10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

The law, written by lawyers, for lawyers. Laws move slowly; Fast technology. Because of this, throughout the history of games, legislators have been undecided about which legal categories they created years ago to place video games: Are they like movies? Or books? Or computer programs? Or works of art? In some ways, they are all of these at the same time, but which one you consider a video game has a big impact on what rules you apply to them in different places and times.

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The law, written by lawyers, for lawyers. Laws move slowly; Fast technology. Because of this, throughout the history of games, legislators have been undecided about which legal categories they created years ago to place video games: Are they like movies? Or books? Or computer programs? Or works of art? In some ways, they are all of these at the same time, but which one you consider a video game has a big impact on what rules you apply to them in different places and times.

For example, It used to be said that video games are not subject to copyright law because the content on the image is not the same for everyone at the same time, while the content of a book or movie is the same for all audiences. It was said that even copying a game from another game is not a violation of the copyright law, with the note that the codes themselves should be different, because basically the codes are part of the copyright and not what appears on the image. It was said that the use of unofficial cheat codes adds something to the game that violates the rights of the game's copyright holders.

Do these arguments make sense? maybe no. But fortunately, the industry has moved on four decades and we can look back and see what made video games different and how to interpret these lawsuits with common sense. Of course, the difference between law and common sense is huge (much, much, much). Sometimes, illogical arguments were given (usually because it is for the benefit of the party's pocket) and who knows, maybe these illogical arguments were the result of the rules themselves. If another path had been followed and video games had not been subject to copyright in these forty years, perhaps we would have found a completely different experience. Perhaps we are seeing this even now: mobile games are made so easily and for so little money that they are sued for copyright infringement perhaps hundreds of times a day. But the laws and the courts cannot align themselves with so many cases accusing them of copying (especially since these copies are easily published and distributed globally).

So this list, in my opinion, includes Ten of the most important lawsuits in the history of the video game industry (thirteen actually. I merged some). In it we see big-headed actors (Nintendo, Atari, Sega, Sony), we see stories like the battle of David and Goliath (interesting fact: the lower court works in favor of Goliath, but David wins in the appeals court), and some, of course, in the legal sense Before I start, I must remind you that the ranking of this list is not bound by any specific law. It is better to say that these 10 subjects are ranked according to six topics: violence in video games (10 and 9), copyright (8), copyrightability of video games (7 and 6), copyright infringement and reverse engineering (5 and 4), creating Changes in the original product (3 and 2) and other cases of trademark infringement (1). Do not criticize after the ranking, because these, in my opinion, are among the top 10 lawsuits, and not that there is a difference between them in terms of order and that one is better or worse than the other.

Also, I must say that The list largely focuses on American cases only. Well, that's because I'm American myself, so I'm more familiar with the history of video game legislation in this country. Another reason is that my sourcesWikipedia and the sources it refers tousually have more complete information on American subjects. And frankly, having a list of lawsuits worldwide destroys the coherence of the list: the legal systems in different countries and cultures are so different that it is impossible to put a Chinese case next to an American case and discuss it on a scale of ten. So if you're bothered by this article's focus on America, read the headline in your head like this: 10 Controversial "Western" or "American" Lawsuits in the Games Industry (although ironically I'm writing this list from London).

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10. "Strickland" vs. "Sony"

As mentioned in the introduction of the article, we start the list with cases of violence in video games. In particular, we address this question: Are game companies responsible for the violent acts that gamers do under the influence of violent games?

In 2003, Devin Moore was arrested for stealing a car. When he was detained, he took one of the weapons from the office, killed three people and escaped from the police station. He was arrested again and finally executed by injection.

The case is closed, right? Not yet. Jack Thompson, who at the time was famous for pushing for restrictions on violent video games, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims' families, accusing Sony and TikTok Interactive of the murders. Because Devin Moore has a history of playing Grand Theft Auto.

Jack Thompson was no stranger to these types of cases and had tried similar cases before. His efforts to lobby with other lawyers to blame video games for criminal acts were unsuccessful. The case of Strickland v. Sony is notable in that Thompson's behavior was so unbelievable that the judge revoked his right to represent the state of Alabama. I would say this was the beginning of the end of Jack Thompson's career: he continued to be a nose hair for years to come until he finally gave up. were under the influence of violent games, the charge was dropped - it showed that the general consensus of the legal community is that there is no causal relationship between the accused's violent behavior and the experience of violent video games.

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Death Race, one of the first games accused of showing violence

9. "Brown" v. "Entertainment Merchants Association". In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, however, the issue is more serious. The case asks: Aren't laws banning the sale of violent games to children a violation of the First Amendment? [Article 1 of the United States Constitution, which emphasizes the civil, religious, political and press freedoms of citizens]

The root of this case goes back to the enactment of a law in 2005 in the state of California, according to which the sale of video games that It contains violent content and is prohibited for people under the age of 18. Various organizations, led by the Entertainment Merchants Association, opposed the law.

At first, Ronald M. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring that the ban essentially violated the companies' right to free speech. In particular, he claimed that since there is no evidence to prove that violent games cause violent behavior, then their sale cannot be legally prohibited. And as noted above, there was little consensus that violent games cause violent behavior.

The case was appealed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The federal court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, supported the California law and for the reasons of Judge M. White cited. The court agreed to require states to label games based on objective information; Such as the ESRB ratings and the registration of warning labels such as "imaginary violence" and "alcohol consumption" on games.

It is not surprising that the case was referred to the Supreme Court for an appeal, and they also handled it. They accepted the case. This caused a group to play the role of "court advisor" (Amicus Curiae: those who are not present in the case and are independent, but can legally enter the court and share their point of view with the court). Organizations such as the MPAA to the ACLU and various states participated separately in this lawsuit. Some states, among other things, raised their arguments against the law passed by California. Also, a coalition of scientists claimed that California used scientific research to justify its law (based on a positive relationship between rough play and violent behavior) that was wrong. Other states also defended California's law.

The Supreme Court finally overturned the law in 2011 with 7 votes to 2. According to the provisions of this law, video games are like books, television series, and movies, and their interactive nature does not cause a new law to deal with them. It is interesting to note that the proponents of the California law did not necessarily believe that the relationship between Violent games and violent behavior are positive; For example, Clarence Thomas believed that such a law would leave the hands of the states open and manage the relationship between the company and its minor audience, in any matter. From there, Stephen Breyer blamed the double standard of these debates and believed that in this case, violence is shown less than nudity and obscene acts (the court also agreed that children's access to these things should be limited). p>

The result of the case was that states could not prohibit stores from selling violent games to minors (although the stores themselves could decide to do so independently)... however, this law is unique to the United States.

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8. "Video Game Foundation of America" v. "Music Composers, Writers and Producers Society of Canada"

"Video Games Foundation of America" v. "Music Composers, Writers and Producers Society of Canada"

Go to Another topic. Of course, the topic of the relationship between violence and video games is important, but at the same time it causes frustration because We don't have much evidence that violent games lead to violent behavior. Instead, we enter the much more interesting world of copyright. This case asks: at one time the game is illegally sold in its physical version and at the same time through the Internet and available to everyone. Considering this issue, shouldn't the amount of compensation paid to artists be different?

If the question seems ridiculous, it must be because it is really ridiculous. This is a clear example of mixing new media and technology with traditional categories and rules.

This case started in Canada (I'm not necessarily focusing on America, you see). Usually, when making a game, the copyright holders (in this case the composers) haggle with the game publishers to reach an agreement and get royalties.

Everything goes as you would expect: a composer agrees to They use his music in a certain game, provided that he gets, for example, a hundred thousand dollars. How many copies that game sells has no effect on how much the composer gets paid. This has been stated from the beginning in the context of the law related to copyright laws and their sale.

But SOCAN [SOCAN: Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers in Canada] believed that the digital sale of the game is not considered as a sale. Rather, it is part of broadcasting. Since the right of public broadcasting belongs only to the copyright holder, Sokan announced that game publishers should charge an additional amount for royalties.

It is a rough example, but a similar situation occurs: the composer says that he gives permission for the end credits of a certain movie. His music will be played on the condition that he will be paid one hundred thousand dollars. But for every copy of the movie that is sold, this royalty is not going to be renewed. But what happens if the film is broadcast live on TV? Do you have to pay royalties again here? The law says yes. Sukan claimed that the digital sale of the game is similar to the public distribution of the product.

The Copyright Board, as a Canadian mediator in the settlement of the lawsuit, initially voted in favor of Sukan: more royalties should be given to the composers. to be paid because the product was supposed to be sold physically and they did not know that it would be sold digitally later. Although the Entertainment Merchants Association appealed, the lower court upheld the Copyright Board's decision.

The case went on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which disagreed with the lower court's decision. They said digital sales follow the same rules as physical sales. This was one of several cases that were filed in Canada in a short period of time and ultimately redefined copyright laws in this country.

Bottom line: common sense finally wins. Many of us know that digital download and physical copy purchase are just two different ways to buy the same product and there is no need to pay a separate royalty for each.

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7. Stern Electronics v. Kaufman/Midway v. Artic International/Atari v. Omen

The previous case focused on what distinguishes video games from other media. But I think most of us agree that it was a pointless discussion. However, the next three cases really raise some interesting questions about copyright: When we say that a game is copyrighted, exactly what part of it are we copyrighting? It separates video from movies, books, paintings, sculptures, etc. But they are what they are. A statue is a statue, the process of carving it is not copyrighted. Copyright for a film is only for the sequence of frames that are played in order in the final product. The copyright of the book is specific to the text that is placed in order. Copyright also includes other aspects; For example, the script of a movie and the movie itself can be copyrighted separately. There is no problem because each of them is a single, permanent and unchanging "thing".

The issue becomes dumb when it comes to video games. You can play the same game, but two people playing the same product are never the same. If you compare the way I handled the Dam stage in Goldeneye 007 to the millions of other people who have done the same stage, you will see that everyone plays together, every single moment. This is a special feature of games; The viewer has no role in the creation of a film, book or any other work of art, except for video games that the audience can change.

So it logically follows that what provides this experience in the first place should be copyrighted. ; It means codes. We may all run the same game differently, just as not everyone reads the same book the same way and some people skip pages or watch a movie at 1.25 times faster, but the code behind them all is the same. The problem with this reading is that it can't tell what if two games are similar but made with different codes. Code is the same process that makes art, but it can be done with different processes A unit arrived. In fact, this always happens when porting games to different platforms: games are made with different [coded] languages for different engines. But when we manipulate the codes to bring the exact same game to another platform, does the game itself change? Many of us will say no. Although the way different people interact with the same game can be different, there is one thing, a kind of feeling, that makes the "game" independent of the codes and the people who experience it.

In this issue, We refer to three cases that formulated this feeling in the form of law. In the case of Stern Electronics, Inc. v. In 1982, Kaufman's company Omni (the entity behind Kaufman in the case title) copied Konami's game Scramble. Konami sued, and Omni argued that although the sounds and visuals were very similar to Konami's game, the way they were made was entirely unique and therefore did not infringe Konami's copyright. In the case of Midway Manufacturing Co. vs. Arctic International, Inc. In 1983, Artic similarly copied Midway's Pacman and Galaxian. They claimed that their game codes are different and that even Midway's "ephemeral" product codes cannot be copyrighted. In the case of Atari Games Corp. v. Oman In 1987, Ralph Oman, the head of the Copyright Office, refused to grant a copyright to Atari's game Breakout, claiming that the product was sufficiently "soundly and Visually, the object is not sufficiently original and unique to be copyrighted."

In all three cases, the judges ruled in favor of the original creators of the action and the copycats (a victory for Stren, the North American publisher of Scrabmle; a victory Midway for the Pacman and Galaxy games; and Atari Victory for Breakout). This proved that games are also copyrightable, not just because of their source code, but the total "feeling" they create. The third case is doubly important because future US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg played an important role in opposing the Omen decision.

The result of these cases is that we know today that video games are copyrightable. . The mentioned cases are historically important to look at; Especially since the audio and visual limitations made there to be many games that are copies of the originals. As games became more complex, it became harder to copy them. In fact, the genres can be considered "relatively" copied, but the interactive power of the games is so much that although we say that Crash Team Racing is a "copy" of Mario Kart, few people can compare it with the imitation of Scramble and say both. To some extent, they were in violation of copyright.

But these are the cases that, although they were thrown out the door, these days they have come back in through the window; For example, the market of mobile games is full of these kinds of copies, and some of them steal the code themselves officially. The problem is that the cost of making these games is so low that people can bear the cost of making them and abandon the copyright protection of their product, which has made the market of copycats profitable. I have no doubt that the mastermind behind a game like Doodle Flow would sue the copycats if he could, but the resulting compensation is so low that it is not worth the legal costs of copyrighting the product. I think it's up to the app stores themselves to be careful, but that's not what I'm talking about right now.

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6. Data East v. Epix

Previous cases proved that games are not defined by their code. It is the laws that define them; the experience they give; the structure they have; The visual style they create. Although no two people are the same, they all add up to a cohesive final product that lets everyone know exactly what they're talking about. The case ahead asks: How far can this definition be stretched?

In a previous post, I mentioned how similar Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing are. Most of us agree that the latter is, in some ways, a copy of the former. It is possible, of course, with a little consideration and precision, to describe the two games as if they are inseparable. In fact, this is the definition of the genre itself, which was later called kart racing, and we saw many other examples of it: Diddy Kong Racing, Nickelodeon Kart Races, Sega All-Stars Racing, Looney Tunes: Space Race, LittleBigPlanet Karting, Toy Story Racer, Angry Birds Go!, Mickey's Speedway USA... all of these can be considered copies of the original Mario Kart. But then again, I'm willing to bet that not many of us would say that this copy is egregious enough to constitute copyright infringement.

In the absence of a court case, there is a risk of falling down a slippery slope and accusing the slightest similarity of infringement. Copyright In this way, it was possible to reach an industry where only one company had the right to make games with a first-person perspective, or use controller sticks to look and moving, or maybe even just had a baseball game.

Data East USA, Inc. v. Epyx was the file that prevented this problem. This lawsuit happened in 1988, right on the eve of the cases we wrote about earlier (the ones that showed that copyright is not limited to game codes). In this case, Data East USA made a game called Karate Champ and Epix made a game called World Karate Championship. Data East sued Epix for copyright infringement.

However, unlike previous games, World Karate Championship was not a direct copy of Karate Champ. They had a series of features in common, which was natural because these are the features of the karate sport itself, and it was natural that any game with a karate theme would use these features. Data East claimed copyright infringement because it believed that some of the nature and movements performed by the characters (such as each athlete being able to kick the bottom of the opponent's leg) and the length of each round were copied. Epix also claimed that these things were incidental or derived from the original source [the sport of karate itself].

The lower court initially found in Data East's favor, but on appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit America turned the page and it was announced that the similarities are not to the extent that it can be considered as a violation of the law. The result of this court also complements the cases mentioned in the previous issue: Yes, games are copyrightable beyond their source code, but it was not clear where the boundary of this copyrightability is and how much a game should change in order not to violate copyright. With this case, this issue was also resolved, otherwise the direction of the industry might have changed completely; It is possible that if Data East had won this case, fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Tekken and other similar games would never have been made because someone else would have come and said with the same excuses that they are all copyright violations of Street Fighter.

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5. Atari v. Nintendo of America/Sega v. Aqualad

The previous cases all involved the issue of copyright infringement, specifically how far the similarities between two competing products may or may not extend. But a key issue was not addressed in these cases: paying attention to the mechanism and procedure that leads to the violation of the mentioned law. The previous cases were all involved in the final product; Two recent cases involved how this breach occurred in the first place. They ask: How far can a company manipulate its competitor's product in order to gain the upper hand in the competition?

The previous cases, despite their impact, were mostly fights between shareholders and small companies. Atari, Midway, and Sony are big companies, but their lawsuits were against much smaller companies. However, in these two cases, we see the names of two of the biggest names in the industry that are in trouble together.

The case of Atari Games Corp. v. Nintendo of America took place in 1992 and in many ways represented Atari's dying breath as it struggled to maintain its throne in the gaming industry. Atari was unrivaled and dominant for years, until Nintendo entered the scene and became a threat to Atari, because soon Atari had to inherit its throne for Nintendo. One of the reasons that made Nintendo so successful was that their console only supported games that were approved by Nintendo itself. This was a reaction to the Video Game Crash of 1983, in which a large number of low-quality games were released for the Atari console. After this failure, Atari could not even make games for the dominant console, the Super Nintendo, because Nintendo naturally did not approve the games of its rival company.

To counter, Atari tried that part of Super Nintendo that It took reverse engineering to run unapproved games. If Atari could make cartridges that bypassed the Super Nintendo lock, Nintendo couldn't stop them from releasing Atari games. Nintendo claimed that this work of Atari itself is a copyright violation, but for now it is not our problem because Atari failed to reverse engineer the Super Nintendo lock. As a result, Atari wanted to illegally obtain the source code of the Nintendo console from the copyright office in order to bypass the lock of the Super Nintendo. It is interesting that the court finally accused Atari of tampering with the source code of the Super Nintendo. He was not convicted of his previous attempt to reverse engineer the Super Nintendo. It is not illegal to reverse-engineer the hardware itself to get around such restrictions, as long as no other laws are broken in the process. And the result was announced a month later. In the case of Sega v. Accolade, Accolade did exactly what Atari did with the Sega Genesis console; The only difference is that Okolad did not need to reject Haft Khan Rostam to get the source code of Sega Genesis, but by buying it from the store, he was able to successfully reverse engineer it. slow In line with the same law as the previous case, the appeals court claimed that Echolad's efforts to reverse engineer the Sega Genesis were completely "legal", especially since Echolad had not violated other laws in the process.

These laws showed the companies' hand. It is legally possible to bypass the console's security lock and run third-party content on it, as long as no other rules are broken. The impact of these laws is still felt today, not only in companies like Nintendo, but even in the likes of Apple and John Deere. Since this issue cannot be put into the form of the United States law, then the companies themselves have started to fight back. They have stated in their Terms of Service that any use of unapproved software will void the product warranty. (Of course, this is different from the "right to repair" law. The right to repair happened to be created to deal with this law of companies. It is legal to circumvent these restrictions, but companies will void the product's warranty or take other preventive actions. Which of course It is only imposed by the company itself and not by the US judicial system.)

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4. PlayStation v. Connectix

Previous cases have shown that reverse engineering a console is not per se illegal unless it uses illegal practices. This paved the way for a similar case to be filed a little later in 2000. This case asks: Is copying a copyrighted BIOS, in an attempt to reverse engineer a console, one of the same "illegal methods" that infringes copyright?

This case takes us further into technical information. and talks about the hardware of consoles becoming more complicated. The thing is, trying to reverse engineer the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis meant throwing the guts out of the console, and that's why the court ruled it legal. The customer is the owner of the console that he spent out of his own pocket, so does he have the right to bring any harm to the console and even destroy it? But in the case of Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Cop. The question is, can the console BIOS be copied?

BIOS means "Basic Input/Output System" and basically forms the software infrastructure layer of modern computers. In an attempt to create a PlayStation emulator, Connectix copied the console's BIOS. Sony took his complaint to the court and accused Connectix of copyright infringement.

The case can be looked at from two aspects. On the other hand, it can be said that this is the same issue of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis as mentioned earlier: Connectix bought the console and as its owner has the right to do whatever it wants with it. It's like buying a DVD and cutting it in half; This is your DVD, no matter what you do to it. But on the other hand, it can be seen as smuggling. Sony claimed that Connectix copied its console's BIOS in order to distribute it illegally. Now it's like buy a DVD and copy it. Just because you own it does not give you the right to sell it to others on your own behalf.

Ultimately, the law ruled that Connectix did not seek to distribute the PlayStation BIOS and its intellectual property, but merely copied it to Reverse engineer it. It was legal to copy, reverse engineer it, and distribute the resulting reverse-engineered product. However, emulation that contains the original BIOS code itself is not legal. (That's why GameFAQs has always had such a hard time enforcing criminal code clauses over the years. Emulators aren't "generally" illegal, but many emulators are partially illegal because they contain the emulated console's BIOS code within the software itself. However, the average user is unaware of these differences at the time of installing the emulators.)

This ruling is also significant in another way: the court declared that Connecticut not only has the right to reverse engineer, but also to produce a competing platform [i.e. the emulator on a PC] that can run PlayStation games is not illegal. This means that even Nintendo has the right to make a console that can run PlayStation games, as long as it does not have Sony's BIOS. So the burden fell on the companies themselves to stop reverse engineering their consoles, or the US justice system would not accept responsibility.

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3. Louis Gallop Toys v. Nintendo of America

In past cases, the issue was whether the products were copying each other and how long this could go on without infringing copyright. The next two cases in this list follow a similar discussion, but from a different angle. Here, the authors want to create something completely different. The question is: How far is this difference permissible?

In the case of Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America decided the fate of Game Genie and GameShark. The problem of the case was quite simple: the Lewis Gallub company had produced a game genie that could be connected to the Super Nintendo. When the cartridge was inserted into the game genie instead of the console, the audience could edit the content of the game before it was launched. The edits could be minor and sometimes very large; Including moving green and red colors, running cheat codes, getting more powers, unlocking stages and...

Jiny game directly changed the game codes. Of course, Nintendo games were converted into assembly codes (or maybe they were written with assembly from the beginning), this means that it was extremely difficult to read and decode the codes, and each line of code contained a hexadecimal string symbol is used]. However, this complexity could not stop the fan community and they were able to write thousands of different codes for different games. . Their lawsuit is related to the same case I wrote about earlier, Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Arctic International, Inc. Of course, I simplified everything in my explanation, but from a technical point of view, both cases are similar to each other: just as Artic could not change the arcade machines made by Midway, neither did Game Genie, according to Nintendo.

Ultimately, the judge The case ruled that there is no qualitative similarity. Although technically, Game Genie did the same thing with Nintendo games, which were technically copied with the same methods from the Galaxy game, but according to the judge, this change is not in the original product because the user made this change for his own pleasure. Is. The key difference is that Galaxykin wanted to sell this modified product to others, but with GameGenie, users only modify the original product for personal use, and the buyer has the right to do whatever they want with what they own.

In the end, Nintendo was ordered to pay Louis Gallop $15 million in damages, paving the way for GameGenie and GameShark to growat least until the technology advanced enough to prevent such devices from being attached. The more complicated game design made it harder to change the codes, and it was no longer possible to change a component independently of the components without disrupting the entire system. So GameGenie and GameShark faded from the scene, not because the law stopped them, but because technological advances made them obsolete.

The case had another important impact. It is considered a prelude to another lawsuit, which will be discussed in the next issue...

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2. Microstar vs Form Genie

Since I'm seeing these cases from behind and outside the pit, my interpretation of them is somewhat biased because of what happens next. Explanation of the case of Micro Star v. FormGen is no exception to this rule. The explanations I gave about the case of the previous number also explain the final verdict of the current case, simply because the results of those cases have been determined and I already know what decision is going to be issued in each case. This case asks: How far is the limit of changing the original product for personal pleasure, exactly which red line we cross will leave the state of personal pleasure and reach the stage of selling to others? Game Genie and GameShark are legal because the change they make in the original product is only on your console and game. True, the codes were published and documented on websites and books, but it felt more like you were just selling paint and brushes to a painter than a complete painting. There is no such painting unless someone comes and draws everything himself with those paints and brushes. On the other hand, you obviously can't copy someone else's work and just make minor interferences in it; The special nature of games, compared to movies, TV series, books and other art, does not change.

Okay, where is the line? What if I give my Gameshark to my friend? What if I bought several gamesharks and filled them with different pre-prepared codes? Can I sell them and make a profit? Where exactly is the red line?

These are the questions that Micro Star v. FormGen engages with them. FormGen was the first developer of Duke Nukem 3D. They released their game with a Level Editor and allowed players to get their hands on their product: now everyone could create their own levels and locations in Dok Nokum. It's as if they had officially released their game with something equivalent to Game Genie.

In the late nineties (remember, the era when the Internet was still a baby), Microstar Company released 300 levels of user-made levels. collected and sold in a separate package. This raised two issues: was Microstar infringing the copyright of the users who created the steps? And was Formgen's copyright violated?

The first question was never addressed; Microstar allowed the steps that users put what they had made into his game. However, the second question was important. It wasn't like Game Genie anymore, because Microstar didn't collect these levels for personal use and enjoyment. It's not even similar to the case of Galaxin, because the goal was to provide "new" content for a game that the player had to access to an "old" game [Duke Nokem itself] to run it.

According to the procedure of such cases, The two sides sued each other for a while until the case was referred to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (this court has settled many lawsuits related to the gaming industry over the years, because its jurisdiction is California, Washington , it covered Arizona and Oregon; the four largest states where games were made the most everywhere).

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Microstar. Not just because they were profiting from products that others had modified, but because they had modified and abused the 3D Duke Nokm library [a collection of user-edited steps]. In other words, they were able to come up with new content based on their original Duke Nokm content, and this is an example of a change in the original product (without Formgen allowing such a thing). What is the difference with Game Genie? GameGenie was only modifying existing content, not creating new content based on the same and selling it to others.

Most importantly, the court stated that since FormGen did not want to profit from the content that users created for its game, It does not mean that others have the right to make money from that content. Only Formgen can legally have the right to generate this income; They can take the profit for themselves or sell the royalties to users separately, but if they don't want to, others don't have the right to make money. It specified that users cannot monetize these products unless they have the permission of the owner of that product (except to profit from a similar product or a competing company). While this stifled fan-made content, it was also valuable: it encouraged companies to free up players to create new content without complicated licensing issues or fans suing them for a share of the profits.

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1. Universal City Studios vs. Nintendo

Finally, we come to possibly the most high-profile lawsuit in gaming history. This popularity was not due to its high impact. In fact, it can be said that it did not have much impact on the industry. It is famous because it reminds the story of the war between David and Goliath and falling into his own trap. [1] The case of Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. It started in 1984. At that time, Nintendo was a small company. It is true that it was founded a hundred years ago, but it mostly made game cards and had just entered the game console industry. They started with Donkey Kong, who was successful and hit the nail on the head. In this game, we see a giant gorilla named Donkey Kong, who throws barrels, takes a prince hostage, and finally, the character who was called Jumpman at the time, prevents his plans. It was King Kong. After the success of Nintendo's Donkey Kong, Universal sued Nintendo for copyright infringement. It was clear that Donkey Kong was a copy of King Kong and Universal considered itself the owner. They also sued the game's publisher, Coleco. Kolko came to settle the case immediately (which was a mistake).

Nintendo wanted to settle the case without court involvement. However, Universal was a big-headed company with a bigger legal team and could drag out the case for years and prevent Donkey Gonk from being sold all the while. Universal first offered to invest and cooperate with Nintendo, but Nintendo was suspicious: now that Universal realized what a successful and best-selling game they had made, it was greedy to confiscate part of the profit for itself. So if they accept the offer and it doesn't end up in court, there might be some benefits for Nintendo: working with one of the biggest movie studios, even if they have the lower hand when it comes to bargaining for revenue sharing. Additionally, Universal's terms were rude and threatening, demanding that Nintendo hand over all profits from Donkey Kong sales and destroy any remaining copies of the game within 48 hours.

But Nintendo decided to fight back. . Howard Lincoln, Nintendo's defense attorney, stood up to Universal's team of stubborn lawyers and admitted that Universal had no rights to King Kong. Nintendo hired another lawyer, John Kirby, to defend them in court. Universal continued to insist that it owned the intellectual property of King Kong and that Donkey Kong had infringed on that property. Universal thought it already had a winner because when Nintendo denied the similarities, it could point to the game's own creator: The director of the game, Shigeru Miyamoto, testified that he used the name "King Kong" in reference to the game early on.

But Nintendo made a surprising move that Universal did not expect. They refer to the Universal City Studios, Inc. v. RKO General, Inc. cited in 1975. This file shows that RKO was the first studio to make the first King Kong movie in 1933. In order to be able to make another version of this film in 1976, Universal agreed to make King Kong a public product that no one owned or copyrighted the next year.

Now it was Universal's hand. . Nintendo claimed that it didn't matter if Donkey Kong was a copy of King Kong at all because no one could claim to own King Kong, and even Universal themselves agreed with RKO on this ten years ago. The judge in the case slammed Universal, saying they had "no regard for Nintendo's rights." He accused Universal of trying to extort money from Nintendo that they knew did not belong to Universal, and for these purposes they were ready to abuse the judicial process of the court. To put it very briefly, this case became a source of shame and disgrace for one of America's largest companies.

Most of the cases we have listed so far were notable for their impact on the industry, but this case is notable for an entirely different reason. Is. In many ways, this case allowed Nintendo to enter the world of video games with more confidence and momentum. Although it was a small arcade company at the time, it proved that it could stand alone and beat one of the biggest media outlets in America. Nintendo proved that it can make games independently at a time when game companies were subsidized and funded by toy companies. They didn't need to collaborate with others to be successful like Atari. If they didn't stand up to Universal, they might have been swallowed up by other big-headed companies. Instead, they learned to get into the game in their own way. And of course, one of the most beloved characters in Nintendo games was named after the lawyer who won this court victory for them: John Kirby.

The rules are complicated. Technology is also complicated. Put the two together to double the complexity. This is why mixing law with technology, or writing laws about technology, is so difficult: you have to be a professional in both fields at the same time, and such a person is rarely found.

So it is difficult to write about these subjects. For the audience, I tried to explain each case many times in simple language, and I am sure that I have used imprecise words or phrases in some places; For example, the case that Artic copied from Galaxy was not so simple and had other subtle points that were not mentioned. But I hope the word has reached: how the past lawsuits shaped the world of today's games and their rules.

1. Hoist with his own petard: is a phrase from Shakespeare in the play Hamlet. Its literal meaning refers to a bomber who is injured by his own bomb. This phrase later became a proverb and conveys the meaning of poetic justice. (M)

Source: GameFAQs

10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

The law, written by lawyers, for lawyers. Laws move slowly; Fast technology. Because of this, throughout the history of games, legislators have been undecided about which legal categories they created years ago to place video games: Are they like movies? Or books? Or computer programs? Or works of art? In some ways, they are all of these at the same time, but which one you consider a video game has a big impact on what rules you apply to them in different places and times.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

The law, written by lawyers, for lawyers. Laws move slowly; Fast technology. Because of this, throughout the history of games, legislators have been undecided about which legal categories they created years ago to place video games: Are they like movies? Or books? Or computer programs? Or works of art? In some ways, they are all of these at the same time, but which one you consider a video game has a big impact on what rules you apply to them in different places and times.

For example, It used to be said that video games are not subject to copyright law because the content on the image is not the same for everyone at the same time, while the content of a book or movie is the same for all audiences. It was said that even copying a game from another game is not a violation of the copyright law, with the note that the codes themselves should be different, because basically the codes are part of the copyright and not what appears on the image. It was said that the use of unofficial cheat codes adds something to the game that violates the rights of the game's copyright holders.

Do these arguments make sense? maybe no. But fortunately, the industry has moved on four decades and we can look back and see what made video games different and how to interpret these lawsuits with common sense. Of course, the difference between law and common sense is huge (much, much, much). Sometimes, illogical arguments were given (usually because it is for the benefit of the party's pocket) and who knows, maybe these illogical arguments were the result of the rules themselves. If another path had been followed and video games had not been subject to copyright in these forty years, perhaps we would have found a completely different experience. Perhaps we are seeing this even now: mobile games are made so easily and for so little money that they are sued for copyright infringement perhaps hundreds of times a day. But the laws and the courts cannot align themselves with so many cases accusing them of copying (especially since these copies are easily published and distributed globally).

So this list, in my opinion, includes Ten of the most important lawsuits in the history of the video game industry (thirteen actually. I merged some). In it we see big-headed actors (Nintendo, Atari, Sega, Sony), we see stories like the battle of David and Goliath (interesting fact: the lower court works in favor of Goliath, but David wins in the appeals court), and some, of course, in the legal sense Before I start, I must remind you that the ranking of this list is not bound by any specific law. It is better to say that these 10 subjects are ranked according to six topics: violence in video games (10 and 9), copyright (8), copyrightability of video games (7 and 6), copyright infringement and reverse engineering (5 and 4), creating Changes in the original product (3 and 2) and other cases of trademark infringement (1). Do not criticize after the ranking, because these, in my opinion, are among the top 10 lawsuits, and not that there is a difference between them in terms of order and that one is better or worse than the other.

Also, I must say that The list largely focuses on American cases only. Well, that's because I'm American myself, so I'm more familiar with the history of video game legislation in this country. Another reason is that my sourcesWikipedia and the sources it refers tousually have more complete information on American subjects. And frankly, having a list of lawsuits worldwide destroys the coherence of the list: the legal systems in different countries and cultures are so different that it is impossible to put a Chinese case next to an American case and discuss it on a scale of ten. So if you're bothered by this article's focus on America, read the headline in your head like this: 10 Controversial "Western" or "American" Lawsuits in the Games Industry (although ironically I'm writing this list from London).

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

10. "Strickland" vs. "Sony"

As mentioned in the introduction of the article, we start the list with cases of violence in video games. In particular, we address this question: Are game companies responsible for the violent acts that gamers do under the influence of violent games?

In 2003, Devin Moore was arrested for stealing a car. When he was detained, he took one of the weapons from the office, killed three people and escaped from the police station. He was arrested again and finally executed by injection.

The case is closed, right? Not yet. Jack Thompson, who at the time was famous for pushing for restrictions on violent video games, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims' families, accusing Sony and TikTok Interactive of the murders. Because Devin Moore has a history of playing Grand Theft Auto.

Jack Thompson was no stranger to these types of cases and had tried similar cases before. His efforts to lobby with other lawyers to blame video games for criminal acts were unsuccessful. The case of Strickland v. Sony is notable in that Thompson's behavior was so unbelievable that the judge revoked his right to represent the state of Alabama. I would say this was the beginning of the end of Jack Thompson's career: he continued to be a nose hair for years to come until he finally gave up. were under the influence of violent games, the charge was dropped - it showed that the general consensus of the legal community is that there is no causal relationship between the accused's violent behavior and the experience of violent video games.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

Death Race, one of the first games accused of showing violence

9. "Brown" v. "Entertainment Merchants Association". In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, however, the issue is more serious. The case asks: Aren't laws banning the sale of violent games to children a violation of the First Amendment? [Article 1 of the United States Constitution, which emphasizes the civil, religious, political and press freedoms of citizens]

The root of this case goes back to the enactment of a law in 2005 in the state of California, according to which the sale of video games that It contains violent content and is prohibited for people under the age of 18. Various organizations, led by the Entertainment Merchants Association, opposed the law.

At first, Ronald M. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, declaring that the ban essentially violated the companies' right to free speech. In particular, he claimed that since there is no evidence to prove that violent games cause violent behavior, then their sale cannot be legally prohibited. And as noted above, there was little consensus that violent games cause violent behavior.

The case was appealed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The federal court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, supported the California law and for the reasons of Judge M. White cited. The court agreed to require states to label games based on objective information; Such as the ESRB ratings and the registration of warning labels such as "imaginary violence" and "alcohol consumption" on games.

It is not surprising that the case was referred to the Supreme Court for an appeal, and they also handled it. They accepted the case. This caused a group to play the role of "court advisor" (Amicus Curiae: those who are not present in the case and are independent, but can legally enter the court and share their point of view with the court). Organizations such as the MPAA to the ACLU and various states participated separately in this lawsuit. Some states, among other things, raised their arguments against the law passed by California. Also, a coalition of scientists claimed that California used scientific research to justify its law (based on a positive relationship between rough play and violent behavior) that was wrong. Other states also defended California's law.

The Supreme Court finally overturned the law in 2011 with 7 votes to 2. According to the provisions of this law, video games are like books, television series, and movies, and their interactive nature does not cause a new law to deal with them. It is interesting to note that the proponents of the California law did not necessarily believe that the relationship between Violent games and violent behavior are positive; For example, Clarence Thomas believed that such a law would leave the hands of the states open and manage the relationship between the company and its minor audience, in any matter. From there, Stephen Breyer blamed the double standard of these debates and believed that in this case, violence is shown less than nudity and obscene acts (the court also agreed that children's access to these things should be limited). p>

The result of the case was that states could not prohibit stores from selling violent games to minors (although the stores themselves could decide to do so independently)... however, this law is unique to the United States.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

8. "Video Game Foundation of America" v. "Music Composers, Writers and Producers Society of Canada"

"Video Games Foundation of America" v. "Music Composers, Writers and Producers Society of Canada"

Go to Another topic. Of course, the topic of the relationship between violence and video games is important, but at the same time it causes frustration because We don't have much evidence that violent games lead to violent behavior. Instead, we enter the much more interesting world of copyright. This case asks: at one time the game is illegally sold in its physical version and at the same time through the Internet and available to everyone. Considering this issue, shouldn't the amount of compensation paid to artists be different?

If the question seems ridiculous, it must be because it is really ridiculous. This is a clear example of mixing new media and technology with traditional categories and rules.

This case started in Canada (I'm not necessarily focusing on America, you see). Usually, when making a game, the copyright holders (in this case the composers) haggle with the game publishers to reach an agreement and get royalties.

Everything goes as you would expect: a composer agrees to They use his music in a certain game, provided that he gets, for example, a hundred thousand dollars. How many copies that game sells has no effect on how much the composer gets paid. This has been stated from the beginning in the context of the law related to copyright laws and their sale.

But SOCAN [SOCAN: Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers in Canada] believed that the digital sale of the game is not considered as a sale. Rather, it is part of broadcasting. Since the right of public broadcasting belongs only to the copyright holder, Sokan announced that game publishers should charge an additional amount for royalties.

It is a rough example, but a similar situation occurs: the composer says that he gives permission for the end credits of a certain movie. His music will be played on the condition that he will be paid one hundred thousand dollars. But for every copy of the movie that is sold, this royalty is not going to be renewed. But what happens if the film is broadcast live on TV? Do you have to pay royalties again here? The law says yes. Sukan claimed that the digital sale of the game is similar to the public distribution of the product.

The Copyright Board, as a Canadian mediator in the settlement of the lawsuit, initially voted in favor of Sukan: more royalties should be given to the composers. to be paid because the product was supposed to be sold physically and they did not know that it would be sold digitally later. Although the Entertainment Merchants Association appealed, the lower court upheld the Copyright Board's decision.

The case went on appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which disagreed with the lower court's decision. They said digital sales follow the same rules as physical sales. This was one of several cases that were filed in Canada in a short period of time and ultimately redefined copyright laws in this country.

Bottom line: common sense finally wins. Many of us know that digital download and physical copy purchase are just two different ways to buy the same product and there is no need to pay a separate royalty for each.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

7. Stern Electronics v. Kaufman/Midway v. Artic International/Atari v. Omen

The previous case focused on what distinguishes video games from other media. But I think most of us agree that it was a pointless discussion. However, the next three cases really raise some interesting questions about copyright: When we say that a game is copyrighted, exactly what part of it are we copyrighting? It separates video from movies, books, paintings, sculptures, etc. But they are what they are. A statue is a statue, the process of carving it is not copyrighted. Copyright for a film is only for the sequence of frames that are played in order in the final product. The copyright of the book is specific to the text that is placed in order. Copyright also includes other aspects; For example, the script of a movie and the movie itself can be copyrighted separately. There is no problem because each of them is a single, permanent and unchanging "thing".

The issue becomes dumb when it comes to video games. You can play the same game, but two people playing the same product are never the same. If you compare the way I handled the Dam stage in Goldeneye 007 to the millions of other people who have done the same stage, you will see that everyone plays together, every single moment. This is a special feature of games; The viewer has no role in the creation of a film, book or any other work of art, except for video games that the audience can change.

So it logically follows that what provides this experience in the first place should be copyrighted. ; It means codes. We may all run the same game differently, just as not everyone reads the same book the same way and some people skip pages or watch a movie at 1.25 times faster, but the code behind them all is the same. The problem with this reading is that it can't tell what if two games are similar but made with different codes. Code is the same process that makes art, but it can be done with different processes A unit arrived. In fact, this always happens when porting games to different platforms: games are made with different [coded] languages for different engines. But when we manipulate the codes to bring the exact same game to another platform, does the game itself change? Many of us will say no. Although the way different people interact with the same game can be different, there is one thing, a kind of feeling, that makes the "game" independent of the codes and the people who experience it.

In this issue, We refer to three cases that formulated this feeling in the form of law. In the case of Stern Electronics, Inc. v. In 1982, Kaufman's company Omni (the entity behind Kaufman in the case title) copied Konami's game Scramble. Konami sued, and Omni argued that although the sounds and visuals were very similar to Konami's game, the way they were made was entirely unique and therefore did not infringe Konami's copyright. In the case of Midway Manufacturing Co. vs. Arctic International, Inc. In 1983, Artic similarly copied Midway's Pacman and Galaxian. They claimed that their game codes are different and that even Midway's "ephemeral" product codes cannot be copyrighted. In the case of Atari Games Corp. v. Oman In 1987, Ralph Oman, the head of the Copyright Office, refused to grant a copyright to Atari's game Breakout, claiming that the product was sufficiently "soundly and Visually, the object is not sufficiently original and unique to be copyrighted."

In all three cases, the judges ruled in favor of the original creators of the action and the copycats (a victory for Stren, the North American publisher of Scrabmle; a victory Midway for the Pacman and Galaxy games; and Atari Victory for Breakout). This proved that games are also copyrightable, not just because of their source code, but the total "feeling" they create. The third case is doubly important because future US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg played an important role in opposing the Omen decision.

The result of these cases is that we know today that video games are copyrightable. . The mentioned cases are historically important to look at; Especially since the audio and visual limitations made there to be many games that are copies of the originals. As games became more complex, it became harder to copy them. In fact, the genres can be considered "relatively" copied, but the interactive power of the games is so much that although we say that Crash Team Racing is a "copy" of Mario Kart, few people can compare it with the imitation of Scramble and say both. To some extent, they were in violation of copyright.

But these are the cases that, although they were thrown out the door, these days they have come back in through the window; For example, the market of mobile games is full of these kinds of copies, and some of them steal the code themselves officially. The problem is that the cost of making these games is so low that people can bear the cost of making them and abandon the copyright protection of their product, which has made the market of copycats profitable. I have no doubt that the mastermind behind a game like Doodle Flow would sue the copycats if he could, but the resulting compensation is so low that it is not worth the legal costs of copyrighting the product. I think it's up to the app stores themselves to be careful, but that's not what I'm talking about right now.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

6. Data East v. Epix

Previous cases proved that games are not defined by their code. It is the laws that define them; the experience they give; the structure they have; The visual style they create. Although no two people are the same, they all add up to a cohesive final product that lets everyone know exactly what they're talking about. The case ahead asks: How far can this definition be stretched?

In a previous post, I mentioned how similar Mario Kart and Crash Team Racing are. Most of us agree that the latter is, in some ways, a copy of the former. It is possible, of course, with a little consideration and precision, to describe the two games as if they are inseparable. In fact, this is the definition of the genre itself, which was later called kart racing, and we saw many other examples of it: Diddy Kong Racing, Nickelodeon Kart Races, Sega All-Stars Racing, Looney Tunes: Space Race, LittleBigPlanet Karting, Toy Story Racer, Angry Birds Go!, Mickey's Speedway USA... all of these can be considered copies of the original Mario Kart. But then again, I'm willing to bet that not many of us would say that this copy is egregious enough to constitute copyright infringement.

In the absence of a court case, there is a risk of falling down a slippery slope and accusing the slightest similarity of infringement. Copyright In this way, it was possible to reach an industry where only one company had the right to make games with a first-person perspective, or use controller sticks to look and moving, or maybe even just had a baseball game.

Data East USA, Inc. v. Epyx was the file that prevented this problem. This lawsuit happened in 1988, right on the eve of the cases we wrote about earlier (the ones that showed that copyright is not limited to game codes). In this case, Data East USA made a game called Karate Champ and Epix made a game called World Karate Championship. Data East sued Epix for copyright infringement.

However, unlike previous games, World Karate Championship was not a direct copy of Karate Champ. They had a series of features in common, which was natural because these are the features of the karate sport itself, and it was natural that any game with a karate theme would use these features. Data East claimed copyright infringement because it believed that some of the nature and movements performed by the characters (such as each athlete being able to kick the bottom of the opponent's leg) and the length of each round were copied. Epix also claimed that these things were incidental or derived from the original source [the sport of karate itself].

The lower court initially found in Data East's favor, but on appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit America turned the page and it was announced that the similarities are not to the extent that it can be considered as a violation of the law. The result of this court also complements the cases mentioned in the previous issue: Yes, games are copyrightable beyond their source code, but it was not clear where the boundary of this copyrightability is and how much a game should change in order not to violate copyright. With this case, this issue was also resolved, otherwise the direction of the industry might have changed completely; It is possible that if Data East had won this case, fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Tekken and other similar games would never have been made because someone else would have come and said with the same excuses that they are all copyright violations of Street Fighter.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

5. Atari v. Nintendo of America/Sega v. Aqualad

The previous cases all involved the issue of copyright infringement, specifically how far the similarities between two competing products may or may not extend. But a key issue was not addressed in these cases: paying attention to the mechanism and procedure that leads to the violation of the mentioned law. The previous cases were all involved in the final product; Two recent cases involved how this breach occurred in the first place. They ask: How far can a company manipulate its competitor's product in order to gain the upper hand in the competition?

The previous cases, despite their impact, were mostly fights between shareholders and small companies. Atari, Midway, and Sony are big companies, but their lawsuits were against much smaller companies. However, in these two cases, we see the names of two of the biggest names in the industry that are in trouble together.

The case of Atari Games Corp. v. Nintendo of America took place in 1992 and in many ways represented Atari's dying breath as it struggled to maintain its throne in the gaming industry. Atari was unrivaled and dominant for years, until Nintendo entered the scene and became a threat to Atari, because soon Atari had to inherit its throne for Nintendo. One of the reasons that made Nintendo so successful was that their console only supported games that were approved by Nintendo itself. This was a reaction to the Video Game Crash of 1983, in which a large number of low-quality games were released for the Atari console. After this failure, Atari could not even make games for the dominant console, the Super Nintendo, because Nintendo naturally did not approve the games of its rival company.

To counter, Atari tried that part of Super Nintendo that It took reverse engineering to run unapproved games. If Atari could make cartridges that bypassed the Super Nintendo lock, Nintendo couldn't stop them from releasing Atari games. Nintendo claimed that this work of Atari itself is a copyright violation, but for now it is not our problem because Atari failed to reverse engineer the Super Nintendo lock. As a result, Atari wanted to illegally obtain the source code of the Nintendo console from the copyright office in order to bypass the lock of the Super Nintendo. It is interesting that the court finally accused Atari of tampering with the source code of the Super Nintendo. He was not convicted of his previous attempt to reverse engineer the Super Nintendo. It is not illegal to reverse-engineer the hardware itself to get around such restrictions, as long as no other laws are broken in the process. And the result was announced a month later. In the case of Sega v. Accolade, Accolade did exactly what Atari did with the Sega Genesis console; The only difference is that Okolad did not need to reject Haft Khan Rostam to get the source code of Sega Genesis, but by buying it from the store, he was able to successfully reverse engineer it. slow In line with the same law as the previous case, the appeals court claimed that Echolad's efforts to reverse engineer the Sega Genesis were completely "legal", especially since Echolad had not violated other laws in the process.

These laws showed the companies' hand. It is legally possible to bypass the console's security lock and run third-party content on it, as long as no other rules are broken. The impact of these laws is still felt today, not only in companies like Nintendo, but even in the likes of Apple and John Deere. Since this issue cannot be put into the form of the United States law, then the companies themselves have started to fight back. They have stated in their Terms of Service that any use of unapproved software will void the product warranty. (Of course, this is different from the "right to repair" law. The right to repair happened to be created to deal with this law of companies. It is legal to circumvent these restrictions, but companies will void the product's warranty or take other preventive actions. Which of course It is only imposed by the company itself and not by the US judicial system.)

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

4. PlayStation v. Connectix

Previous cases have shown that reverse engineering a console is not per se illegal unless it uses illegal practices. This paved the way for a similar case to be filed a little later in 2000. This case asks: Is copying a copyrighted BIOS, in an attempt to reverse engineer a console, one of the same "illegal methods" that infringes copyright?

This case takes us further into technical information. and talks about the hardware of consoles becoming more complicated. The thing is, trying to reverse engineer the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis meant throwing the guts out of the console, and that's why the court ruled it legal. The customer is the owner of the console that he spent out of his own pocket, so does he have the right to bring any harm to the console and even destroy it? But in the case of Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. v. Connectix Cop. The question is, can the console BIOS be copied?

BIOS means "Basic Input/Output System" and basically forms the software infrastructure layer of modern computers. In an attempt to create a PlayStation emulator, Connectix copied the console's BIOS. Sony took his complaint to the court and accused Connectix of copyright infringement.

The case can be looked at from two aspects. On the other hand, it can be said that this is the same issue of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis as mentioned earlier: Connectix bought the console and as its owner has the right to do whatever it wants with it. It's like buying a DVD and cutting it in half; This is your DVD, no matter what you do to it. But on the other hand, it can be seen as smuggling. Sony claimed that Connectix copied its console's BIOS in order to distribute it illegally. Now it's like buy a DVD and copy it. Just because you own it does not give you the right to sell it to others on your own behalf.

Ultimately, the law ruled that Connectix did not seek to distribute the PlayStation BIOS and its intellectual property, but merely copied it to Reverse engineer it. It was legal to copy, reverse engineer it, and distribute the resulting reverse-engineered product. However, emulation that contains the original BIOS code itself is not legal. (That's why GameFAQs has always had such a hard time enforcing criminal code clauses over the years. Emulators aren't "generally" illegal, but many emulators are partially illegal because they contain the emulated console's BIOS code within the software itself. However, the average user is unaware of these differences at the time of installing the emulators.)

This ruling is also significant in another way: the court declared that Connecticut not only has the right to reverse engineer, but also to produce a competing platform [i.e. the emulator on a PC] that can run PlayStation games is not illegal. This means that even Nintendo has the right to make a console that can run PlayStation games, as long as it does not have Sony's BIOS. So the burden fell on the companies themselves to stop reverse engineering their consoles, or the US justice system would not accept responsibility.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

3. Louis Gallop Toys v. Nintendo of America

In past cases, the issue was whether the products were copying each other and how long this could go on without infringing copyright. The next two cases in this list follow a similar discussion, but from a different angle. Here, the authors want to create something completely different. The question is: How far is this difference permissible?

In the case of Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America decided the fate of Game Genie and GameShark. The problem of the case was quite simple: the Lewis Gallub company had produced a game genie that could be connected to the Super Nintendo. When the cartridge was inserted into the game genie instead of the console, the audience could edit the content of the game before it was launched. The edits could be minor and sometimes very large; Including moving green and red colors, running cheat codes, getting more powers, unlocking stages and...

Jiny game directly changed the game codes. Of course, Nintendo games were converted into assembly codes (or maybe they were written with assembly from the beginning), this means that it was extremely difficult to read and decode the codes, and each line of code contained a hexadecimal string symbol is used]. However, this complexity could not stop the fan community and they were able to write thousands of different codes for different games. . Their lawsuit is related to the same case I wrote about earlier, Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Arctic International, Inc. Of course, I simplified everything in my explanation, but from a technical point of view, both cases are similar to each other: just as Artic could not change the arcade machines made by Midway, neither did Game Genie, according to Nintendo.

Ultimately, the judge The case ruled that there is no qualitative similarity. Although technically, Game Genie did the same thing with Nintendo games, which were technically copied with the same methods from the Galaxy game, but according to the judge, this change is not in the original product because the user made this change for his own pleasure. Is. The key difference is that Galaxykin wanted to sell this modified product to others, but with GameGenie, users only modify the original product for personal use, and the buyer has the right to do whatever they want with what they own.

In the end, Nintendo was ordered to pay Louis Gallop $15 million in damages, paving the way for GameGenie and GameShark to growat least until the technology advanced enough to prevent such devices from being attached. The more complicated game design made it harder to change the codes, and it was no longer possible to change a component independently of the components without disrupting the entire system. So GameGenie and GameShark faded from the scene, not because the law stopped them, but because technological advances made them obsolete.

The case had another important impact. It is considered a prelude to another lawsuit, which will be discussed in the next issue...

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

2. Microstar vs Form Genie

Since I'm seeing these cases from behind and outside the pit, my interpretation of them is somewhat biased because of what happens next. Explanation of the case of Micro Star v. FormGen is no exception to this rule. The explanations I gave about the case of the previous number also explain the final verdict of the current case, simply because the results of those cases have been determined and I already know what decision is going to be issued in each case. This case asks: How far is the limit of changing the original product for personal pleasure, exactly which red line we cross will leave the state of personal pleasure and reach the stage of selling to others? Game Genie and GameShark are legal because the change they make in the original product is only on your console and game. True, the codes were published and documented on websites and books, but it felt more like you were just selling paint and brushes to a painter than a complete painting. There is no such painting unless someone comes and draws everything himself with those paints and brushes. On the other hand, you obviously can't copy someone else's work and just make minor interferences in it; The special nature of games, compared to movies, TV series, books and other art, does not change.

Okay, where is the line? What if I give my Gameshark to my friend? What if I bought several gamesharks and filled them with different pre-prepared codes? Can I sell them and make a profit? Where exactly is the red line?

These are the questions that Micro Star v. FormGen engages with them. FormGen was the first developer of Duke Nukem 3D. They released their game with a Level Editor and allowed players to get their hands on their product: now everyone could create their own levels and locations in Dok Nokum. It's as if they had officially released their game with something equivalent to Game Genie.

In the late nineties (remember, the era when the Internet was still a baby), Microstar Company released 300 levels of user-made levels. collected and sold in a separate package. This raised two issues: was Microstar infringing the copyright of the users who created the steps? And was Formgen's copyright violated?

The first question was never addressed; Microstar allowed the steps that users put what they had made into his game. However, the second question was important. It wasn't like Game Genie anymore, because Microstar didn't collect these levels for personal use and enjoyment. It's not even similar to the case of Galaxin, because the goal was to provide "new" content for a game that the player had to access to an "old" game [Duke Nokem itself] to run it.

According to the procedure of such cases, The two sides sued each other for a while until the case was referred to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (this court has settled many lawsuits related to the gaming industry over the years, because its jurisdiction is California, Washington , it covered Arizona and Oregon; the four largest states where games were made the most everywhere).

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Microstar. Not just because they were profiting from products that others had modified, but because they had modified and abused the 3D Duke Nokm library [a collection of user-edited steps]. In other words, they were able to come up with new content based on their original Duke Nokm content, and this is an example of a change in the original product (without Formgen allowing such a thing). What is the difference with Game Genie? GameGenie was only modifying existing content, not creating new content based on the same and selling it to others.

Most importantly, the court stated that since FormGen did not want to profit from the content that users created for its game, It does not mean that others have the right to make money from that content. Only Formgen can legally have the right to generate this income; They can take the profit for themselves or sell the royalties to users separately, but if they don't want to, others don't have the right to make money. It specified that users cannot monetize these products unless they have the permission of the owner of that product (except to profit from a similar product or a competing company). While this stifled fan-made content, it was also valuable: it encouraged companies to free up players to create new content without complicated licensing issues or fans suing them for a share of the profits.

BingMag.com 10 Most Controversial Lawsuits in Video Game History

1. Universal City Studios vs. Nintendo

Finally, we come to possibly the most high-profile lawsuit in gaming history. This popularity was not due to its high impact. In fact, it can be said that it did not have much impact on the industry. It is famous because it reminds the story of the war between David and Goliath and falling into his own trap. [1] The case of Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd. It started in 1984. At that time, Nintendo was a small company. It is true that it was founded a hundred years ago, but it mostly made game cards and had just entered the game console industry. They started with Donkey Kong, who was successful and hit the nail on the head. In this game, we see a giant gorilla named Donkey Kong, who throws barrels, takes a prince hostage, and finally, the character who was called Jumpman at the time, prevents his plans. It was King Kong. After the success of Nintendo's Donkey Kong, Universal sued Nintendo for copyright infringement. It was clear that Donkey Kong was a copy of King Kong and Universal considered itself the owner. They also sued the game's publisher, Coleco. Kolko came to settle the case immediately (which was a mistake).

Nintendo wanted to settle the case without court involvement. However, Universal was a big-headed company with a bigger legal team and could drag out the case for years and prevent Donkey Gonk from being sold all the while. Universal first offered to invest and cooperate with Nintendo, but Nintendo was suspicious: now that Universal realized what a successful and best-selling game they had made, it was greedy to confiscate part of the profit for itself. So if they accept the offer and it doesn't end up in court, there might be some benefits for Nintendo: working with one of the biggest movie studios, even if they have the lower hand when it comes to bargaining for revenue sharing. Additionally, Universal's terms were rude and threatening, demanding that Nintendo hand over all profits from Donkey Kong sales and destroy any remaining copies of the game within 48 hours.

But Nintendo decided to fight back. . Howard Lincoln, Nintendo's defense attorney, stood up to Universal's team of stubborn lawyers and admitted that Universal had no rights to King Kong. Nintendo hired another lawyer, John Kirby, to defend them in court. Universal continued to insist that it owned the intellectual property of King Kong and that Donkey Kong had infringed on that property. Universal thought it already had a winner because when Nintendo denied the similarities, it could point to the game's own creator: The director of the game, Shigeru Miyamoto, testified that he used the name "King Kong" in reference to the game early on.

But Nintendo made a surprising move that Universal did not expect. They refer to the Universal City Studios, Inc. v. RKO General, Inc. cited in 1975. This file shows that RKO was the first studio to make the first King Kong movie in 1933. In order to be able to make another version of this film in 1976, Universal agreed to make King Kong a public product that no one owned or copyrighted the next year.

Now it was Universal's hand. . Nintendo claimed that it didn't matter if Donkey Kong was a copy of King Kong at all because no one could claim to own King Kong, and even Universal themselves agreed with RKO on this ten years ago. The judge in the case slammed Universal, saying they had "no regard for Nintendo's rights." He accused Universal of trying to extort money from Nintendo that they knew did not belong to Universal, and for these purposes they were ready to abuse the judicial process of the court. To put it very briefly, this case became a source of shame and disgrace for one of America's largest companies.

Most of the cases we have listed so far were notable for their impact on the industry, but this case is notable for an entirely different reason. Is. In many ways, this case allowed Nintendo to enter the world of video games with more confidence and momentum. Although it was a small arcade company at the time, it proved that it could stand alone and beat one of the biggest media outlets in America. Nintendo proved that it can make games independently at a time when game companies were subsidized and funded by toy companies. They didn't need to collaborate with others to be successful like Atari. If they didn't stand up to Universal, they might have been swallowed up by other big-headed companies. Instead, they learned to get into the game in their own way. And of course, one of the most beloved characters in Nintendo games was named after the lawyer who won this court victory for them: John Kirby.

The rules are complicated. Technology is also complicated. Put the two together to double the complexity. This is why mixing law with technology, or writing laws about technology, is so difficult: you have to be a professional in both fields at the same time, and such a person is rarely found.

So it is difficult to write about these subjects. For the audience, I tried to explain each case many times in simple language, and I am sure that I have used imprecise words or phrases in some places; For example, the case that Artic copied from Galaxy was not so simple and had other subtle points that were not mentioned. But I hope the word has reached: how the past lawsuits shaped the world of today's games and their rules.

1. Hoist with his own petard: is a phrase from Shakespeare in the play Hamlet. Its literal meaning refers to a bomber who is injured by his own bomb. This phrase later became a proverb and conveys the meaning of poetic justice. (M)

Source: GameFAQs

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