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MORE VERANT FALLOUT

Needless to say, the mailbag’s been busy about the Verant episode (scroll down and read if you aren’t up to speed, it’s been a busy day – and here I was worried about running out of things to bitch about)

I am not a expert but I do know copyright law. This document clearly falls under fair use clause if you were using it to criticize the guide program and using this document as an example to illustrate this. Further because it has no commercial value there can be no damages awarded. They still can however sue to block its use. But they would have a snowballs chance in hell of winning. You most likely could file a counter suit for your court costs as they would be filing a vicious lawsuit. Besides if you made a big fuss about it and they did file a suit you would be famous and so would your site.

They are not stupid and they know this… They were hoping you would cave to get rid of you without a fight!!!

I did in fact plan on using the “fair use” clause if Verant chose to escalate. However, a few things would have worked against my use of “fair use” – I made the entire document available, instead of excerpts, and there was no actual comments made regarding the document other then “You might find this interesting”. Of course, to those familiar with Verant’s history of deep-sixing ANY insider knowledge of their game, the existence of the manual is itself newsworthy. Which is why I posted it.

There was some minor commercial value involved in that this site carries advertising. (Not that *I* see any revenue from it, mind you.)

I also believed that if I carried this to the end, they would in fact sue, to create precedent. Frankly, I don’t really want to spend thousands of dollars to make a point. However, I did understand that once I uploaded the document, it was released. Try as they might, Verant can’t stuff the genie back in the bottle. I’m sure eventually it will appear on a Russian web site or some other location fairly immune from Verant’s legal terrorism.

Verant does take some people seriously. Or shall I say, they do favour some people. I used to beta test Tanarus, also a 989/Verant game, and there would be the select few Elite who would get their favour. It seems to me that Verant is a basement company that came to fame and glory without knowing how to handle it. I could be wrong.

I got the lack of professionalism vibe a few times as well (the “President and CEO” of a company shaking down rogue web sites? Doesn’t he have minions like Richard Garriott does?). A good example is the “989news.txt” file, which you should be able to read on your Everquest CD. It was just patched recently to read, in full, “deleteme”. Check out the copy on CD. Basically, news postings from early in the beta. Pressed onto the release CD. Installed on every user’s hard drive. Quality Assurance – gotta love it.

SO NOW, APPARENTLY, YOUR NEXT PK CHARACTER WILL GAIN THE ABILITY TO FLY, BLOCK ARROWS WITH ITS CAPE, JUMP INTO HELL, EAT MAGGOTY FOOD, FART, AND HAVE REALLY BAD TEETH

Was pointed to this story on GameDaily:

In an upcoming interview to be featured in the September 15th issue of GameWEEK magazine, a few interesting things were brought up regarding the development of Ultima Online 2. The interview features Todd McFarlane and Terry Fitzgerald, president of McFarlane Productions. In the interview, they outline some details about a partnership with Origin Systems Inc. and McFarlane Toys for the upcoming massively multiplayer online sequel to Ultima Online. According to Fitzgerald, the partnership creates a “Todd McFarlane and Origin Ultima Online 2.”    

Fitzgerald mentioned that McFarlane Toys will not only be creating UO 2 action figures, but aiding in the creation of the game’s characters as well. Fitzgerald also hinted that the release date of UO 2 will be in September 2000. He also stated that there was a prospect of Ultima Online action figures as a teaser going into the sequel.

UO Action Figures. Collect yours today. I’ll trade you my Lum the Mad for your Butt Naked Avenger!

(BTW for those who don’t know Todd McFarlane is the um, special person behind the “Spawn” series of comics. Apparently they are also somehow linked to that oh-so-fresh Austin Powers:Operation Trivia game. In heaven, Jesus wept.)

LUM CAVES MOMENTS BEFORE THE VERANT STORMTROOPERS ARRIVE AT HIS CUBICLE

Here’s the latest love note from John Smedley, ambassador of goodwill to the player community:

Ok.. if you want to play hardball, I can do that too.

The documentation that you recieved doesn’t have the Verant Copyright because someone TOOK IT OUT. I can at this point only assume it was you.

If it’s not down in 2 hours, Verant’s lawyers will be in contact with you. Is that Bad Cop enough for you? It’s 11:00am here in San Diego. I will check it at 1:00pm.

and please re-read my first email and note the nice tone. That’s the way I like to do business.

Regards,

John Smedley
President and CEO
Verant Interactive, Inc.

Well, normally I would have many options at this point, such as studying John’s first email searching for his nice tone (B flat? F sharp?), checking my original .RTF copy that I was emailed AGAIN for copyright notices that I didn’t remove, or contacting one of hundreds of net.lawyers who live for this sort of thing. However, in between the many “You go, Lum! Stick it to the MAN!” emails (which I did appreciate, and damn, you guys check this web site pretty obsessively, since I started getting them within SECONDS of my update) I got a pointer to this interesting page on copyrights and the web. The first paragraph especially is of interest:

1) “If it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted.” This was true in the past, but today almost all major nations follow the Berne copyright convention. For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. The default you should assume for other people’s works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise. There are some old works that lost protection without notice, but frankly you should not risk it unless you know for sure.

It is true that a notice strengthens the protection, by warning people, and by allowing one to get more and different damages, but it is not necessary. If it looks copyrighted, you should assume it is. This applies to pictures, too. You may not scan pictures from magazines and post them to the net, and if you come upon something unknown, you shouldn’t post that either.

So basically I have the option of spending thousands of dollars to make myself the Defender of Net Freedom, only to eventually lose, or to accede to Emporer Crush’s demands. So if you didn’t get the file when I told you, enjoy that 404 File Not Found message.

What’s the point of all this?

Certainly not the file in question… it wasn’t really that interesting, although it did give some insight into how the support program works (and I’m sure the GMs will be getting “Gimme a /buff!” pages now). What’s interesting is how none of this was actually ever public knowledge, and Verant’s reaction when it was. From talks with other webmasters, 90% of Verant’s communications with the player community are in tones similar to what I got… if they post something Verant doesn’t like, they are summarily ordered to remove it. With the undertone of “while we may not technically control the Internet, we do have more money to spend on lawyers than YOU do.”

Is there any website out there, with the possible exception of the abysmally run, “we are the only professional UO and EQ website” Vault Network, that Verant even takes seriously? I doubt it, considering the pottery exploit totally blindsided them and was openly discussed for weeks before the offending patch on various websites.

The problem, it seems to me, is that Verant sees the players as the enemy.

There is no communication between the developers and the players save brief unstructured chat sessions; there is no accountability or even acknowledgement that Verant sees itself as accountable for various destructive changes being made to Everquest. It’s their baby, and they’ll be the first to tell you as such.

The way I see it, there is only one moral way to respond, and that is an account cancellation.

I plan to cancel my EQ account today, and I urge all who agree with what I’ve posted here to do likewise. CANCEL it, don’t resell it.

I harbor no illusions of this having any impact whatsoever; I don’t even count on anyone besides myself would actually carry through and cancel their account.

However, the morality of an action is not dependent on its popularity or its effectiveness. What is right, simply is. And I can no longer let someone, who sees me and those who work with me as an enemy, access to my credit card.

Needless to say, Everquest-related updates to this site will somewhat decrease.

VERANT FINALLY NOTICES LUM, EXERCISES ITS EXCELLENT COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT SKILLS

I just got this in the mail:

From: John Smedley <jsmedley@verant.com>
To: <lum@webtoys.net>
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 1999 11:27 AM
Subject: Kindly take the Guide Manual Down

Kindly take the Guide Manual down. It is Copyright Material and you are in violation of Federal Copyright Provisions. Please do so within the next 24 hours.

John Smedley
President and CEO
Verant Interactive, Inc.

My response, equally as predictable:

Excuse me? Kindly point out to me where in that document is stated any copyright, trademark notice, or even any identification other than your word that it actually originated within Verant.

(Play good cop, I play nice. Play bad cop, I get downright pissy.)

Lum the Mad
President and CEO
Lum the Mad

We’ll see where this goes. I, of course, wouldn’t want to encourage you to download this document and mirror it on your own site or anything. That would be bad.

CONCERNING YOUR EMAILS, BECAUSE EMAILS ARE LIKE, COOL AND STUFF

I just would like to state a quick thing. This is that from now on, and in the future, as time goes on, from this point forward, if you would like something posted and I find interest in it to the point that I think it would benefit the community to be posted, and thus would then post it, if it were interesting, and thus posted, then please follow this SIMPLE set of guidelines 🙂 For many of you, this is just a recurring thing that you already know, because it’s something you already know, being recurring and all. And stuff..

1) Please no goddamn profanity from now on (in things you want posted). Feel free to discuss a stupidass topic with me via email and use any goddamn language you want. It doesnt bother me, this is to benefit the other retards reading. There are some young people, and basically some shitheads just dont like profanity. The most important thing, it gives the fucking site some class. I mean, shit, people.

2) Please don’t spel like a 2nd grader. I know U can try, but a quick ritten email that cant spel every other word rite will be immidietly discarded.

3) This isnt really a guideline but I want to tell you that I never post emails, names, or any sources. I’m a REAL JOURNALIST. Just like my main man, Dr. TwisTer. So dont feel bad about telling me youre a counselor or something like please dont display my name. I never do that =) Im protecting you the way you should be protected =) Unless of course you are someone famous, in which case I will give you mad props whether you like it or not, because that’s just the dude I am. I gotta be me. It’s a recurring thing. That you already know, being recurring and all. And stuff.

Thanks you all and keep the great emails coming =)

Lummy

(note, check here if you’re confused)