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rhinoduck

John Carmack Testifies in ZeniMax vs. Oculus Jury Trial

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ZeniMax Media, id Software's parent company, is accusing Oculus of stealing its intellectual property from the time when John Carmack was still an employee at id. These accusations go back to 2014 when Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion, and resulted in the current trial where ZeniMax is seeking damages equal to the price Facebook paid for Oculus; they claim that John Carmack, who became Oculus's CTO after parting with id, used ZeniMax's "copyrighted computer code, trade secret information, and technical know-how" in the development of the Rift. ZeniMax is now further accusing Oculus of "intentional destruction of evidence to cover up their wrongdoing." Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is also to appear on the stand. A Slashdot report based on this Ars Technica article offers a wider summary and historical links.

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If Oculus loses, what does it mean for the company and for Carmack exactly? Will the whole project have to be shut down? Who will be punished and how? Can anyone explain?

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ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damages. Facebook has somewhat more than $2 billion in cash reserves, I would imagine.

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We know from the "NimbleRichMan" fiasco that Carmack's Occulus boss is a dirty liar, so...

Soundblock said:

I get the feeling ZeniMax was expecting Carmack to leave his brain behind at id, in a glass jar on a spider-like walking device.

Fixed!

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LOL!

Yeah, I've never understood why and/or how the US courts could agree with the whole "You are a professional in your field, with vast knowledge and experience, and you make your living doing that, but if you quit or leave your job you have to become homeless for three to five years. Otherwise, your new employer might cause you to accidentally use your experience and knowledge, even through that's why they probably hired you in the first place. Gotta protect those innocent multi-billion dollar companies after all".

I would never sign/agree to any contract that forbade me from working in my chosen field after I leave jobs...at least not without them continuing to pay me full salary. If some company wants to keep paying me for the next three years after they fire me or the contract is up, I'm cool with that. Annoyed, sure, but I could deal with a three year fully-paid vacation. :)

ZeniMax is, imho, a moronic, paranoid and vindictive company. I don't think I've ever heard anyone say, or anyone write, about "Oh, ZeniMax? Love those guys! They really love their job and really take care of their customers". Ever. Like...ever ever.

That said...just about every single 'too big' company is evil. All of them. The ONLY 'big' company I can think of off hand that isn't evil is Pixologic (the guys who make ZBrush). I bought ZBrush back when it was at version 3 in 2007. I have never had to pay for an upgrade. I have had free licenses given to me when I was having some serious computer issues. I have had emails responded to the same day, usually the same hour, with an actually helpful real person responding.

ZeniMax? Not so much...

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Wasn't this thread bigger or am I thinking of a similar one? I remember spending 30 minutes on my phone browsing through several well written posts on this topic.


Hopefully this is big enough to change the view on how companies owns their employees ideas. I'm sceptical to that however.

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NeedHealth said:

Wasn't this thread bigger or am I thinking of a similar one? I remember spending 30 minutes on my phone browsing through several well written posts on this topic.


Hopefully this is big enough to change the view on how companies owns their employees ideas. I'm sceptical to that however.

Here's the older thread: https://www.doomworld.com/vb/everything-else/68418-carmack-accused-of-stealing-oculus-rift-tech/

Linguica said:

ZeniMax is seeking $2 billion in damages. Facebook has somewhat more than $2 billion in cash reserves, I would imagine.

I just hope that if Carmack loses, Facebook will foot the bill and not him personally. Something tells me it might not be that clean, but I honestly don't know.

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Carmack has dropped some epic badass and hilarious lines in this hearing :D
Maybe some hardcore fan can post some quotes? I am on mobile now.

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Remember that court cases can drag on for years, even if Facebook loses they can always file a appeal and potentially win. Thus, we might not know the actual victory until the next year or so.

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Verdict: http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/1/14474198/oculus-lawsuit-verdict

"A Dallas, Texas jury today awarded half a billion dollars to ZeniMax after finding that Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, and by extension Oculus, failed to comply with a non-disclosure agreement he signed.

In awarding ZeniMax $500 million, the jury also said that Oculus did not misappropriate trade secrets as contended by ZeniMax."

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According to this thread :

...the jury upheld our complaint regarding the theft by John Carmack of RAGE source code and thousands of electronic files on a USB storage device which contained ZeniMax VR technology.
-...Carmack intentionally destroyed data on his computer after he got notice of this litigation and right after he researched on Google how to wipe a hard drive—and data on other Oculus computers and USB storage devices were similarly deleted (as determined by a court-appointed, independent expert in computer forensics)
-...when he quit id Software, Carmack admitted he secretly downloaded and stole over 10,000 documents from ZeniMax on a USB storage device, as well as the entire source code to RAGE and the id tech® 5 engine —which Carmack uploaded to his Oculus computer
-...Carmack filed an affidavit which the court's expert said was false in denying the destruction of evidence

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Aside from the fact that those 10k "documents" were apparently just Carmack's emails (which yes, his employer owned, but wow big freaking deal...), without seeing the evidence myself I will defer from passing judgment. Especially if these other experts were as good as the one that was put on the stand to "prove" the copyright infringement claim regarding the Oculus SDK.

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The law don't always get it right. Being a proven visionary in his field, Carmack has a moral obligation to protect his forward momentum. He shouldn't be held back by red tape.

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Soundblock said:

Being a proven visionary in his field, Carmack has a moral obligation to protect his forward momentum. He shouldn't be held back by red tape.

Let's just say I strongly disagree.

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The thing that seems completely nuts to me is that this is a $500 million settlement. Half a billion dollars because Carmack copied a few files? Now sure, maybe that sounds reductionist, but bear with me.

Copyright infringement isn't theft. Nobody has been deprived of anything. If this was a different company he'd gone to, if he'd taken the Rage source code and used it to build a new game at a new company then maybe there would be cause for ZeniMax to claim they were entitled to a share of the pie, but that's not the case. Where is the thing that Oculus has built using ZeniMax's source code? Because I'm pretty sure that the challenges of writing a video game engine are entirely different to the challenges of creating a VR headset.

For the most part, engineers do just want to get our jobs done without a ton of red tape. And you know, we get a lot more done if we don't have to spend time worrying about legal crap. The whole free/open source software movement effectively started because legal crap prevented Richard Stallman from being able to fix his printer. Say what you want about the GPL but you're not going to get a half billion dollar fine for copying GPLed source inappropriately.

You find the same thing in games too. If you've ever worked with the Doom source, go look at the Rise of the Triad source some time. w_wad.c, z_zone.c... a lot of this looks familiar. Obviously ROTT is derived from the Wolf3D engine but it's pretty clear that large portions are lifted from Doom too. I'm willing to bet that wasn't authorized and Tom Hall took an early copy of the Doom source with him when he left id. Or, have you ever read this? Sometimes people don't even know where this stuff comes from and have to dig through history to try to figure out the origins. Getting stuff done effectively often means code reuse, the most effective engineers know this and a good way to prevent us from getting our work done is to make us scared to do the sensible thing by hanging bullshit lawsuits like this one over our heads.

Some of the people in that thread I linked were referring to this as "corporate espionage" and to John Carmack as a "white collar criminal". It's hard to think of a more breathlessly ignorant way of missing the point. I'm not surprised at this point, since just as the public seems utterly ignorant of the process of software engineering, most lawsuits I've seen over copyright infringement of source code seem to be no better. Check out Carmack's own response to the verdict for a taste. A half billion dollar lawsuit argued using Harry Potter analogies. What a disgrace.

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Let's break down the actual dollar amounts in the verdict:

$50 million for Oculus's copyright infringement against Zenimax, listed specifically as actual damages suffered by Zenimax, probably thought of as a "reasonable royalty" for ownership of the code Carmack et al write while at Zenimax.

$200 million for Oculus breaking their NDA with Zenimax, to "compensate" Zenimax for their "injuries".

Nothing at all against Carmack for conversion (they didn't even ask for any sort of remedy on that charge).

$0 against Oculus for trademark infringement.

$50 million against Oculus for "false designation" which is basically holding yourself out as being affiliated with someone else, when you're really not.

$50 million against Palmer Luckey (Oculus founder), personally, for false designation.

$150 million against Brendan Iribe (Oculus CEO), personally, for false designation.

The false designation ones are strange because the money is specifically for "damages" on Zenimax's part, and *not* for ill-gotten profits on Oculus's part, which would make more sense. My guess is that the jury decided to treat it as six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other sort of way.

Overall, I get the feeling that the jury thought that Zenimax got screwed and just sort of went down the list and filled out amounts to add up to a total that they felt was appropriate overall. One thing I find odd is that they didn't find Oculus liable for "unfair competition," which seemed to me like the most obvious avenue. Even if it's hard to point out a specific thing Oculus did that specifically monetarily hurt Zenimax, the unfair competition claim would allow for an equitable remedy for "unjust enrichment" which seems like the crux of the whole thing. So I think Oculus has a good chance upon appeal to get the amount brought down by a *lot* because the jury shoehorned in big-ass numbers in places where they didn't necessarily make sense.

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