Wait, “let him off the hook”? Is that really an option right now? Isn’t it pretty much a given that Bethesda will be suing? It’s a completed product, published and released, and it seems pretty cut-and-dried that assets were stolen. I can’t imagine Bethesda would just walk away from something this commercial and this blatant. Besides, it’s not like Tri-Synergy is just some guy operating out of his house. They’re a sizable publisher and I’d imagine they have some legal accountability here.
You think they’ll sue the publisher? I’m almost positive the publisher had no idea what this game contained. Legally, that’s absolutely no excuse, but they’re a small publisher, and I could see Bethesda and the at least 10 other publishers and developers seeing this for what it is:
An insane guy stole everything he could get his hands on to make his delusional dream game. Why pound the shit out of a tiny publisher just to eke out a negligable sum? There’s the argument that it would set an example for anyone else trying it… but at the same time, you’re going to be spending a lot of money beating up on some little publisher.
It could go either way, but there have been examples of this happening in the past- big publishers publishing big developer’s projects that contained other publisher’s assets. It turned out to be a bad artist or designer on the staff who was promptly fired, and no one got sued. Although the scale of this much intellectual theft is unprecedented.
You have a point. I’d be curious to hear some of our resident lawyers weigh in. If I was the Qt3 anchor, this is the part where I’d go, “And now we turn to Qt3 legal expert Rywill”, or “And new we turn to our Qt3 legal expert Desslock”, and then we’d chat about it in the studio behind a desk, or via a satellite feed.
With the amount of intellectual theft that is involved in this one product, it will utterly decimate this small publisher, forcing it to shutter it’s doors and costing the owners dearly. They were idiots, and more than likely didn’t know what they were publishing. This kind of theft is pretty much unheard of in the industry to this point as well. The publisher definitely should have checked the product more competently, but who in their right mind would bring a product like this to be published in the first place. I’m sure the publisher hardly brought in any money from this horrible game anyhow.
Will Bethesda, Blizzard, Epic, etc do this to them? They will win, and they will completely destroy this tiny publisher.
Unless there’s an aspect of needing to vigorously defend their rights, I think that it would be easy for the publisher to pull the game and offer a token settlement to the companies he ripped off to make the lawsuits go away. I don’t think anyone will be going after them for mega-bucks.
The publisher is responsible for anything in a game it publishes, period. It’s usually a chain of blame, starting from the top and working its way down to the development house or even individual employees. Basically employees are forbidden from using material they don’t own (textures being the most common issue), and up the chain every party signs contracts saying it owns everything in the product it’s selling.
Even things licensed to the developer rather than the publisher, like Havok, can be an issue. In the past, we’ve had to not use a licensed product we had on hand, even though we’ve used it before and the game won’t be shown publicly for months, until the publisher has secured a new license specific to the new game we’re developing.
It’s one of the big reasons companies rarely officially publish user work. Modders assume it’s to avoid having to pay the mod-makers or to protect the IP of the game… but it’s also because it’s really difficult to vouch for the provenance of every texture, font, model, sound effect and other element in a product that comes from a source you have not monitored every step of the way.
Larger companies won’t even have internal trailers, proxy art or prototypes made with assets they don’t own–especially assets from other games–on the off chance something they don’t own will accidentally be viewed or released outside the company.
So this is a big deal, and if Bethesda or any of the other companies that had art used in this game wants to play hard ball, they might be able to effectively shut down that publisher. Once word gets out that larger companies are suing over this, retailers will be reluctant to carry any of their products.
That’s kind of what I thought, Laralyn. Which sucks for Tri-Synergy.
In a way, I’m reminded of what happened with Computer Games Magazine. One dude spams MySpace, violating an anti-spam law. But they couldn’t simply throw the guy to the wolves and hope to escape liability. Instead, the ensuing lawsuit against globe.com was instrumental in shutting down the magazine. :(
This actually bit Penny Arcade on the ass recently as well. Gabe’s apology seemed sincere, but he made a mock-up for the development team that happened to use something lifted from another artist. He said he was having particular difficulty with one area of the piece (I believe it was some rocks) and he figured since it was just an in-house mock up, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Somewhere down the line that mock-up became the teaser poster and someone noticed it.