Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 24, 2009

On Parasitism

My friend Shamus just wrote an excellent article for the Escapist that really got me thinking. Here's the relevant bit, but read the whole thing:
So far there aren't any videogames called "Edge," so you should be good.
You release the game to the iPhone and it gets very favorable reviews and is praised as something unique and different in a sea of bland Bejeweled clones and Tetris knock-offs. Congratulations, you made it. You're a successful indie developer.
A little after launch, you get a letter from the lawyers of a guy named Tim Langdell. Langdell owns the "international trademark" for "Edge Gaming," and he claims you're infringing on his trademark by using the word "Edge" for your game. Your creation gets pulled from the Apple store.

One of the biggest problems people seem to have with the idea of capitalism is that it (supposedly) gives free reign to parasites like this Tim Langdell character. This is a huge misconception based on the idea that there's nothing to prevent people from engaging in activities that are morally questionable but not actually illegal. The Germans actually have a saying that encompasses this philosophy: "If it is not required, it is forbidden".

The best thing to do to protect yourself from people like this is exactly what Shamus has done here: GO PUBLIC. Complain loudly, unceasingly, and with large amounts of evidence. Or, do what The Chaos Engine has done and get together with others to blast the guy. There is no need to stoically submit to this indignity and no need to suffer endless lawsuit threats, either.

For my part, I'm having nothing whatsoever to do with the IGDA if they allow someone like this to sit on their board. It's like they're the United Nations of professional associations. I was considering looking into the student chapter at the University of Pittsburgh, but after this news, forget it.


michael.p.snow said...

Going public isn't a bad thing, but not necessarily sufficient. The problem is even larger in intellectual property. Boeing deals all the time with firms that -- as their primary business -- intentionally establish patents with vague and broad claims and then look for new patents submitted by businesses with deep pockets (like Boeing) that could be construed as infringing. They're like spammers: they don't succeed most of the time, but they do succeed often enough to survive. Sucks.

Jennifer Snow said...

Oh, I know it's not sufficient (particularly in a culture that regards any large firm as a villain by default), but it's a good first step.

People who produce ANYTHING have always had a hellacious time getting paid for their work.