With a back catalogue including Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, and Wolfenstein 3D, Bobby Prince certainly helped define the sound of much of early 3D shooters. Like most folk, though, I reckon he’s also a fan of getting paid for his work. Last week, the musician raised claims that 2016’s expanded re-release Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour included his music without asking nicely beforehand. Now publishers Gearbox, their CEO Randy Pitchford, and Valve Software are all facing a lawsuit from Prince for allegedly distributing Prince’s music without permission, nor paying him royalties.
Gearbox bought Duke Nukem in 2010 from the tattered remains of 3D Realms, though Prince says that couldn’t include everything. In a lawsuit filed in a Tennessee court on Friday, Prince’s attorneys describe how the Duke 3D soundtrack was written under a particular agreement between Prince and original owners Apogee. The devs would pay royalties of about $1 per unit sold, in exchange for limited use of the 16-song soundtrack. Prince, meanwhile, would go on to acquire full copyright of the music.
Prince claims Gearbox skipped that part when putting together World Tour.
“Before Gearbox Software and Gearbox Publishing distributed infringing copies of Mr Prince’s music, they knew, or at least should have known, Mr Prince owned the rights to the music. They specifically knew, among other things, that Mr Prince owned the rights to the music, knew they had no license for the music, and knew that their predecessor, Apogee, had been required to pay Mr Prince royalties to use the music.”
Prince alleges that his music was taken without permission for the 2016 rerelease, and he has yet to receive any royalties from its sale. Complicating things further, Prince claims music files on World Tour explicitly include text stating he reserves all rights towards the music’s use.
Prince has a particular axe to grind with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. The composer says he’d reached out to Pitchford regarding royalties ahead of release in 2016, and claims Pitchford assured him he’d be “taken care of”. Given the lawsuit three years later, it’s safe to assume Prince doesn’t feel he was, in fact, taken care of. His attorneys call Pitchford’s behaviour “willful, knowing, or at least reckless.”
Valve, meanwhile, find themselves in the firing line for allowing Gearbox to sell World Tour on Steam. Prince and his lawyers attempted to have Valve cease sales of World Tour to no avail, and have thus included the retail giant in their suit.
“Valve ignored a takedown notice, thus waiving any immunity under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and continued distributing infringing copies of the music despite knowing that Mr Prince owned the copyrights in the music.”
Curiously, Prince makes no mention of PlayStation or Xbox, where World Tour is also sold.
At this time, neither Pitchford, Gearbox nor Valve have responded to Prince’s allegations. Prince is looking to be awarded maximum damages, or actual damages plus defendant profits, plus legal fees. Pitchford, Gearbox and Valve had 21 days to respond to court summons.