Friday, July 4, 2008
There was a game I was involved with several years ago, called City of Heroes. In it, one can make a Superhero or Supervillain, complete with costume and super powers and save or terrorize the city at will, which in my mind seems kind of fun. There are several classes of hero one can choose which basically break down into several different roles. The tanker type, which is good at resisting damage (Superman,) the quick, agile, tactician which is good at dealing out damage (Batman,) the "blaster" who is fragile but does good damage (Green Lantern,) and various support types who heal or defend. You may notice that all the heroes I listed were from DC and not Marvel. There's a reason for that.
You see, Marvel got a kink in their backside because of people actually having fun with this game. It seems that they were upset because people could reproduce the image, likeness, name or powers of some of their superheroes. Because WE own the rights to these creations, WE are going to hire lawyers to sue the pants off you. How nice of you, Marvel. Someone actually thinks enough of your characters to emulate them in an online superhero game, and you threaten to shut the thing down completely for all users, whether they are emulating your heroes or not, by shutting down the business with your lawsuit.
And how many creations does Marvel own? Bunches and bunches of them. Their website says they have over 5,000 characters. And NO ONE is allowed to emulate any of them, because some genius in the 60's came up with an idea for a certain super power, a certain costume, a certain name, they own it. Uh huh. But the story does not stop there, dear reader, oh no.
Marvel hired lawyers who took the case to court. They presented evidence of "their" heroes being used in the game. But guess what- it was the lawyers themselves who had created the accounts for the expressed purpose of recreating these heroes so that the case could be brought to trial. It is against official NCSoft policy to copy existing heroes. There is no way these lawyers could have used this evidence without letting Marvel know exactly what they were doing. So, as far as I am concerned, Marvel is complicit, and I throw them in with the lawyers as scum sucking toadstools who are worth no more than the price they intended to exact from the gaming community.
NCSoft eventually settled the lawsuit out of court, and thankfully it did not put them out of business. But its the nature of the thing- its not about how much they asked, its about how they went about it.
So I have decided to vote with my wallet in our free enterprise system. I will not view any movies based on Marvel characters nor will I buy the DVDs when they come out. I ceased being a fan when I heard about this incident. I urge others to do the same. Perhaps Marvel will learn someday not to bite the hand that feeds it- I kind of doubt it though.
cc: Marvel Public Relations
PS After writing this story, I discovered that Marvel was also involved in using lawyers to threaten a simple pre-screening of one of their movies (which was approved by Paramount and the theater mentioned, I might add.) http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/29/oh-my-god/
Perhaps they can officially affiliate themselves with Scientology and then they can begin suing anyone who even mentions their name. That would "suit" them well, it seems.