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Gearbox are suing 3D Realms over Duke Nukem, again

It's all thanks to Bobby Prince

Law. Law always changes, and it's honestly a bit of a nightmare. Last Friday, Gearbox Software filed a suit against Apogee Software, the owners of Duke Nukem 3D developers* 3D Realms. Gearbox bought the Duke Nukem franchise off 'em back in 2010, and now they're accusing 3D Realms of failing to mention that they didn't own the copyright to some of the game's music.

This follows Gearbox's 2014 suit that (supposedly?) established their full ownership of the franchise, and is the result of another ongoing lawsuit by musician Bobby Prince against Gearbox (as well as Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford and Valve Software), where he's claiming that he merely licensed his tracks to them rather than outright selling. Basically, Gearbox are trying to ensure they don't suffer legal costs because of 3D Realms' alleged cock-up. It is: messy.

Prince filed his lawsuit last year, following 2016's expanded re-release Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour - he says they didn't ask for his permission and aren't paying him any money, which violated their (individually very fiddly) contract. He's suing Valve too because they allowed it to be sold on Steam.

Right then. Here's some of what I just said, but in the suits' own official law words (according to PC Gamer):

"...Gearbox purchased all intellectual property related to the Duke Nukem video game series (the 'Duke IP') from 3D Realms," the lawsuit states. "In the [Asset Purchase Agreement], 3D Realms represented to Gearbox that the Duke IP was owned free and clear by 3D Realms and that 3D Realms had the right to use the Duke IP 'without payment to a Third-Party.' 3D Realms further warranted in the APA that no copyright was infringed by use of the Duke IP in the Duke Nukem video game series."

That "free and clear" bit is the crux of it. If Bobby Prince does still own that music, then the original contract was signed under false pretences. Gearbox also say that 3D Realms have refused to indemnify Gearbox against Prince's claims (meaning they're refusing to acknowledge that Gearbox aren't legally liable), which was apparently part of the deal.

Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford told Digital Trends that he believes Prince is correct, but that they'll have to wait and see what the court decides: "We’re literally in the middle — either Bobby is right and deserves to be paid, in which case 3D Realms is wrong … or 3D Realms is right and Bobby’s wrong".

Gearbox are also seeking compensation in the event that Prince's claim is ruled legitimate, given that Gearbox "has incurred actual damages equal to the difference in value of what 3D Realms agreed to transfer to Gearbox and what Gearbox actually deserved."

I do feel more for the individual who may not have been paid properly, rather than the abstract entities suffering whatever corpo-sums are tied into the above.

*A point of order: 3D Realms today are not the American 3D Realms who developed Duke Nukem. They (and Apogee) are names and a handful of assets held by a Danish company, so there's legal lineage but they're different things. You are now entitled to one (1) nap.

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Matt Cox avatar

Matt Cox

Former Staff Writer

Once the leader of Rock Paper Shotgun's Youth Contingent, Matt is an expert in multiplayer games, deckbuilders and battle royales. He occasionally pops back into the Treehouse to write some news for us from time to time, but he mostly spends his days teaching small children how to speak different languages in warmer climates.