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johnboy3434

Why didn't Id sue the makers of D!Zone and other commercial level packs back in the 90s?

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According to information found in another thread I started and extra reading elsewhere, the only "unofficial" commercial add-ons to the Doom games that actually paid Id for the necessary license were Hacx, Hell to Pay, and Perdition's Gate. Other releases, like Lost Episodes of Doom and (much later) John Romero's own Sigil, got around the commercial licensing fee by including the actual game content as merely a free bonus to some other product (specifically a map-building guide/walkthrough and a Buckethead soundtrack, respectively).

 

But D!Zone and other assorted map packs don't have that defense. They were clearly selling files as add-ons to the Doom games, and nothing else. And Id personnel have gone on record that they weren't happy about it. So... why didn't they pursue legal action?

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Because map packs like D!ZONE required Doom 2 or whatever to be able to be played. They were not standalone expansions like Final Doom.

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That doesn't really address the question at all. Selling mods without licensing permission from Id was and still is against the game's terms of service, and while some projects found a way around the rules like I said, D!Zone was in clear violation of it.

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It probably was a case of "Are we really going to waste our time and money trying to stop these cheap shovelware compilations?". Then again, as far as I know, some of them contained some sort of editors, so maybe (and that's a HUGE maybe) you could say they were selling the editors and the maps were merely an added bonus.

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Does it really matter at this point tho, like do you actually wish they had tooken down D!Zone? If anything, these expansion packs may have actually boosted the popularly of the games. Plus too you have to go though a ton of trouble to sue someone, if we're being honest here

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Posted (edited)

The phrase "you can't get blood from a stone" springs to mind. The profit from such operations would have been minimal. Spend a few tens of thousands on a court case to take them to task and get what exactly? The return on investment would just not be there.

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If I recall, and I may be wrong about this but it's my understanding that most all D!Zone wads, utilities, editors etc were collected off the BBS to begin with.  

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1 minute ago, Mr.Rocket said:

If I recall, and I may be wrong about this but it's my understanding that most all D!Zone wads, utilities, editors etc were collected off the BBS to begin with.  

 

So not only could Id sue them for breaching the ToS, but theoretically the original map-makers could also sue them if the included maps had a "no commercial distribution" clause in the legal disclaimers of their TXT files. And yet it seems no one ever did. Not enough money to be made, I guess.

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Posted (edited)

Well, there's this if it helps: https://doomwiki.org/wiki/D!ZONE#Licensing

And it is the fact that they distributed it as such, but now days it seems as that the damage is done..

It happened many years ago, though and I can't say that I followed it.. or even want to get involved in its shenanigans. 

 

Edited by Mr.Rocket

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, johnboy3434 said:

 

So not only could Id sue them for breaching the ToS, but theoretically the original map-makers could also sue them if the included maps had a "no commercial distribution" clause in the legal disclaimers of their TXT files. And yet it seems no one ever did. Not enough money to be made, I guess.

 

You are correct. These compilations blatantly violated the terms. But no Doom level author is going to spend thousands to employ a lawyer to get money from a company that probably had relatively little money anyway, no more than id themselves would.

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Posted (edited)

Master Levels were made as a counter-attempt at some money from it, but otherwise, yeah.

 

That said, Romero's Sigil is a bit of a false example, as obviously Doom (the originals, I mean) hasn't been commercially relevant in over 20 years, plus he skirted it by the WAD being technically free and purchasers paying for the goodies and/or soundtrack.

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It wouldn't have been a cut-and-dry case whatsoever. There's little to no case law/precedent, even now, to fall back on, and WizardWorks itself was not a party to id's license agreement between itself and Doom's end users, thus anything in those terms doesn't apply to them. They're only bound by the letter of copyright and trademark laws.

 

It may be telling that one case regarding mod shovelware that DID go forward, Microstar v. FormGen, chose to focus on the unapproved use of screenshots of the game on the packaging as a facet of trademark and copyright, and not the inclusion of third-party mods as the issue du jour.

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Posted (edited)

That's interesting James. Formgen... they were the original publishers of Spear of Destiny I seem to recall? *searches* yep. Man my brain is great at remembering useless trivia. If I only I could remember things that actually mattered.

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3 minutes ago, Linguica said:

A federal court back in the 90s basically ruled that WADs are fundamentally infringing because they are the continued adventures, and thus are derivative works. In a sense, this makes Doom WADs legally canon in the Doom universe, even if they are not, uh, canonically canon.

Boy, I can't wait to see how they chain Impse into NUTS.WAD.

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Posted (edited)
32 minutes ago, Dark Pulse said:

Boy, I can't wait to see how they chain Impse into NUTS.WAD.

 

*sings* "It's a billion-demon orgy in an ocean of whipped creeeeaaam..."

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I brought this up concerning Sigil and its legality. He was inarguably selling a wad in addition to the other stuff as payment guaranteed "premium access" to the game as a "priority customer," like how people pay extra money to the airline for the privilege of getting to the seat that they would get to anyway, just a few minutes sooner. However, though everyone had a great time discussing it, the question of whether selling a wad or not was legal remained unresolved...

 

Now @Linguica has just posted something very interesting and seemingly definitive in this regard above (and I wonder why he held it back at the time). It is now clear, from the ruling of the 9th Circuit, that it is not legal to sell wads under any conditions (unless one pays the licensing fee), as a wad is always a "sequel" to the game upon which it is based which is the sole privilege of the copyright holder.

 

There can be no more doubt about it: Romero broke the law!

 

 

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3 hours ago, johnboy3434 said:

So not only could Id sue them for breaching the ToS, but theoretically the original map-makers could also sue them if the included maps had a "no commercial distribution" clause in the legal disclaimers of their TXT files. And yet it seems no one ever did. Not enough money to be made, I guess.

Those little (may not distribute/modify) bits at the bottom of old text files are totally non binding, IIRC. By choosing not to modify those files you are simply doing a courtesy to the original author. I’m not 100% positive on that, but I remember reading it at some point.. I know for certain it applies to instances of modified graphics and sounds from Doom though, no modder has any legal right to hoard such resources. It’s all about courtesy.

 

1 hour ago, Linguica said:

id never sued... but the Duke3D people DID sue https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_Star_v._FormGen_Inc. That case is why later D!Zone packages have simulated screenshots in the box art.

 

That case also, by the way, contains some language that should be horrifying (and is presumably still controlling in the 9th Circuit).

 

A federal court back in the 90s basically ruled that WADs are fundamentally infringing because they are the continued adventures, and thus are derivative works. In a sense, this makes Doom WADs legally canon in the Doom universe, even if they are not, uh, canonically canon.

Damn, so where would that put games that run on the Doom engine but are not the continued adventures of Doomguy in the most literal sense? Things like Sonic Robo Blast, Megaman Doom etc? Stuff that does not require Doom assets? I know making such a distinction is pedantry to quite an absurd level but the wording in that ruling makes me wonder..

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1 minute ago, Doomkid said:

Stop right there, criminal scum! You violated the law! Pay the court a fine or serve your sentence! Your stolen goods are now forfeit!

[Resist Arrest]

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4 hours ago, TheGamePhilosophe said:

I brought this up concerning Sigil and its legality. He was inarguably selling a wad in addition to the other stuff as payment guaranteed "premium access" to the game as a "priority customer," like how people pay extra money to the airline for the privilege of getting to the seat that they would get to anyway, just a few minutes sooner. However, though everyone had a great time discussing it, the question of whether selling a wad or not was legal remained unresolved...

He distributed the WAD itself for free. When you 'bought' SIGIL, you were buying the special goodies that came in the box. That's Romero's legal loophole.

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8 hours ago, TheGamePhilosophe said:

There can be no more doubt about it: Romero broke the law!

 

"Ladies and gentlemen, we got him."

 

What I'm curious about is what all of this means for standalone games that are sold using, for example, the GZDoom engine, like Hedon or Operation ECHO. Does this still apply? Where's the line drawn?

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1 hour ago, TheMightyHeracross said:

What I'm curious about is what all of this means for standalone games that are sold using, for example, the GZDoom engine, like Hedon or Operation ECHO. Does this still apply? Where's the line drawn?

The engine is open source and free to use without licensing issue. So long as TCs don't bear the Doom name (or the name of any other IP that does not belong to the TC maker, for that matter), they can be sold commercially.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, johnboy3434 said:

But D!Zone and other assorted map packs don't have that defense. They were clearly selling files as add-ons to the Doom games, and nothing else.

Why is this the assumption? These shovelware creators were already using the Sigil line of defense back then.

s42Xjrr.jpg

 

That oughta hold the little S.O.B.s!

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By that logic, we didn't pay for SIGIL, but for Romero's time spent developing, evaluating, compiling, programming, distributing, and manufacturing.

 

Makes sense to me! Seriously, it does, since that's pretty much what we paid for. And Romero's actually got a better defense than those guys, since yes, you can go right to idgames and download SIGIL.

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1 hour ago, Dark Pulse said:

By that logic, we didn't pay for SIGIL, but for Romero's time spent developing, evaluating, compiling, programming, distributing, and manufacturing.

 

Makes sense to me! Seriously, it does, since that's pretty much what we paid for. And Romero's actually got a better defense than those guys, since yes, you can go right to idgames and download SIGIL.

That's basically the reason for anything having a cost.

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