Friday, June 29, 2007

ESA Stoked About Pirate's Arrest

The ESA, with its keen interest in stopping piracy, has begun highlighting specific instances of law enforcement stopping malicious pirates. Hailing from my hometown of San Diego, CA, Frederick Brown is facing 10 felony-level counts including, "grand theft, computer crime, and trafficking counterfeit marks." Upon raiding his house, the law found over a thousand counterfeit discs and mod chips to boot.

One Less Pirate in San Diego

Imagine going to jail for a really long time over mod chips and video games...I hope he made a lot of money for a lawyer before he got busted; apparently he made enough to post $100,000 bail.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

South Korea Begins Taxing Virtual Money Transactions

Coming to me via Law of the Game (shout out to a new VG law blogger), South Korea has begun imposing a Value-Added tax to all virtual goods sold in real world transactions. I could try and explain, but Mark Methenitis does a great job, so check it:

VAT implemented: WoW

A report on how the US will approach this issue is due in about a month.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Video Game Addiction is not a Legit Disease...Yet

The American Medical Association concluded at their most recent conference that video game addiction is not a disease on par with alcoholism or other addiction-based afflictions. While not directly relevant to the law yet, one can only imagine the plaintiff's lawyer when suing a video game company because Timmy went ballistic, citing the fact that poor Timmy is a victim of his disease, this addiction that is video games.

Video Games, like Pot, is not Addicting...but combine the two...

If VG addiction is placed on a list of diseases, I'm going to scream. It seems like anybody with a passion could be classified as having a disease associated with the passion. Do you play the piano all of the time? Musicianship, yeah my brother has that and all of that music he makes is ruining his life. My buddy likes to draw a bit too much? Artistry, its a real plague on society. Oh, and my friend who is obsessed with basketball? Athleticism. When he isn't playing, he is watching or reading about it. Don't make is a serious disease.

Seriously though, I guess video games do occupy a strange niche in that some people literally play them all day. If you play so many games that you cannot handle your daily biz, you've got a addiction even.

Lone Star, Patent Troll, Stalks Nintendo

Claiming that the Wii utilizes their patent on small capacitors in a semi-conducting circuit, Lone Star, a company based out of an Austin, Texas law firm, is suing Nintendo in the hallowed Federal Eastern District of Texas courts. Known for its ultra-plaintiff friendly patent decisions, the Eastern District has seen many patent infringement cases, including the American Video Graphics lawsuit covered in my first blog entry (second for those who are counting). Nintendo was, of course, unaware of any such infringement. Lone Star has been successful against other industry big wigs like Texas Instrument and Broadcom, but it is unclear how successful they will be here. Looks like another, "this patent is too complicated, and I (Nintendo) would have to give up too many secrets...I'll just settle." --> Trollery at its finest.

Nintendo's Getting Trolled

Immersion Sued By Microsoft for Breach of Contract

Reaching into its limitless coffers, Microsoft has instituted legal action against Immersion for breach of contract regarding their settlement of a suit from 2002. Apparently, Immersion has not been paying for certain IP and Licensing arrangements provided for in the settlement in which Immersion received $26 million.

Immersion in hot water again

How come the only thing I ever hear about Immersion is that they are in some lawsuit? Nevertheless, they have no fear taking on the big guys...

Manhunt 2 Release Suspended

Following an unprecedented amount of resistance from ratings boards across the globe, Take-Two has decided to suspend the release of its Manhunt 2, mostly because it could not release it on any of the platforms it was programmed for. Developed for the Wii and PS3, the game received an Adults Only rating in the US. Sony and Nintendo will not authorize the sale of AO games for their PS3 and Wii consoles respectively. M2 was also condemned by the UK ratings board, stating, "Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing." The AO rating also means that most commercial supplier will not carry the game, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Gamestop.

Manhunt 2 gets Axed

These developments do not shock me. This game really seemed to push the limits of what might be acceptable in a video game violence-wise. We all love the interactivity of the Wiimote, but if you saw your kid playing this game it would actually be more disturbing than watching him blow up the National Guard with a Rocket launcher in GTA III. You simulate murdering people with all sorts of instruments with a simple flick of the wrist. It almost seems like it would be weird to invite someone over to show them your new game that kicks ass, only to have them watch you saw some dude's head off. I'm 25 and would be a bit repulsed by the game (though I have to say that I can imagine at least one of my friends getting really into this game). Then I imagine coming home to see my ten year old brother playing, and I think enough is enough. The rating is warranted, but frankly I wouldn't be surprised if the rating would ultimately appeal to some players: after all, Rockstar and Take-Two say that they are catering to the older crowd. Are they actually, or are they just cigarette companies in disguise?

NY Legislators Carry Video Game Bill Past Round 1

New York, in a continuing effort to succeed where so many other states have failed, has successfully passed a piece of video game legislation through its Senate and Assembly. The bill would make selling mature games to minors a felony and force consoles to have parental control measures (which all next-gen systems already have). I have reported on this bill earlier, and it, like its predecessors, seems to be making good progress...until some activist judge comes along and declares it unconstitutional.

Prediction: NY VG Legislation violates 1st Amendment...just a prediction

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Second Life Campaign Headquarters May Violate Japanese Election Law

While the latest political election rage has been to set up a virtual headquarters in a virtual world, usually Second Life, one Japanese politico-to-be may have overstepped his bounds. It is illegal for Japanese political candidated to set-up or update any website regarding their campaign during their campaign. Right now, the Japanese authorities are looking into Kan Suzuki's actions in establishing a SL presence to see if it violates election law.


As of now, there is no official word about whether a violation has occurred.

Manchester Cathedral Not Too Happy about Being a Level in Resistance: Fall of Man

The Church of England has threatened to sue Sony, the makers of Resistance: Fall of Man, over their use of the interior of Manchester Cathedral as a game level (apparently, the outside has been blown to bits). Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Resistance is a first-person shooter with tons of guns and video game violence that moral, upstanding folks usually object to. Church of England claims this is a violation of their copyrights (in the building, though these must have expired by is pretty old) and trademarks (would any one really believe that the Church endorsed this game?), but seems to be mostly based on an equity argument (this is just morally wrong...give us an injunction). The Very Reverend Rogers Govender claimed that the game was undermining the work of the church by promoting violence and using holy places as battlegrounds.

I killed 14 of my friends in Manchester Cathedral online; it was my best game ever!

Normally the whining of the older generation about violent video games doesn't phase me much, but this particular instance does seem a bit different. Is nothing sacred any more? Once again, I suppose that is for the courts to decide. Although I do agree with Aleks Krotoski: if the church wins, do video games always have to get permission from building owners to use their buildings in games? How close the building have to actually be? What if Dan Brown had to get the permission of the church to set a Da Vinci Code scene at the Vatican - after all, he was sending a message that undermined the church.

Fall of Man, Fall of Man...clearly sinful

Sony Plans to Aggressively Pursue PS3 Hackers - Is This News?

Sony, a paragon on unpredictability, vowed to pursue all hackers of its Playstation 3 console. Apparently, hackers have already figured out a way to crack PS3's firmware 1.10 and 1.11, which will allow a hacker to boot up a game but not necessarily play it. Similar to Microsoft's vow to not allow hacked systems to play on its XBoxLive service, Sony likewise could not allow any hacked PS3s to connect. In addition, hacking your PS3 violates the warranty.

Hackers Beware...Sony is After You Again

No warranty huh...the first iteration of any new console is almost always total crap, so maybe I should wait for the next model of PS3 before I hack to boot up a game; screw playing it.

Player Driven MMO Currency Exchange Opens

Sparter, an online marketplace provider, has launched a new player driven currency exchange that will allow players to not only swap currencies from one game to another, but also track all of the latest trends in the currency, and make informed decisions about whether they are getting a good deal or not. In addition, all of the IP rights of the game developers will be respected. Measures are in place to ensure a safe and reliable trading environment such as Escrow accounts and participant ratings.

Virtual Currency Exchange Opens!

Now I can stop studying for the bar and become a full-time virtual currency trader!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Patent Hints at Future PSP, Possibly with Phone Capabilities

Often filed patents never turn into anything, but hopefully, that will not be the case for a new patent filed by Sony that appears to disclose a redesign of the PSP. Given the recent partnering of Sony with British Telecom to provide for BT services to the PSP, this new patent application could show where Sony is headed. The patent features a sweet looking swivel screen, hinting at multiple modes of use, i.e., normal view for games, swivel for cellular phone capabilities. In addition, the the new PSP could also support TV and video modes streamed directly from the internet.

PSP Swivel

I was going to buy an iPhone, but...

Friday, June 1, 2007

Take-Two In the Legal Octagon

T2 is being sued by Zuffa, the company behind the Ultimate Fighting Championships, for allegedly violating their distribution agreement and cybersquatting at Zuffa claims Take-Two has "committed acts intended or designed to disrupt and interfere, and have actually interfered, with [Zuffa's] present and prospective economic advantage and opportunities." T2 had rights to distrubte UFC games until 2005, including a grace period of 180 days for final sale of remaining inventory. T2 did not comply, selling 26,000 more copies of UFC: Sudden Impact after the grace period ended. UFC distribution rights are now held by THQ.

Zuffa's Got Tank Abbott, Who Does T2 Have?

Canadian History Taught Through Civ III Mod

2K games has created a Civ III mod, HistoriCanada, designed to teach Canadian High School students about the history of Canada. Players can choose between 17 indigenous and European civilizations to learn, and if they like, reshape Canadian history. Although not strictly law-related, this is the first mod I have seen that actually has a purpose (except for Warcraft III's Defense of the Ancients, which is just badass). The educational benefits seems endless, but really, I just wish I could have played games in class...besides Drug Wars.

HistoriCanada: Great Idea, Terrible Name

They should make one for America too, but mod Warcraft to more accurately depict the course of history.

Bragg v. Linden update and IGE gets sued by Consumers

Nod to Greg Boyd for sending these articles:

Bragg v. Linden update - Looks like Bragg has scored some preliminary victories in his case against Second Life operators Linden Labs. Judge Eduardo Rubreno held that SL's arbitration clause in its Terms of Use was unconscionable, despite Linden's offer to move the arbitration to Bragg's native Philadelphia and pay the costs. Score one for the players: with this provision struck down, it is unclear how much more of the ToU will survive.


Hernandez v. IGE filed - Hernandez is a WoW player from Florida who has enlisted the help of a hot shot plaintiffs attorney in class action lawsuits involving consumer protections. Hernandez is alleging that IGE, as a link between a consortium of gold farmers and paying customers, is essentially interfering with his play. He pays good money to play the game, and companies like IGE “strip out scarce and limited virtual world resources,” making the game less fun to play. Agreed. They are trying to attach liability through consumer protection laws. They are also going after Paypal and other internet money transfer services that facilitate the trade in virtual goods. With Ebay's recent delisting of all virtual property, I wonder if Paypal and other will also drop their gold farming clients.

It will be interesting to see how this comes out. It is hard to quantify how much these farmers devalue the experience of players, especially since so many seem more than willing to purchase their wares. I can't wait to see the type of balancing test the court about judicial discretion: well, the sword is worth x to Hernandez who obtained it playing the game, but y to average Joe buyer...I can't say it enough...WoW!

The Biggest Week for MMO Players since Burning Crusade was released!

For an interesting interview with Hernandez's Lawyer see: The Interview