Malik  (11/19/04)

There's a sort of theme with today's Bitchings.  It's not that I'm trying to be overly cute or some crap, but rather that the geek world is consumed with a rather weird situation this week; named legal woes.  I'm sure most of you have heard of the shitty worker treatment at EA, but it goes beyond that.  There's a new tool (I read it as: scheme) from major Hollywood movie studios, and some stupidity from Marvel (the comic company) towards NCsoft (the CoH people).  So, let's get this rolling...

They Didn't Do It, But They Must Be Responsible 

So, for those who haven't heard this yet, click on this link to Basically, Marvel, the company behind Spiderman, The X-Men, The Hulk, Daredevil, blah, blah, has decided to take NC Soft down a peg. NCsoft was stupid enough to offer games a virtually limitless number of options for customizing a character for their MMO, City of Heroes. 

At the same time, NCsoft was kind enough to give gamers enough options with superhero creation that we could pick a wide number of the most commonly seen superpowers from different comics; like super speed, strength, invulnerability, regeneration, claws, radiation powers, fire blasting, empathy, etc. However, this is as far as NCsoft went with the concept. Basically, they threw out a bunch of great tools and options for us geeks to enjoy playing around with to make our own unique custom heroes. 

Yet, not all of us have a sense of creativity. Therefore, while some people exercise too much creativity and create such gaudy superheroes that not even their own creators could love them, there are those of us who feel that the best heroes are the ones that have already been designed. Therefore, we see a lot of Marvel, DC, Darkhorse, and other companies' properties being imitated. I've personally seen a good half dozen different Wolverine (Marvel) rip-offs, Superman (DC) clones, imitation Hulks (Marvel), etc. The list just goes on and on. However, we must keep in mind that the players are the ones creating such imitation heroes and NCsoft did not tell us to make rip-off characters (in fact, they keep insisting on creativity everywhere from their web site to the instruction manual for CoH), but rather to express ourselves as we see fit. 

Well, this large CoH population of Marvel inspired clones has inspired Marvel to do something of it's own...they are suing NCsoft for copyright infringement because of something NCsoft didn't do. This would be the first instance of a major lawsuit taking place due to the content created by an online community and not caused by the content provider. 

Basically, this whole situation leads to two things. The first of which would be that if Marvel does succeed with it's baseless lawsuit, then a new precedent will be established in the courts that would allow a content provider to be sued over user created data. This means that every MMO on the market, and every future one, would have to be re-tooled to block all possible copyright infringements. Not only that, but a new precedent would need to be established in which users would have to sign off to take legal responsibility of their actions for all their avatar designs, what words they type in, their screen name, their behavior, etc. All of this would be needed since no filter in the world would be good enough to catch all copyrighted material and block it from appearing on the online community. 

The second thing that would come about from this...even if Marvel loses...would be the fact that Marvel is showing how small-minded, petty, and greedy that they have become. Consider it like this; if you do anything online that could be seen by the masses, make sure you leave Marvel out of it, in all forms, unless you want the risk of the lawyers coming after you next. 


This is the type of frivolous lawsuit that I thought had passed by our culture over a decade ago. You know what lawsuits I being hot and burning some dumbass, a robber being shot and suing for pain and anguish, a doctor tried to the best of anyone's ability and still failed to save a life so the family of the deceased sues and raises the cost of medical care for all of us so they could get an uncalled for $25 million. It's all bullshit, and it's all directed at the wrong people. If you get burned by hot coffee because you're holding it in your lap with the lid off while driving, then you deserve a lot worse than to get some 2nd degree burns. If you rob a house and get shot by the resident, you should have to pay the resident for the bullet he planted in your sorry ass (bullets may be relatively cheap, but they aren't free), and if a doctor does his best and doesn't botch things due to poor technique, you should thank him/her for trying so damned hard (it sure as hell isn't easy for the doctor to cope when they try so hard only to see their patient die...doctors are not unfeeling asses and they do a job that many of us would never have the courage to do). 

In other words, Marvel is suing NCsoft for something that some 12 year old in his parents' basement is doing. Am I the only one to see how greedy Marvel must be to be doing this bullshit. If Marvel sees someone imitating their property in a way that doesn't cause a loss of profit (hell, some people may actually go out and buy an X-Men comic after they see a fake Wolverine in CoH and think how cool that character is) or any loss of face, they should consider it both free advertising and as a compliment. I'd be complimented if I saw a character on an MMO based off of something I made that actually took pride in being like my property. 

The only reason for Marvel to sue would either be if the rumors of Marvel trying to make an MMORPG are true (in which case, they will be shut down by NCsoft's massive fanbase), or if Marvel is just getting greedy and out-of-touch with the public. Either way, the solution is simple. Marvel needs to stop crying over nothing, quit being so damned greedy, and enjoy the fact that they are no losing money like they were just 10 years ago. 

Enslavement to All 

There are a lot of crappy jobs out there. Even a good job can turn into an experience that makes one feel over-worked, under-paid- under-appreciated, or like a slave to their jobs. In fact, many people who work in what are often viewed as "dream jobs" by outsiders are some of the most over-worked people in the American workforce. Usually an employee at a game development studio had to put up with strict schedules that would make an average geek cringe. Plus, the nature of how difficult it is to program on many of today's consoles doesn't help. Then, when a major deadline starts to draw near, the workload only increases to make sure the final product is out when the PR statements say it will be. 

However, after reading the web journal of Joe Straitiff, a former Software Engineer III at EA, I think EA takes the prize for the most f%$#ed up working environment possible. 

In a time when jobs are still scarce, and permanent job placement is almost becoming a fantasy, people will put up with a lot of hassles to ensure they don't end up unemployed. No matter how much people say, "I'll quit my job if they don't treat me with some more dignity", we live in too harsh of an economic situation to just follow through with this plan. In fact, this plays perfectly into the hands of employers since they know that they can abuse their employees (as long as it is only to the legal limits of acceptable abuse) in countless ways and still keep a solid workforce. 

Therefore, employers can easily make their employees put in extra time, throw away their personal lives, degrade themselves, and pay far below what should be acceptable. However, there is a certain line that can be crossed to make this situation go from just being a crappy job to being immoral and unethical. EA, from the sounds of this web journal of Mr. Straitiff and another one (from an anonymous EA Spouse) have not only crossed the line, but they took a big shit on it, blamed it on their employees who had died of exhaustion, and then proceeded to fornicate their dead employees with a jagged metal rod. 

When people are dismissed for no reason beyond working their asses off and going well beyond the descriptions of their jobs, and when people are putting in the same amount of overtime as regular hours and not seeing an extra dime for it, and the over-worked employees don't see any comp time or extra sick/vacation hours for this sacrifice on their personal lives and sanity, and the employees are constantly lied to about the expectations that are placed upon them, it is nothing beyond amoral and inexcusable. These are people with families, friends, social lives, real commitments (a job should never, in my opinion, amount to more than your family and friends...period), and only so much stress that can be taken before serious harm is done. 

Plus, when you consider what the EA Spouse said; 

Never should it be an option to punish one's workforce with ninety hour weeks; in any other industry the company in question would find itself sued out of business so fast its stock wouldn't even have time to tank. In its first weekend, Madden 2005 grossed $65 million. EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable. 

There is simply no excuse for this behavior. A company that is turning such large profits every year due to just a few major franchise titles (like Madden, The Sims and expansions, etc) has no reason to treat it's employees so badly. When a company turns a profit from the hard work and diligence of it's employees, the moral, ethical, and just plain right thing to do is to reward the hard working employees...not to punish them. In fact, the best selling EA title each year doesn't even require such a high level of much work honestly goes into a new Madden title when compared to a game like GTA:SA, a new Final Fantasy, or any other game that has a large amount of new content with each new incarnation (Madden gets a single new play mode, slightly tweaked visuals, and new stats for each player)? Are you saying that by having a successful business with far less required maintenance in it's best selling games (when compared to the competition) requires working their employees into the ground? I say, f$%# no. 


I don't know about anyone else, but this recent outbreak of news about the nature of EA's human resources and employee relations makes me see things in a new light. I can assure you that the Need for Speed Underground 2 that I was wanting (from EA) is off my must-get list...I was thinking of eventually getting The Sims 2 (the first one was so boring but too addictive to quit), but not anymore...I was considering, when the RPG market becomes dry again, of getting LotR: The Third Age, but definitely not anymore. In fact, my personal solution for this load of bullshit is to boycott EA's games. 

However, beyond myself, the first step towards a solution was taken by brave individuals such as Mr. Straitiff and the EA Spouse, who came forward with their person stories. To bring this situation to our attention was a brave and wonderful beginning to (hopefully) bringing about some sort of change. Plus, a class-action lawsuit is being brought about on behalf of the EA employees who got cheated out of overtime/comp time to get compensation for their sacrifice to their jobs. 

The biggest changes, however, need to be brought about by EA. They need to see how their actions are immoral, and probably illegal (and if not, they should be). Hopefully EA will feel enough repercussions from their horrible actions that they will reverse their attitude towards employees before other major development studios take on the same characteristics. 

Can You Trust a Faceless Lawsuit-Happy Entity? 

I know I can't. However, according to a news article at, a consortium of 7 major movie studios have joined together to initiate lawsuits against file swappers who trade in movies. However, if this was not enough, they are getting ready to sue for as little at only one downloaded movie file, and they are going to sue for a possible $30,000 to $150,000 per movie (yes, that is tens to hundreds of THOUSANDS of dollars per movie). Plus, they are not planning that half-asses amnesty deal that the RIAA had offered (in which you sign up, promise to never download a song again, and delete all of your copyrighted songs from your PC...which was not legally binding and could easily be turned around as a method to find people to sue over copyright infringement). 

No, it still gets more insane. This consortium of Hollywood studios (let's just call this entity Hollywood, in the same way The Simpsons made fun of the greed of Hollywood movie producers and lumped them all together as "Hollywood" in the Radioactive Man movie episode) is offering a free downloadable program for Windows users. This program from will search your computer for illegal music and movie files on your computer, along with searching out all of your P2P software. What a great idea! Wow! My sarcasm is flowing now. 

Basically, this program can be, depending on any agreements related to it's download, a great tool for parents to check their PCs and make sure their little children are not going to cause them a legal headache. However, if any agreement is not correctly worded, it can go the other way... 

A program, from a group of Hollywood people that are only interested in making some money via suing, that can search your hard drive for material to sue your sorry ass over...hmmm...this is a perfect doorway for Hollywood to enter your life, find your illegal movies, and sue you. Or, they could agree to not sue you over movies and have it worded just right (like the RIAA amnesty agreement was worded and handled) and you have still thrown out your legal rights. Best of all, they could always not sue you but they pass along to the RIAA what illegal songs you have and then they nail you. Maybe they could just find what P2P services you use and what your online name/account is and then watch you like a hawk. 

True, they could not track your information they could easily retrieve from your PC that has to be Internet-ready to get said program...yup...and they could decide that you're so damned cool that you get to star in the next movie made in Hollywood because of your commitment to stop movie piracy, and then you'll be a millionaire! Holy poop! I better download that obvious entrapment immediately! Woohoo! 


This type of bullshit needs to just be ended. It's one thing to worry about your intellectual properties (even when the supposedly "intellectual" things are piles of crap cranked out by Hollywood on a regular basis that is more regular than the rate an average regular person takes a shit), but it's another to give out tools that can easily be used for evil means or to offer very poorly worded amnesty deals that would condemn you to lawsuit hell. 

Also, this type of trigger happy behavior of lawsuits by Hollywood and the RIAA only amounts to more increased time wasted by the US legal system. 

The real solution would be for more work to be done along the lines of what Microsoft has been looking into lately about finding ways to secure copyrighted works from digital distribution. In other words, prevention is a better solution than punishment. It's one thing if you get slapped around after doing something that's free, easy, and not often's another thing if this just becomes difficult and out of the reach of normal people. 


It's pretty rare when I can't just bitch about the stupidity of the gaming industry and actually have an entire week worth of bitching dedicated to the US legal system. I hope this is not a trend, for myself, to be more yuppie and legal minded...nahhh...I think it's just some of life's irony that all of the stupidity in the geek world seems to be so focused each week on on thing or another (laws this week, piracy a couple weeks ago, blah, blah). Anyway, with the release of the DS coming in a couple of days, and with the PSP looming on the horizon in Japan (of course we're getting bitched in the usual), I know it will soon be time for a nice shift away from the legal minded state of this week, and the piracy laden bitching of last month. In fact, beyond GTA games, the best source of fresh Bitchings is always a major product release. Anyway, feel free to write me or put it on the forums, if you think you've got something to say about all this legal fun.