No One Lives Forever Rights Vanish Into The Night

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No One Lives Forever Rights Vanish Into The Night

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Ever wondered why this FPS classic never saw a Steam re-release? Its because no one knows who has the rights to it.

Do you remember No One Lives Forever? No? Then shame on you. This quirky little FPS was developed by Monolith, the studio that brought us 2001's Aliens Versus Predator 2 (the good one). It starred special agent Cate Archer (a woman as a main protagonist! Scandal!) and had a very cheesy Sean Connery-era James Bond kind of style. It was very well written, with plenty of lowbrow stereotypes combined with a dash of social commentary, and it played pretty well too. So why is it, and its sequel, nowhere to be found? It hasn't seen a Steam re-release, and even Good Old Games doesn't have a listing for it. The reason is because someone lost the rights for it. As in, they can't figure out who actually owns them.

Cate Archer's disappearing act begins when NOLF's original publisher Fox Interactive was bought out by Vivendi Universal back in 2003. Vivendi was Blizzard Entertainment's parent company, which eventually went on to become the Activision Blizzard we all know and love. Logically, the rights to No One Lives Forever should be buried somewhere within the vaults of every other franchise Activision has gobbled up and left for dead. But they aren't. Activision community mastermind Dan Amrich explains:

"The person who I normally talk to about that stuff does not believe that we currently have the rights. They've never seen it. They've never been given the permission to put that stuff on Good Old Games. They basically said, 'If we had it, I would love to have been able to reissue those games.' At this time I do not believe Activision has the rights to No One Lives Forever, so if there were to be a reissue or remake or something like that, it wouldn't come from Activision. I don't know what the future holds for No One Lives forever, but I don't think that that future involves Activision."

Ok, so Activision don't own the rights. Developers Monolith are still alive and kicking, pushing out the wild and wacky Gotham City Imposters early last year. Indeed, No One Lives Forever is listed on their official website. But it looks like they don't have them either. "I contacted a friend at Monolith, and he doesn't know [who has the rights]," said Amrich.

All of this means that there is no legal way for anyone to obtain these fantastic games anymore, sort of tracking down a boxed copy of the decade-old game. The rights have vanished into the night. I hope they find them soon, because Cate Archer's girl power silliness might be just what the industry needs, in face of all the super serious bromance slugfests going on these days.

Source: Rock Paper Shotgun

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That's sorta-kinda scary. I mean you'd think it's recorded somewhere right? Perhaps they should offer a reward or something to the one that finds it.

I'll add "Couldn't be bothered to leave a paper trail" to the list of reasons big publishers are ruining attempts at preserving this medium :\

So... If I would, hypothetically speaking, pirate NOLF now, who would I be stealing it away from?

So, if nobody has the rights, then... uh... where did they vanish to?
Also, interesting to read that Activision (or at least someone there) says "We want another NOLF, but we don't want ourself to make it" - which basically means, they want someone else to make one.

Entitled:
So... If I would, hypothetically speaking, pirate NOLF now, who would I be stealing it away from?

Apparently nobody.

Yeah, it occurs to me that because of the way things are, if nobody's going to protect or claim the right to it, then anybody could do it, right now.

The issue largely lies with the fact that all the legal departments think there's still a possibility that somebody could be just waiting in the shadows and come forward with the papers if somebody else tries to do that.

I'd say scare up Fox Entertainment.

Their logo is plastered all over the boxes of the games (I checked, got them right here) and both games start with the Fox Interactive logo and tune prior to the intro cinematic.

My guess: The engine the game was made in and the code is owned by Monolith but they can't distribute it because the characters and plot ideas are property of Fox.

And while we're talking about Monolith, let's get some more Blood games out there. Or port the first game into a modern engine. They milked that old Build engine to the max with that thing and it was glorious.

Screw it I'll buy it.

And if I can't buy it I'll find it, myself. Knowing the games industry a marketing guy probably had the paper in their suitcase fairly recently and accidentally thought it was a napkin and threw it in the trash.

1) Use escapist to publish an article (or rather a series) about an upcoming almost finished mod that uses both the code and IP
2) Wait for someone to send DMCA
3a) You know who has the rights
3b) No one defends the copyright - it's gone

So big publishers apparantly lose ip rights like I lose pennies down the back of the sofa. Can I claim I own the rights? Steam, gog.com call me, we'll talk. :P

Surely in these situations if no one knows who owns the rights then the rights should revert back ko the original developer (if they're still around). Its sad that games from the past get losed in trademark limbo, leaving piracy one the only methods to play a piece of gaming history.

Copyright law is pretty strict as far as rights are. Check the copyright registry and if nobody has claimed rights then attempt to register rights. If nobody fights the registration who was involved in the original then you now own the rights. But i will have to say it is probably FOX as Vortigar pointed out.

Haha, what a mess. I still have a boxed copy of both games. They are indeed very good fun, but the final boss of the first game is made of pure bullshit. I can't remember if I ever bothered finishing it.

Steven Bogos:
Vivendi was in turn owned by Blizzard Entertainment, which eventually went on to become the Activision Blizzard we all know and love.

Vivendi Universal is a multi-billion $ french multinational, who bought and owned Blizzard for a long while, and not the other way around.
They entered a deal with Activision, in which they bought majority shares and upon acquisition put both Activision and Blizzard Entertainment together in a holding company called "Activision Blizzard".

Steven Bogos:

Cate Archer's disappearing act begins when NOLF's original publisher Fox Interactive was bought out by Vivendi Universal back in 2003. Vivendi was in turn owned by Blizzard Entertainment, which eventually went on to become the Activision Blizzard we all know and love.

Err Vivendi Universal is 100% owned by Vivendi, which also owns 61% of Blizzard activision. When Vivendi bought the majority shareholding in Blizzard, as part of the deal, they transferred the game ips that they owned from Vivendi Universal to Blizzard.

sure a classic. but enjoyed part 2 even more. cate doesnt look like an alien as she does in the first game. :p
amazing how this can get lost. such a great game that had a huge success, and they lose the lic. how does this work?

Metalrocks:
sure a classic. but enjoyed part 2 even more. cate doesnt look like an alien as she does in the first game. :p
amazing how this can get lost. such a great game that had a huge success, and they lose the lic. how does this work?

Yeah, NOLF2 was one of my favorite FPS' from the early 2000s. What happened to quirky, fun single-player experiences like that?

Just publish it and watch who sends the Cease and Desist order?

Kind of sad to hear... loved both games, especially the running joke of H.A.R.M. members trying to figure out what H.A.R.M. stood for, the tricycle chase, and lots of funny convo's between mooks.

Ok, so no-one can buy NOLF or NOLF2, but would you like to buy a monkey?

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Woah man, thats one cool looking cat, i'll have to look out for her next time im in town.

Seriously though, this seems like my sort of game, i'll have to pop to CEX and see if they have any in stock.

That sounds a bit crazy, but also quite funny that such things can be misplaced :) hope someone just say's 'its mine!' and runs off and makes a new one and re-releases the old ones.

Who do think they are letting the game rights disappear? The bloody Department of Veteran's Affairs?

Well, even if the rights are lost, they might be able to make the games available again. They just won't be able to put a price on it. (And to be honest, there's a point where you should no longer live on the successes of your past...)

Bindal:

Entitled:
So... If I would, hypothetically speaking, pirate NOLF now, who would I be stealing it away from?

Apparently nobody.

but he would still be stealing the profits from that nobody!

it doesn't need to make sense when it comes down to laws.

OT: I remember playing NOLF a while back. I couldn't get into it sadly.

Still have to ask though, how the hell do you lose Rights for an IP in the first place?

wouldn't the people that set up the copyright in the first place have a copy of it? Do they just print out a small scrap of paper that says "ORIGINAL CONTENT, DO NOT STEAL" and be done with it?

Im thinking its less "who owns the IP", instead its more like "do we really want to re-release this game?"

Well, in that case I hereby claim the rights and all of it's riches for myself.

So long as they don't give the license to Team Ninja who then turn the main protagonist into a whiny submissive bitch...

Kalezian:

Bindal:

Entitled:
So... If I would, hypothetically speaking, pirate NOLF now, who would I be stealing it away from?

Apparently nobody.

but he would still be stealing the profits from that nobody!

it doesn't need to make sense when it comes down to laws.

OT: I remember playing NOLF a while back. I couldn't get into it sadly.

Still have to ask though, how the hell do you lose Rights for an IP in the first place?

wouldn't the people that set up the copyright in the first place have a copy of it? Do they just print out a small scrap of paper that says "ORIGINAL CONTENT, DO NOT STEAL" and be done with it?

Im thinking its less "who owns the IP", instead its more like "do we really want to re-release this game?"

If nobody has the rights to the software then it is abandonware and free game for download. There are websites that legally let you download software that is public domain. Just like you can download certain books that nobody has the rights for too.

Also I have the rights to the game and I will be starting a kickstarter with a 10 Million goal soon....

Crap. Now the price of the used ones will skyrocket.

Anyway, this really sucks: in a few years, Activision will realize that, wait, they actually DO own the rights. Basically they'll just find another money-making machine, for free. Sure, negligible compared to COD, but still, free.

Anyway see how copyright works? It's been a decade. The game should legally be abandonware and public domain now. But no, we have to wait another, what 70 years? until we can legally play the game without the original release discs.

Also: a community director asks a FRIEND in another company for legal stuff... Eh what? Doesn't Activision employ a thousand lawyers?

let it rest in rest in peace.
i don't want to see it desecrated with DLCs, microtransactions, "made for all apes" approach, quick time events, michael bay style and bethesda writing.

Pretty sure I still have my copy somewhere. I tend not to throw out pc games.

I never quite got all the hype about it though. It was fun, quirky, very Austin-Powers 60s psychedelia, but ultimately an average experience that I never finished, and never looked twice at the sequel.

slash2x:
If nobody has the rights to the software then it is abandonware and free game for download. There are websites that legally let you download software that is public domain. Just like you can download certain books that nobody has the rights for too.

Okay, first, there's a difference between abandonware and public domain. Almost all of what you see on abandonware sites are actually not public domain, and downloading them is technically illegal. However, the reason it's called abandonware is because the odds of someone claiming the rights and that they're being harmed by the distribution are remote. Some of the better abandonware sites have very strict policies and the moment they get a letter from someone claiming the rights to the software they shut down their distribution.

Just think it's important not to get the idea that "It's abandonware so it's legal!"

However, cases like this really point out why we need copyright laws that allow more rapid transfer to public domain of stuff that actually has been abandoned.

My own ideal system would be copyright lasts for 10 years following creation, and can be renewed for 10 yr periods after that, but each renewal costs the total number of years it's been under protection, squared.

So first 10 years are free, it'll then cost you $100 to go to 20, then another $400 to go to 30, then another $900 to go to 40, and so on. So those properties which are really important to certain companies.. like the mouse to Disney, they can continue to hold on to without dragging absolutely everything with them. But by the time you're renewing to get up to 80 years protection (which is comparable to now), it's cost $14,000 for the privilege, and jumps to nearly 30,000 by the time you get to a century's worth of protection. Which is probably less than they've spent on lawyers by now but that money would all be going into the public purse compensate for allowing them the exclusive rights.

Owning both the original and the sequel (though not the xpac for the sequel), I feel special. That being said, I have to wonder about checking with whatever government agency runs copyrights, as someone suggested earlier. Surely there's records there or in some other form of who sold what to whom? Also, both companies should probably do an internal search for the rights to find them...

NOLF and its sequel are among my most favorite games of all time. I still have physical copies of the games (The original NOLF had a great lounge soundtrack with the game) but I would love to get those games on a cloud and optimized for the latest operating system.

NOLF2 was the first game I immediately replayed once I had finished. There were so many cool locations and "RPG" elements made it fun to play though in different styles.

Kwil:

So first 10 years are free, it'll then cost you $100 to go to 20, then another $400 to go to 30, then another $900 to go to 40, and so on. So those properties which are really important to certain companies.. like the mouse to Disney, they can continue to hold on to without dragging absolutely everything with them. But by the time you're renewing to get up to 80 years protection (which is comparable to now), it's cost $14,000 for the privilege, and jumps to nearly 30,000 by the time you get to a century's worth of protection. Which is probably less than they've spent on lawyers by now but that money would all be going into the public purse compensate for allowing them the exclusive rights.

Horrible idea.

Well, not as horrible as the current system, but still. There are some IPs that are worth billions of dollars, no matter how highly you set up the initial tax, these would be the ones that would end up under corporate control for hundreds of years, while private artist couldn't keep their personal work for even their lifespan.

Even thought the biggest products, the ones that define our popular culture, are exactly the ones that the public has the most interest in owning as soon as possible.

If anything, a copyright system that truly cares about progress for "The Useful Arts", should give disproportionate protection for the little works that are indeed sttruggling to make a profit under the current system, and drop the most profitable ones into public domain as soon as possible (5-15 years), along with abandonware and any other no-longer-published work.

Is it possible Warner Bros Interactive has the rights? Monolith Productions never had the secured rights to make an official sequal to F.E.A.R. as a result of becoming a subsidary of WB (You may recall FEAR 2: Project Origin used to be simply called Project Origin) until the publisher did some IP shopping when Vivendi was offering and bought the rights from them. Maybe WB also bought the rights to NOLF.

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