Activision Takes Aim at World of StarCraft Mod

January 19, 2011 -

Correction:An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Blizzard / Activision had served the maker of the World of StarCraft mod with a "Cease and Desist" letter. This was not the case, and we have corrected the record, headline, and story below to reflect that. Apologies to all parties involved. Corrected story below: 

Activision has made a copyright infringement claim on YouTube, successfully getting a mod makers video removed from the service. The developer of World of StarCraft, an online StarCraft 2 MMO mod that combines the lore and gameplay elements of both games. Naturally the mod maker known only as "Ryan" is hurt and shocked by this action. Speaking at length on the mod's official forum, Ryan appeals to Activision to give him a break:

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The Deathcamp Mod: Sonderkommando Revolt

December 9, 2010 -
An Israeli modder is recreating a real-world uprising at Auschwitz that took place in October 1944 via a mod called Sonderkommando Revolt. The mod, built on top of the Wolfenstein 3D game port, Wolf4SDL, Sonderkommando Revolt sends players on a killing spree against Nazi officers in the infamous concentration camp.

Sonderkommando were groups of workers (prisoners) who helped dispose of those killed in the camp. They were never directly involved in the killing of other prisoners. The uprising referred to in the mod happened after the camp's resistance group successfully blew up one of the crematoriums. From Wikipedia:

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Prosecutors Bail on Xbox Modding Case

December 2, 2010 -

Federal Prosecutors in the nation’s first jury trial to test the anti-circumvention provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act abruptly asked that the case be dismissed today. Today's news comes on the heels of a tumultuous day in Federal Court yesterday. The presiding judge berated prosecutors for a litany of holes and contradictions in the government's case. The judge's strong words caused the prosecution to take a recess to decide whether to even bother to continue. They decided to forge ahead, and watched as their first witness ruined the case.

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Prosecutors Want to Block Hacker’s Testimony at DMCA Trial

October 23, 2010 -

28-year-old Matthew Crippen will be on trial in late November for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by allegedly running a business modding Xbox 360 consoles.

Andrew Huang, who literally wrote the book on Xbox modding, wants to testify at Crippen’s trial that mod-chipping is not a violation of the DMCA, a law which makes it illegal to circumvent technology designed to prevent copyright infringement.  Huang’s strategy is to give jurors a step-by-step tutorial on console modding to show that “what [Crippen] did was insufficient on his own to violate anything.”

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PS3 May Have Fallen Victim to Crackers

August 19, 2010 -

Sony's PlayStation 3 has remained remarkably resilient to piracy, until now perhaps.

An article on a EuroGamer blog (thanks The Escapist) uses a pair of YouTube videos (here’s the first, the other is embedded above) from user OzModChips as the basis for its article.

The movies were made after OzModChips apparently received an anonymous package from Hong Kong, which was sent to various resellers of mod chips.

The process described:

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For a Modder’s Panacea, Adapt Music Licensing Techniques

January 27, 2010 -

While game modifications are generally looked at as derivative and infringing works, an academic paper argues that it would be fair to apply a licensing provision currently used in the music business to the mod community in order to advance the genre.

Cover Songs And Donkey Kong: The Rationale Behind Compulsory Licensing Of Musical Compositions Can Inform A Fairer Treatment Of User-Modified Videogame (PDF) was penned by John Baldrica, an attorney, and is published on the North Carolina Journal of Law & Technology website.

Baldrica believes that a compulsory “mechanical” license provision of the Copyright Act, which allows musicians to record cover songs as long as they pay a “statutorily determined royalty” to the original song’s copyright holder, would do wonders for the mod market. Such movement would “feed the professional talent pool” in addition to granting the “freedom to produce the kind of new and creative works that the copyright system was intended to promote.”

The author notes that under the U.S. Copyright Act currently, “the creator of an original copyrightable piece of expression is given the exclusive right to authorize any derivative works,” meaning that game developers can effectively kill a modification to their game anytime they want to.

The problems are; what exactly defines a derivative work and who owns the new modded material that has been created?

…such analysis has been inconsistent in key cases involving modification of videogames. As discussed, treating a mod as nothing more than an alteration of the underlying copyrighted videogame would cause mods to fall under the doctrine of derivative works. It would also strip modders of copyright protection and subject them to liability if the modifications were unauthorized by the original copyright holder.

The compulsory licensing scheme for music has been called “instrumental in the development of the recording industry.” The author goes on to draw a series of parallels between the early days of the music business and the current state of computer software, calling the similarities “striking,” and furthering his belief that “mods’ similarities to musical recordings should merit analogous treatment under a similar statutory licensing regime.”

Unfortunately, Baldrica does not see any changes being made in the near future to the current system for two reasons: “a lack of political will from those outside of the videogame industry and a vested business interest in the status quo from those within.”

Expanding on the first reason, Baldrica writes:

Yet, unlike its concern for the promotion of musical recordings in the first years of the twentieth century, Congress does not appear inclined to grant statutory protections to promote development of videogames in the first years of the twenty-first.

And more on the second reason:

…the game developers and game publishing industry are reluctant to abandon a scheme in which they already enjoy substantial benefits and negotiation power.

8 comments

MSFT Responds to Possible Xbox Live Suit

November 23, 2009 -

Last week we reported on the story that a U.S.  law firm was accepting submissions as part of a precursor to a possible class action lawsuit on behalf of users banned from Microsoft’s Xbox Live service.

AbingtonIP had put up a form on its website asking those affected by the ban for more information. The firm called the timing of Microsoft’s ban “convenient,” as it happened just before the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and may ultimately have resulted in an increase in subscriptions to Xbox Live.

A Microsoft Spokesperson is quoted in the Financial Post reiterating that the company is well within its rights in enacting the ban, “Piracy is illegal and modifying an Xbox 360 is a violation of the Xbox Live Terms of Use. Microsoft is well within its legal rights to ban these users from Xbox Live.”

Marc Whitten, General Manger of Xbox Live, told VentureBeat that the estimated number of Live members banned was way off and defended his company’s actions:

It’s a cat and mouse game. These were people that were pirating software. We try to keep sanctity of life from a safety and anti-cheating perspective and we protect our partners. We didn’t release the number. I cannot explain to you why people would think it was a million people. It wasn’t a million people. Check the veracity of that claim. It was one news source. I think we do a really good job understanding what people are doing on the system. That applies to intellectual property (piracy) and how we treat the community in terms of harassment.

39 comments

Report: 600k Accounts Banned From Xbox Live

November 11, 2009 -

Microsoft has once again taken out its ban stick, this time in an effort to prevent modified Xbox 360s from accessing Xbox Live.

A story on GamesIndustry.biz estimates the total number of banned accounts at around 600,000. Total Xbox Live accounts number over 20 million. Modded console owners will still be able to use their 360s offline.

The BBC (thanks beemoh) has reaction from one of the banned gamers, a 25-year old gamer dubbed “Raz.” Raz had his 360 modded in the back of a shop for £75 (approximately $125.00 U.S.). He estimated that the ability to pirate and copy games “saved” him about £600 (approximately $993.00 U.S.) and that he copied 30 or 40 games in all.

Ironically, Raz then had the temerity to complain about the high price of games:

I still think they should lower the prices. There are 16-year-old kids out there, they don't earn money so they go screaming to their parents saying, 'Can you buy me this game?

So Raz, are you going to buy another Xbox?

To be honest, I've contemplated whether to move to PlayStation 3 or buy another Xbox. I wouldn't do it again [chip the 360] but I really don't know if I'm going to get the Xbox again now."

It's always fun reading the Xbox Forums after such a widespread ban.

43 comments

Rome: Total War Mod Incorporates Book of Mormon

September 8, 2009 -

Here's something you don't see very often.

An unusual, religious-themed mod to Rome: Total War adds themes from the Book of Mormon to the popular PC real-time strategy franchise, reports Mormon Game Design:

Darren, from the UK, is a video game "modder." And he did his thing on Total War a while ago. He added Book of Mormon names and places to the game, allowing players to enter the Promised Land and the battles that took place between the Nephites and Lamanites! ...

 

As it is a mod, you will need a copy of Total War with the Barbarian Invasion expansion, along with the mod file provided by Darren, via the Book of Mormon Battles website...

Via: Mormon Times

4 comments

Square Enix Gets Heavy-Handed With Its Homebrew Fans

May 21, 2009 -

Pirating games is one thing and those who engage in the practice assume all of the risks involved, legal and otherwise.

But The Guardian's Keith Stuart reports that, earlier this month, Square Enix sicced its lawyers on a small band of rabid Chrono Trigger fans, serving them with a menacing cease and desist order.

It seems that a group of homebrew types spent four years (!) modding a sequel which they dubbed Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. Talk about a labor of love. As Stuart reports, the group use a ROM hack to mod the original source code:

If Square Enix had allowed the game to be released, the commercial impact would have been infinitesimal. It's being released as an IPS patch, not a complete Rom image; and if you're not sure what I'm talking about, that's the point – getting these things to run is for the homebrew community only.

As Stuart points out, some fan projects (Counter-Strike, for example) have turned into actual commercial games. And the video game industry is increasingly touting the idea of user-generated content to market certain games. But the message inherent in Square Enix's slap at its adoring, hardcore fans is of an entirely different nature. Stuart writes:

Think of the marketing benefits of embracing this passion, of inviting the creators to port the project over to the DS or on to WiiWare. It would be a radical departure from standard tactics but it would surely be more useful and forward-thinking than kicking the lawyers into action. How about a new mantra: embrace and assist?

Police Officials Angered by GTA Mods Featuring Realistic Cop Cars

April 8, 2009 -

A Grand Theft Auto modder's authentic depictions of real police vehicles have angered law enforcement officials in the Washington, D.C. area.

NBC reports that GTA videos of police vehicles from Prince William County, Montgomery County, and Fairfax County are available on YouTube:

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But don't tell that to some local police jurisdictions that are upset over YouTube videos depicting their cruisers in a video game...

One video even shows a digital officer getting out of a Fairfax County Police cruiser to gun down citizens on the street.

The Fairfax County Police Department finds the videos in very poor taste," said spokesperson Don Gotthardt. "One of the reasons we find it in poor taste is because of the way the officers are depicted."

THANKS TO: GamePolitics reader mdo7 for the tip!

32 comments

Side-Scrolling Mod Said to Be Terrorist Propaganda Tool

August 11, 2008 -

A site which tracks developments in the Middle East reports that a radical Islamist website has posted a video game encouraging players to battle Americans, Israelis and Shi'ite Muslims.

Of the game, which appears to be a crude adaptation of a side-scroller, MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, writes:

On July 21, 2008 a member of the Islamist forum Al-Ikhlas posted a video game designed to encourage children to fight against "the forces of tyranny". The game enables the player to shoot at planes marked "Shi'ite", "Jewish" or "American".

 

Throughout the game, inciting speeches by Osama Bin Laden are heard, accompanied by the sounds of explosions and gunfire. The player is exposed to images of bin Laden, Zarqawi and other prominent Al-Qaeda members.

Although we don't know much about MEMRI, the site has in the past been given high praise by David Kaplan, chief investigative reporter for U.S. News & World Report:

MEMRI... does translations of media from the Muslim world, focused on jihadist propaganda and efforts by reformists. The group's new MEMRI Blog serves up news stories, videos, and postings from 60 leading Islamist websites. Hey, where else can you get headlines like "Mega-Evil Zionist Queen Stars in Iranian Sci-Fi Movie"?

GP: Big thanks to reader enbob for the tip!

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prh99The government probably doesn't need an app, but I was think more along the lines of a company that was going to sell the collected info. “If you're not paying for the product, you are the product” sometimes even if you pay.02/28/2015 - 1:50pm
E. Zachary KnightWhat better way for the government to keep track of you than to get you to install an app that lets you insult the government.02/28/2015 - 11:03am
prh99No, but I looked it up and it's basically spyware. Their privacy policy says their apps tracks among other things your location and browsing habits via cookies.02/28/2015 - 8:20am
Ryan RardinHas anyone here heard of an app called iCitizen? It's basically Yelp for politicians.02/28/2015 - 5:16am
Andrew EisenAh, not linked in the way you (and everyone else) want and expect. That's true.02/27/2015 - 10:06pm
Matthew Wilsonthey are not linked in a way that tracks purchases though. the fact that they have to send a code for the other system shows that they are not linked in the way it counts.02/27/2015 - 9:39pm
Andrew EisenAccounts are already linked. Have been for quite a while. Also, Mario vs. Donkey Kong was announced as a cross-buy title during last January's Nintendo Direct.02/27/2015 - 9:25pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.vg247.com/20…/…/27/olli-olli-3ds-wii-u-cross-buy/ I wounder if this is a sign that Nintendo may finally link accounts across the 3ds/wiiu in the near future.02/27/2015 - 9:18pm
prh99http://www.romanoriginals.co.uk/invt/70931?colour=Blue The dress does comes in white and blue but both have black lace and a sheer back top, I don't see gold or brown. 02/27/2015 - 8:54pm
ZippyDSMleeDungeons was a so bad so good game to me so I been keeping up with its sequel which will more of a Dungeon Keeper clone. As for pre order out of 7 preorders I was not burnt by 2... Add my contempt of most of modern game design.Ya I have all kinds of hurt.02/27/2015 - 8:40pm
MechaTama31I don't even want to know...02/27/2015 - 8:22pm
ZippyDSMleeFun? I can do fun…. I think LOL. Dungeons 2 is on preorder but not via steam... >> Hell I am breaking all kinds of personal butthurt rules to even THINK about pre order...02/27/2015 - 8:12pm
E. Zachary KnightHad some fun discussions about that dumb dress on Facebook. I opened the original picture in GIMP and sampled the colors and determined them to be Blue and Gold. People still say I am wrong.02/27/2015 - 7:41pm
ConsterTime for something completely different: #teamwhiteandgoldllama!02/27/2015 - 7:27pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen: I'll try. ^^02/27/2015 - 5:40pm
ZippyDSMlee james_fudge: That’s what I been doing damnit!! *bites your leg*. LOL All but a couple posts have been written in word 2010. This has had my full attention so I’ve been able to keep some consistency up today which is nice a shame it’s still gibberish ><02/27/2015 - 5:38pm
Andrew EisenLike I said, if you want to have a discussion or get a question answered, I'm more than happy to oblige. All I ask in return is you have enough respect for everyone else to take the time to compose a readable post.02/27/2015 - 5:35pm
ZippyDSMleeI suppose it would be poor of me to say this but thank you for taking the time to reply to my questions, it does help me every now and then to discuss things and update or refine my opinion on stuff.. I do miss the forums here….02/27/2015 - 5:31pm
james_fudgeYou could run it through Word :) It's not that hard.02/27/2015 - 5:30pm
ZippyDSMleeSomething’s I can be clearer on more simple constructs making me better understood. Stack my weaknesses with complex constructs and my bad sense of humor and ya it’s a mess.. Consistent clarity is a pain in the butt for me.02/27/2015 - 5:22pm
 

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