Limbo of the Copyright and Adventures in Fair Use

Slashdots coverage of the Limbo of the Lost controversy has yielded some really interesting linkfodder. Steve Bovis is apparently a real world class idiot and has taken up the banner in his own name. His lawyer (solicitor) has advised him to keep quiet but it’s pretty obvious he’s proud of his own invention and thinks videogames are big money. He also claims he was developing the game (Limbo of the Lost) for two other consoles before they were “killed off”. Nevermind the fact that a development license on a console is exactly that – you need to actually buy a license to develop and you need to buy the hardware to develop on which is big money to discourage us non-big-game-company folk to not buy a console which doesn’t check the copyprotection on discs.

Apparently Steve also has had his account suspended on Wintermute, which tells us a lot about how he intended the game to look. Wintermute is a free-to-all engine which retains copyright control over it’s code. This means the engine itself is suspect in terms of fair use, let alone all the produced artistic materials. So far no-one on their forums has weighed in on the topic aside of banning his account outright.

But it gets better – with Wintermute being used with questionable legality and redistribution rights, Steve decides to go over to Games Radar and talk a pile of trash. His arguments are fairly braindead and illustrate why I don’t believe that physical property law is any type of analogy to intellectual property law. It’s clear that Steve and company ripped off these games wholesale and violated the intellectual property law protecting them, but his views everything in terms of property law. His examples include the ideas that screenshots are not derived works and they are the same as photographs. He also says that copying Big Ben wholesale would be clear infringement but a photograph of Big Ben is not. (The actual legal status of both examples is that this is OK for educational or personal use but commercial resale is strictly prohibited). While I hate EULAs attached to software, this is clearly why they come in handy.

Liveblogging the American Justice System

Just an update to this – After talking to someone In The Know, he said that it wasn’t likely I would be responsible under code 3733. He indicated it would be very unlikely that the DA would even sign off on prosecuting this. But, here’s the story…

This continues The One Day I Wish I Lived In Jersey.

I was actually sort of surprised that we have an investigation so quickly. It came down from my agent that this guy was madder then hell and calling the office every day asking where his money was. He was also trying to leverage the point that “He fled from the police!” as some kind of mantra. The insurance company either got tired of listening to him or happens to be very efficient.

I got a call from their accident investigation department. The agent tells you which number they will be calling from and advises you to speak to no-one else but someone from that number – apparently they’ve had a lot of fraud. The investigator was polite and asked if I was ok (it’s 5 days later…) and then asked some general questions about the accident. In Pennsylvania, there’s two unfortunate pieces of law: The insurance company gets draft copies of the police report, which you can’t get, and you’re not allowed to have a copy of the other guys story. They tipped me off he made two separate stories, which is why they were calling, and they wanted to record the conversation. Because of this, the investigator told me that they can’t release a copy of his testimony to them without a court subpoena, but they strongly advised me to seek one if it went to trial (it will, he’s charging me).

Thankfully in PA, seeking a subpoena for a trial is as simple as petitioning the judge, which means when I get a docket request (or warrant to appear) I copy down the trial ID number (docket number) and write a letter to the judge telling him why this is relevant and what he should expect to find and if it’s suitable to the trial in his view, he will initiate the discovery. When you’re served with a subpoena for materials in Pennsylvania, you have three choices: surrender the information, send an expert witness along with the information, or send a written objection to the subpoena justifying why you cannot surrender the information. You can’t just say no, but “overly broad” is a valid reason.

The cats out of the bag on what he said, however, since the types of questions were “We can’t tell you about his story but did you bake exactly 12 chocolate chip cookies” kind of questions. This came in the form of “Did you stop for the stop sign and is there damage to the front of your car and the side of his?” Ah, yes I stopped, no there’s no damage of that type. “OK then the other question is was he in the left lane and you crossed the line and rammed him into the divider?” Ah, this is how lawyers make their money, I’m sure. But I didn’t get a transcript of his testimony. We played word games like this for 20 minutes.

After that it was “So what happened? Is there anything else you would like to add?” I mentioned it’s posted 25mph and explained the whole bit about the police. Basically after he hit, he was behind us, we slowed down to pull over and he gave us the highbeams and horn. When we picked up the pace, he decided to pursue us, so we just kept moving (literally driving around the block) until the police showed up. Since our neighbors are a bit bitchy and have nothing better to do except yell at me every time I work on the car in the lot, they probably called the cops. For once in their miserable lives they were useful.

She asked if I was cited for anything (failure to stop, causing an accident, reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, leaving the scene of an accident). I indicated I have to go to court regarding a charge of leaving the scene of an accident, but the officers did not cite me for anything nor did they see fit to arrest me. The agent advised me that if I don’t have the paperwork in hand, I may not actually be charged. She told me they’ve had bluffs before where one party says they’re interested in pressing charges to the police, but then don’t want to pay the collateral for appearance so they just drop everything. The maximal fine is $300 as I understand it, both parties have to pay half up front as collateral for appearance which is good towards the final judgment or refundable if you petition for it. Although the courts here are generally accepting and I’ve paid as little as 10% on speeding tickets ($20) and had it accepted as collateral. However if this were a worse crime (leaving the scene of an accident with injuries changes the game to a much worse set of charges) the collateral for appearance may be as much as the total fine.

After we reviewed all this, the tape went on and we went through it all again. As far as the insurance company is concerned, they’re not giving him a red cent.

But, the story doesn’t end there. This would make it way too simple, right? The guy who hit me indicated he wanted me arrested and he wanted to press charges. This means that if I can’t get the police on the phone and didn’t pull over, I’m chargeable under PA state vehicle code. Specifically, section 3733 which concerns evading Johnny Lawman. Unfortunately for the guy who hit me, he doesn’t have the right to pursue me. His obligations end at getting my plates and sending the police after me. So as far as the police are concerned, there’s very explicit requirements for what is a signal to pull over and what is required of the person being signaled. Since the guy behind me wasn’t a cop, it counts against him to initiate a pursuit. Part C section 2 of the code says personal safety concerns are a valid defense.

So, we’ll see how it goes. I’m waiting for the summons to see exactly what I’m being charged with.