« The Skinnable World | Main | Burning Down the House »

Mar 11, 2005



Hi Dan,

I would be very interested in hearing what you or others could speculate what on the following:

In fact, citing a 1984 Supreme Court case holding that the sale of video cassette recorders did not violate copyright law, the Court noted that "It is uncontested that Defendants' game has a substantial non-infringing use. Generally the sale of products with substantial non-infringing uses does not evoke liability for contributory copyright infringement." Only "where a computer system operator is aware of specific infringing material on the computer system, and fails to remove it, the system operator contributes to infringement," the Court stated.

Specifically, I am now wondering not only what this could mean for the 'Cryptic Studio's of the industry, but if it may also be applicable to the SecondLifes and There.com's of the industry as well.



"If he wants to, let him sue me! Get rich like a normal person. That's what made this country great!"
- J Jonah Jameson, Spiderman

Looks like Marvel took one of thier own characters' advice. Too bad this is the real world, and not a comic book. ;)

Seriously though, despite the films, Marvel's comics aren't exactly mainstream, even if any others are. I'm assuming that's actually why the films took so long to get made, as opposed to DC's characters. Given that, the company can probably afford negative publicity even less than most. My understanding was that Stan Lee's motivation behind several of the films was evangelical as much as anything else...wanting to expand his audience. He's not likely to do that if his company gets a reputation as being a group of litigious anal retentives. ;)


I don't think Stan Lee is with Marvel any more. He has his own company now.


Stan Lee left Marvel and then had a lawsuit with them because they weren't paying him his share for the films.


Just as an aside, Jack Emmert (CoH designer) was on a panel at GDC and corrected himself when he said his game contained superheroes. Apparently, Marvel has the term "superhero" trademarked...



"Apparently, Marvel has the term "superhero" trademarked..."
Marvel and DC co-own the "superhero" trademark. It's kind of an old-boys club to annoy the little guys like image comics. While most people suspect the mark would be easy to overturn, no one appears willing to spend the money to litigate, since it's not *too* hard to avoid using it.


Interesting grey area here. Cultures have different heroes, and some of them have already reached the status of popular culture icons. Here players create their vision of a hero, mostly we just imitate the world around us.

The idea of Santa Claus comes to mind. Cultures have different images of this guy, but the popular culture is pushing him into a standard form that is easy to take from place to place. Another entertaining aspect in Santa is the fact how some people think he lives in Canada, some say North Pole and some people stubbornly claim that the guy lives in Finland.

By the way, Bruce, we could be going towards a system, where we actually have to stand after the doings of our virtual characters. Otherwise game operator companies will be too timid to introduce any player modifiable features. When Nike is going after illegal use of their logo in some Second Life clothing design? There is just too much money in the field to just brush this problem of IP infringement. Best way to deal with this is to move the responsibility for the player. I am not going to get online if I first have to take a peek on retina scanner.


I recently did a policy tracking paper on the DMCA for a library/information science course I'm taking, and I'm bewildered by how completely informed I (and probably much of the American public) have been about how large entertainment & media corporations are successfully subverting (smothering?) noncommercial culture, to put it bluntly and hopefully not too simplistically, "because of the Internet."

Got Lessig?

If you haven't already, *please* read this.

Very pleased to hear about this latest development in Marvel v. NCSoft.


If anyone manages to track down the actual text of the Order/Memo, please post a link.


Bingo. And thanks to Prof. Goldman, for the pointer.


From a 30-sec review, it seems all the copyright claims are still live at this point, as is the direct trademark infringement, as is tortious interference. Given the standard being applied, of course, this isn't surprising.


Given the standard and that they had three tries at it, having half its case thrown out certainly doesn't do much for the reputation of Marvel, or its legal team.

The direct trademark infringment, direct copyright infringement, and contributory copyright infringement will probably go down easily in court. That seems to leave the vicarous copyright infringment and the tort as the only issues which will get much arguement.


As a player of City of Heroes, the current legal action brought by Marvel against NCsoft was of great interest to me, as a gamer and a law student.

The case made me realise that the escapism MMORPG games offer myself and many other adults is not without real-world considerations. In choosing my own character,I myself found I was drawn to Marvel superheroes as an influence in the visual design. However, this did not mean I laboured to copy Wolverine or The Hulk, but rather took attributes to design my own 'Original' Avatar. That I might be subject to Copyright infringement surprised me. (Was I naive?)
It got me thinking and I couldn't help but choose this area as the topic for my dissertation. I'm going to spend the next three months of my life trying to work out what IP means for games and where it should be going.

In designing my Avatar am I 'expressing' myself, Does it become subject to the same IP laws as Marvel assert over the appearance of Wolverine? I could go in a million ways with such expansive argument.

So, In an appeal to the online gaming community from a gamer and future lawyer in the Industry, If anyone wants have a chat or send me ideas and materials Please Do!!!

The comments to this entry are closed.