material as Dev Team B, then B is either part of C or is distributing the material (the thing they were given a C&D for).

Statute of limitations runs from the last less-than-legal action you take. Other people choosing to re-distribute the content are not you.
Except that said contents were distributed in the first place... To my understanding, and correct me if I am wrong since you seem to have read a lot of wiki pages on the legal system (I watched Boston Legal a lot :p), the purpose of a C&D is to say "Don't do that or we'll sue". Thus, if you do that, they'll sue for real.


At least here, there is no "entirely different statute of limitations". In the law I see an option for a prosecutor to apply for a one-year extension to charge a case due to difficult investigation circumstances; I'm not sure if that would be applicable to misdemeanor copyright infringement and realistically I don't see a prosecutor touching a case like this in the first place. "Avoiding trial" is what some people do after they have actually been charged, and irrelevant to this matter.
If they completely stop doing everything, sure (although, once they take credit they probably will get slapped with an outright lawsuit. Lawyers are dirty creatures). But that implies doing everything "off the grid" and the like and runs into the same problem of "If the lawyers have reason to believe Mystery Dev Team C is Dev Team B, largely due to content used, they will sue the crap out of B". Or they will at least investigate thoroughly enough that changing your online nick won't be enough.




No, that's not my argument. That's just one thing I think people may be able to do, among many other things which you have ignored. If my reading of the law is correct, around here X=2. Two years isn't very long. Any dev in any jurisdiction would also be able to take credit privately at any time before they are able to do so in public; in many cases, that would work for them as well as public credit does. There are other jurisdictions where the whole thing might be legal, full stop, and any old and new devs from those jurisdictions could work openly.
That reminds me of the jackass who stole the HL2 source and then thought he was "getting a job" from Valve. They helped the FBI arrest his ass.

And nobody is going to want to hire somebody who ignores the law AND pissed off a bunch of future clients/backers.


Frankly, I find it mind-boggling that you think it's easy to mount a legal case against anonymous people on the internet.
See, that's where your argument falls apart. "anonymous people on the internet" don't exist. With enough time and money (and it really isn't all that much of either...) you can find anyone. And considering that the people who care have money AND get paid by the hour...


Vic, I understand what you are trying to say. If someone never goes public, does EVERYTHING, releases, and waits X years they are safe. And they probably are unless they REALLY piss off a bored lawyer. But that person will have just spent X+Y years of their life doing nothing they can take any form of credit for. And generally, you only learn it is a problem AFTER you go public. Well, they should know beforehand, but let's assume optimisim-induced stupidity.

victory
18-09-2012, 08:25 PM
If Dev Team C is using the same material as Dev Team B, then B is either part of C or is distributing the material (the thing they were given a C&D for).Terrible logic. Whoever had access to Dev Team B's material either before or after the C&D can be the source of the material. Obviously, if Dev Team B's repo was out in the open, that means everyone. Even if only people on Dev Team B ever had access, it only takes one of them to distribute the material once. Furthermore, that could have happened before the C&D as well.


If they completely stop doing everything, sure (although, once they take credit they probably will get slapped with an outright lawsuit. Lawyers are dirty creatures). But that implies doing everything "off the grid" and the like and runs into the same problem of "If the lawyers have reason to believe Mystery Dev Team C is Dev Team B, largely due to content used, they will sue the crap out of B". Or they will at least investigate thoroughly enough that changing your online nick won't be enough.Running the team infrastructure as Tor services, automatic data sanitization, and tiered access to prevent various kinds of pattern analysis of participation is not "changing your online nick".

See, that's where your argument falls apart. "anonymous people on the internet" don't exist. With enough time and money (and it really isn't all that much of either...) you can find anyone. And considering that the people who care have money AND get paid by the hour...More hand-waving. Please explain actual technical measures which would defeat a reasonably ran infrastructure to reveal the identities of individual developers.

gundato
18-09-2012, 09:03 PM
Terrible logic. Whoever had access to Dev Team B's material either before or after the C&D can be the source of the material. Obviously, if Dev Team B's repo was out in the open, that means everyone. Even if only people on Dev Team B ever had access, it only takes one of them to distribute the material once. Furthermore, that could have happened before the C&D as well.
If they happened to be doing everything as open source right from the start, then sure. Although, then they would potentially get a "real" law suit rather than just a "friendly" C&D in the first place
If they weren't doing an open source approach from the start, then that means they ignored the C&D and are gonna get reamed by the lawyers. The point of the C&D is "Stop what you are doing and stop pissing us off". So ignoring both is bad...


Running the team infrastructure as Tor services, automatic data sanitization, and tiered access to prevent various kinds of pattern analysis of participation is not "changing your online nick".
More hand-waving. Please explain actual technical measures which would defeat a reasonably ran infrastructure to reveal the identities of individual developers.
I am no forensic internet huntery person.

I WILL say this: Look how regularly (about once or twice a year or so...) big piracy groups/websites get nailed. Look at what happened to those lolsec hackers from last summer (articles suggested they actually got nailed VERY fast and just didn't realize it for a few weeks while various governments were building cases). Look at how Anonymous and the like regularly find bank records of random people within hours. If they can't protect themselves, how do you think a moderately sized collaboration project (where someone will likely blab anyway...) that will be semi-regularly releasing PR and media and who are ALREADY ON THE RADAR are going to get away with it?

Again, if it makes you feel better: If you, right from the start, avoid going public until everything is done and then silently release it on a few message boards using a bunch of proxies, you are probably safe. And then you can just ride out the X years.

And, if it REALLY is what you want to hear: If you have a team consisting of Hardison from Leverage, McGee and Abby from NCIS, the Mr Jewish Universe from Serenity, and three keyboards (Abby and McGee can share one :p), you MIGHT be able to avoid getting nailed if an actual effort is made to find you. But considering that warez groups regularly fail at doing that, the odds are miniscule.

Silgidorn
21-09-2012, 08:19 AM
According to their facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MiddleEarthRoleplaying) page they got over 9000 thousand signatures, the support of Totalbiscuit. They also seem to have the support of Ian McKellen Himself. Which opens up a new step in the support processus.

b0rsuk
21-09-2012, 04:05 PM
"Intellectual Property" is awesome. Without it, we wouldn't have races like Halflings, because they would be called Hobbits instead.

AgamemnonV1
22-09-2012, 09:24 AM
According to their facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MiddleEarthRoleplaying) page they got over 9000 thousand signatures, the support of Totalbiscuit. They also seem to have the support of Ian McKellen Himself. Which opens up a new step in the support processus.
They've hit 15k (last I checked). Totalbiscuit wasn't really on their side completely--he did kind of knock them on the "what did you expect?" angle. However, having the support of McKellen would really be something, although I'm not seeing any proof to this yet. Hells bells, could you imagine if this support actually turns things around? That'll be one hell of a build up to finish the mod and await the judgement gods.

AgamemnonV1
22-09-2012, 09:25 AM
According to their facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MiddleEarthRoleplaying) page they got over 9000 thousand signatures, the support of Totalbiscuit. They also seem to have the support of Ian McKellen Himself. Which opens up a new step in the support processus.
They've hit 15k (last I checked). Totalbiscuit wasn't really on their side completely--he did kind of knock them on the "what did you expect?" angle. However, having the support of McKellen would really be something, although I'm not seeing any proof to this yet.