The Litigation Hammer

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The Litigation Hammer

The idea that a company could steal someone's name sounds absurd, but it's far easier - and more profitable - than you might think.

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And of course, the moral of the story: do your damn research before signing a contract.
And have contingencies.

edit: a flood is coming, and the animals are running. A frog comes to a riverbank, and sees a scorpion unable to cross the river. The frog gallantly swims the arachnid across, after which the scorpion stings him.
Dying, the frog asks why, to which the scorpion says, "you know what I am".

Such is life. I'm boycotting Activision right now but I doubt it's making much difference (the last game of theirs I bought was THUG and the last new game was True Crime: Streets of LA). The guys in charge of Activision seem to have good heads on their shoulders (if not very moral ones).

Its funny how often evil genius get mentioned and yet they gone out of buisness. Perhaps one day enough gamers will demand it that a company will make a second one, improving on all the mistakes...

Anyway on topic I agree that the attitude of "well there is probably a second side to the story" is a little bit too forgiving and relaxed. We should resist the big exploitative bastards as much as humanly possible in order to keep quality high.

I wonder if there's an opening there for a Wikileaks style outfit, which publishes the full legal history of corporate entities, so people can actually see and know what these companies are doing.

Just because it can't legally be discussed, doesn't mean it can't be posted on the internet.

This is a case where having a good lawyer review a contract before you sign it is worth avoiding the later (much higher) legal fees or worse losing your creations.

Ounce of prevention pound of cure situation. Educating new and small developers about this would help a great deal. As Shamus says: ( I am paraphrasing) this is the system we have. There are ways to make it work better for you.

If I want their games, I buy them used. (Hehe)

If they screw Schaefer, I buy Brutal Legend. (Hehehe)

I have not bought an ActiBliz game new in I cannot remember how long.

Isn't EA or someone associated with EA suing Activision? Maybe that will strike a blow hard enough to knock some sense into them and get them to stop acting like such pricks. Doubt it, but hey, anything's possible.

Am I a horrible person for laughing uncontrollably at the "OH MY GOD I'M ON FIRE PLEASE SOMEONE PUT ME OUT" part?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: Yes, but it was pretty damn funny.

@Oranger: I've heard a variation on that in which the scorpion/other poisonous/deadly animal stings/bites the hapless ferrycreature mid-transit, killing both.

The reason stupid people in these situations do not forgo lawyers and defend themselves is that they are always told "You can't win." Well, you can't win if you do not try and sign a settlement. Defend yourself, drag it out as long as you can, and let the software company, or whoever, spend all they want on lawyers. If the Judge has any business sitting on the bench, he will protect you from just being double-talked to death and look at the merits of the case, rather than how handsome that lawyer they hired is. If you lose, what exactly did you lose that you were not going to lose already? The money they owe you? Go to legalzoom.com or a local lawyer and pay a flat rate to have them draw up a counter suit for you, then help the evil company spend even more money defending against it. For god's sake, convicts do this all the time, hundreds of suits a year, even. Eventually, the company might just pay you to go the hell away, or you might actually win, if you are not dumber than a convicted felon. Are you dumber than a convicted felon?

I'm not going to try to defend the ethics of Activision or other large companies, is not something thats unique to the gaming sector, but (you just knew there was going to be a but) they under huge pressure to produce profits. Currently you can invest in emerging markets(India, China and Brazil) get anything up 12% return on your money. OK there is risk involved but the gaming sector isn't exactly risk free. The companies are competing for investor dollars not just against other gaming companies, but against Indian steel makers, Chinese car makers and Brazilian wax manufactures (Ok I made the last one up but you get the picture).

"The truth is, this isn't so much a corruption of a perfect system as it is someone exploiting a flawed system."

Could not have said it better myself. Also nice to hear this from someone who's had some experience in these matters.

I'm sure Activision etc are of the opinion that their customers can hate them all they want, so long as they keep buying their products. Which they will.

I honestly can't fathom why any sane person would go into business with Activision after what has come to light in the last several years. I personally make it a point to never buy anything with their name on it, and tell everyone I know about everything bad they ever do. Hell, my wife knows how much they suck and she doesn't even play games, unless you count the occasional bout of Rock Band. I also make sure I contact the developers of good games directly and say "Hey, just letting you know that I think your game looks great and I've heard great things about it and I would totally buy it...except it's published by Activision." I can't in good conscious support them at all. They are such a blight on the industry, it's unbelievable.

The idea that a company could steal someone's name sounds absurd, but it's far easier - and more profitable - than you might think.

And RealID's idea was to...

Oh, I see.

Good article. I've read this sort of thing before and it's always depressing but people need to hear it. I do disagree with this bit though:

Shamus Young:
You could try to change the laws so that Activision (or some other bully) couldn't do this, but in doing so you'd just be opening up a new hole someplace else. There is basically no solution for this.

Now, I know nothing about law and I'm not about to suggest a solution, but that just seems a bit glib. I don't think there's any reason to resign ourselves to the idea that the system cannot be improved. My feeling, without having any expertise whatsoever on the subject, is that there's almost certainly something that could be done that would help at least a little bit. Like trying to regulate the legal system to allow more equitable access to lawyers, for example.

Whatever it is, I'm not resigned to the idea that nothing can be done. Call me an optimist.

I wholeheartedly support your effort to keep calling attention to the Activision scandals, Shamus. It is undoubtedly a case of "same old, same old", but I think that as video game consumers and enthusiasts we shouldn't allow ourselves to ignore and forget just how poisonous Activision's influence is to the entire industry.

I think I might just sound a bit overly dramatic there, but every time I hear of another Activision scandal I can't help but feel repulsed by it. I personally hope they will not be able to keep at this for long, even if it means that major publisher like that has to buckle down with all the consequences that entails. However, they seem to keep consuming more and more of the industry. No wonder I keep seeing analogies to cancer whenever the name Activision pops up.

Hopefully the story of the frog and the scorpion will end with the scorpion drowning along the frog. Though I prefer an ending where the frog is smart enough not to bother with the scorpion in the first place, because that guy has a bad rep and all the flies he's dangling right now just aren't worth it.

I think I took that last analogy a bit too far.

A big part of the picture is "Don't sign with Activision". A lot of people would do well to follow the model of seeming miracle games like "Zeno Clash and practically self publish on steam or the like and take their time building up their own empire before messing with the sharks in the shark pool. Being independant has never been so easy (it's still not easy it's just more easy).

This is why im uneasy about Bungie going into bed with Activision. They do this kind of soul-crushing court bullshit all the time as Shamus has said. They do it becuase they can and because it works but mainly becuase they have no souls. Injustice makes me really rage out, Activision especially. Thier general attitute, practices and business idea of gaming is abhornat and wholy toxic.

EA has started acting responsibly with it's partners scheme but it still manages to screw over it's workforce it has power over like in the CnC case. It's at least tried to make good and original games like Dead Space, Mirros edge etc etc. THQ has always been a bastion of not being an jutter dick and for it's trouble it almost went out of buisness a few years ago (infact if STALKER had done badly some thought they might go under, I love GSC gameworld but 9 years is taking the piss for an FPS)

Hopefuully we will see people like VALVE going into the publishing business more and more since they can offer both a platform and an alternate culture to the likes of Activision. It will be more like "Here's an investment, he's an engine licence, heres a publishing deal" They bascially did this with ACE team and the afformentioned Zeno Clash. It's the opposite tale of someone in a position of power reaching down and making a great project happen whilst the original people keep their licence. I love VALVE for things like this.

Seems it is easier than I thought, and, for the average person it might be hard for them ot prove it was there property to begin with...wow, gotta guard ideas more carefully!

Well I just withdrew all my stock from Activison, their bullshit got too much for me to take. My shares were a drop in the bucket for them (only about 10 grand), sure, but it's something.

SimLawsuit... Interesting...

*Creates design document*

z3rostr1fe:
SimLawsuit... Interesting...

*Creates design document*

Yeah, pretty sure someone needs to make that game right now. I'll buy ten.

Yvl9921:
Well I just withdrew all my stock from Activison, their bullshit got too much for me to take. My shares were a drop in the bucket for them (only about 10 grand), sure, but it's something.

hey, if a hundred people do that, suddenly it shows in the figures a bit more prominently. If I had shares with them I'd do the same.

hmm, Im getting an idea, you could make an rts out of having to build an army of lawers and take entrenched companies to court with all your legal might in epic conflicts over the meaning of words and lasers, probably only get funding as a flash game tho... I wonder if newgrounds would be interested

lol all the units would be based on real legal jobs and such, the way you "defeat" a judge can be either using your backroom deal tanks or having your elite attorney unit use his epic argument skill

Worgen:
hmm, Im getting an idea, you could make an rts out of having to build an army of lawers and take entrenched companies to court with all your legal might in epic conflicts over the meaning of words and lasers, probably only get funding as a flash game tho... I wonder if newgrounds would be interested

lol all the units would be based on real legal jobs and such, the way you "defeat" a judge can be either using your backroom deal tanks or having your elite attorney unit use his epic argument skill

It's not the Judge that is being defeated... It's the... Accused? Since you are the one firing up the Lawsuits?

People wonder why I also harp on big name publishers ad-nauseum.
It's because they haven't seen the travesty of what is mockingly called "legal justice" doled out today. I feel fortunate enough to have only witnessed such things rather than being the victim here. It was enough to forever drive me away from becoming a profession game developer though; it's a pity that corporate greed takes priority over any form of artistic initiative.

Shamus Young speaks the truth about the .com blitz, but I learned my lessons from 1990s-era-Microsoft; who used these "Business torpedo" tactics daily against a multitude of small software companies who otherwise had nothing to do with Microsoft or their business.
If the prime directive for our market is supposed to be "Innovation through competition", then it is sadly missing today.

That all been said, this is just Activision flexing its corporate muscle, and you can bet every single other publisher in the business will too in the near future.

Given enough time, people with power will inevitably abuse it; whether that power be finances, material goods, political favor, or public support.
The best we can do whilst we remain "civilized" is try to mitigate the problem and not let any entity grow too powerful.

For that purpose, I implore that if anyone reading this has any sense of ethics or reasoning, make the smart decision and just don't do business with these jokers. Period.

"don't bother trying to change anything you'll just make it worse."

Yea yea, hip cynicism, big whoop.

The main problem with law is its increased exponentially in complexity since it was first solidified as a concept, but the tools of the trade remain in the stone age. Most large law firms being little more than two or three actual practicing lawyers (the guys on the letterhead) and a couple hundred guys working on an assembly line, cutting briefs into stone tablets. If, say, law was digitized, and briefs were filed and resolved instantly, rather than over the course of several months, pretty much every legal loophole would vanish. That being what the cases you're talking about are, loopholes.

Arguing that loopholes shouldn't be closed because of the possibility other loopholes may open is simply a surrender.

And about activision... all corporations act in the exact same way once they reach sufficient size. So acting like activision is evil implies other massive middlemen corporations aren't. While in reality, it just means acitivision has a lazy PR department.

I want to play Shoot Guy.

This is... interesting, yet disturbing. And somewhat depressing, since i'm thinking of going into the industry. Good lesson though, thanks Shamus.

Mortech:
Am I a horrible person for laughing uncontrollably at the "OH MY GOD I'M ON FIRE PLEASE SOMEONE PUT ME OUT" part?

Short answer: Yes

Long answer: Yes, but it was pretty damn funny.

Actually, the correct answer is "no, because it was really damn funny and not really in bad taste at all".

Between this and the other mishaps, stupid moves and general "hate" (in the playa' sense, maybe a pun intended) towards gamers, Activision may end up tearing itself apart and go the way of Midway (*sniff*) and other game companies.
That at least would be a "happy" ending, not the asian massage style either.
For a company that makes games, I don't think they understand gamers, that a good portion are intelligent, educated and also have a way of keeping up on the goings-on of game companies. We read forums, state vehement opinions, and do take offense to companies who try to pull the wool over our eyes.
We see, hear and have opinions about just about everything so it would behoove game companies to act accordingly and take the "walk on eggshells" approach lest they lose a good chunk of their "loyal" (read: fickle) customers.

Aw Come on ... I don't NEED another reason to hate Activision.

Shamus Young:
The only thing that really restrains companies from acting like this is a sense of shame and the threat of public outcry.

And after this I can only picture Bobby Kotick sitting in his office, an evil smirk lining his face.

Just look on the Bright side, Activision is now partnered with Blizzard, which means in a decades time Blizzard will have expunged the cancer, probably merged with someone else, and Activision will be a vague name gamers used to whisper, just like what happened with Vivendi.

Am I a bad person for wanting Avtivision to go out of business(yeah right, like that'd ever happen), or that the whole board at Activision-Blizzard died?

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