The great and terrible Final Battle between Bethesda and Interplay regarding the latter’s right to create an MMO based on the Fallout licence they part-sold to the former some years ago is still yet to be fought, but the litigation-lovin’ folk at Bethesda have seen a potentially major setback in their efforts to take full control of wasteland adventuring. For a while, the two parties have been locked in snarling battle about whether Interplay are still allowed to make a Fallout MMO, with Bethesda claiming they failed to meet time and budgetary criteria outlined in the original license-selling deal. Interplay have claimed they’ve stuck the agreement, and thus continued with working on said MMO (actually contracting developing Masthead Studios to do it for them). Bethesda tried to stop ‘em, but a US judge has now stopped Bethesda from stopping them. Got that?
Bethesda’s recent request for a restraining order against Interplay/Masthead has been denied by US district judge John F. Walter, and before Interplay had even gotten around to mounting their own response. His main reason for doing so is that Bethesda took their sweet time in requesting the restraining order, which rather undermines their claims that it’s a crisis situation for them. Here’s what said (via Milford and Associates via Gamasutra)
“Plaintiff has not demonstrated that it will be irreparably prejudiced if the requested ex parte relief is not granted, or that it is without fault in creating the crisis that requires ex parte relief. Indeed, Plaintiff was aware as early as February 2011 that Masthead was potentially infringing its copyrights. . . . Yet, Plaintiff waited seven months to apply for ex parte relief. The Court finds that Plaintiff unreasonably delayed in seeking relief, and that the emergency that allegedly justifies a TRO is self-created. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause Re: Preliminary Injunction is DENIED.”
As I understand it, this certainly doesn’t mean Interplay have won, but just that Bethesda’s latest attempt to block the Fallout MMO has failed and now they need to find another angle of attack. Their lawyers must be very busy at the moment, since they’re also trying to sue Minecraft-makers Mojang for having the cheek to think the word ‘scrolls’ could refer to anything other than ‘The Elder Scrolls.’
I’m so glad I’m not a copyright lawyer. I have enough problems getting to sleep at night as it is.