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Humble Indie Bundle dev suffers "illegal" game cloning

Thu 03 Feb 2011 3:04pm GMT / 10:04am EST / 7:04am PST
LegalDevelopment

Cloner claims he can sell cheaper copy of Lugaru due to source code release

Wolfire Games, organiser of the recent $1 million-earning Humble Indie Bundle and developer of indie action game Lugaru, has fallen prey to "illegal" game cloning.

Wolfire alleges that a group of developers including Alex Matlin and Michael Latour, in the guise of 'iCoder' was guilty of " simply downloading the app and resubmitting it to the same distribution channel at a lower price."

Wolfire's Lugaru HD sells on the Mac App Store for $10, and iCoder's 'Lugaru' for $0.99.

Matlin has claimed to Kotaku that "we have every legal right to market and sell the software" as "the license we were granted allows for non-exclusive redistribution of the source code or the compiled product, modified or unmodified, for a fee or free of charge."

This relates to Wolfire's release of Lugaru source code as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, but the studio in its license "made it very clear that the authors retained all rights to the assets, characters, and everything else aside from the code itself.

"It's as legal for them to sell Lugaru as it would be for them to sell Quake 3, Marathon, Aquaria, or Arx Fatalis. That is to say, it is completely illegal."

Apple has thus far declined to respond to Wolfire's request that the cloned game be pulled, with first contact having been made "a few days ago."

The iPhone firm's reaction to cloning and copyright infringement has been varied in the past. It initially complied with Tim Langdell's take-down orders on any games using the word 'edge' but did not intervene following news that League of Epic Heroes borrowed very heavily from Desktop Dungeons, and took some time to respond to the release of a direct copy (even retaining the name) of The Blocks Cometh.

Observed Wolfire," this incident may make developers much less likely to release the source code to their games. Even if Apple takes the counterfeit game down tomorrow, that is theoretically a week of sales down the drain."

Even beyond Apple, while copyright and trademarks are subject to strict laws, simple plagiarism and the theft of ideas remains very much a grey area.

15 Comments

James Taylor Studying Games and Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology

11 0 0.0
Charity repackaged for profit. Cunts.

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship

201 348 1.7
That is a really shitty thing to do to what seem like a great bunch of guys. Saw them speak at AGDC in 2009, thought they were ace.

Hopefully, given the extremely-engaged nature of the Wolfire fanbase, not too many will be taken in and it won't hurt their sales too badly. Also hope Apple act quickly.

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Christopher Bowen Owner, Gaming Bus

118 0 0.0
So how do we go about blacklisting these developers who did this? Like, make them the kind of punchline currently reserved for people like Tim Langdell?

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Matt Hackett Game Developer, Lost Decade Games

49 2 0.0
They made my blacklist. Well done iCoder, you dopes.

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
I would imagine that this sort of "business strategy" will continue; it doesn't take too many people willing to trade a large harm to the community for a small advantage to themselves for this to happen. (Spam e-mail is the classic example, and look how much success we've had erradicating that after ten years of some of our best and brightest working on it.)

This will annoy legitimate developers and make them less inclined to develop for Apple's platform; the question is, will this be costly enough to Apple that they'll have to do anything about it?

I suspect that there may be a not-too-difficult solution out there for this particular situation: have developers sign a statement that they own or are authorized to use all IP within the product they're uploading and, should justified complaints come in, freeze the account and hand any profits over to the real IP owner. Adjudicating the dispute is the most difficult and costly part of this.

But this doesn't cover the situation where someone steals an "idea"; i.e., they clone a game without using any of the original code or art. I don't imagine that there's really any legal remedy to this, and there's certainly nothing easily available to indie developers.

The only solution there is for the platform owner to itself adjudicate these things, as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo do with their consoles. (They'll simply reject anything that's clearly a clone of another game in the interests of protecting both their developers of original games.) But I'm not sure Apple would really want to get in to that, or find it profitable.

This tends to make me think that the "appli" market, or at least the market for those without an on-line service behind them providing the significant value of the application, is going to turn into a massive sea of extremely low-priced mediocre software. To compete effectively as a games developer, you want to have a team of programmers and artists who work quickly and very cheaply. You need minimal investment in design, since it's generally copied from other games, and not much investment in QA either, since it's more important that your game be cheap than good.

If this doesn't appeal to you, I see two alternatives. First, go work for or get published by a large company that is in gaming for the long term (and thus concerned about their reputation) and has the marketing dollars to get the publicity needed to cut through the crap. (EA, Activision, whatever.) Second, develop for platforms that exercise strict control to keep this kind of thing from happening, such as those from Sony, MS and Nintendo.

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Adam Yaure Studying MSc Games Programming, University of Hull

18 0 0.0
"Apple has thus far declined to respond to Wolfire's request that the cloned game be pulled"

Well done Apple =_=

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Yaure on 4th February 2011 7:07am

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany

822 654 0.8
'iCoder'? more like "iStoleit" if you ask me.

Blacklisted.

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Mark Hill Studying Computing & Networks, University of Abertay Dundee

21 0 0.0
Isn't this the sort of thing the DMCA is supposed to prevent?
Surely a takedown notice would be appropriate, and require quick response from Apple?

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Abraham Tatester Producer

71 53 0.7
Oh vigilante hackers of justice, where are you when we need you?

Posted:3 years ago

#9

David Bachowski VP Business Development, Babaroga

66 0 0.0
@Abraham LOL one of the truest things I have ever read

Posted:3 years ago

#10
What a disgrace. I wonder if they'd have the guts to take out the middle man and steal from charity tins.

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Iain McNulty Software / Game Developer, Yanxen

34 39 1.1
I'd love to know why Apple's reaction to claims of cloning and copyright infringement is so inconsistant.

Posted:3 years ago

#12
Why did the author of this article put the word illegal in quotes? It's not as though there's some gray area where this wouldn't violate basic copyright law. The code ma be resold so long as they have not altered it. But all rights to the assets are still reserved. Obnoxious and immoral.

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Robert Turner Studying Games Programming, SAE Institute

24 0 0.0
This makes me sad . . . . Being able to look at the source code of a released game is an amazing gift, that is probably worth more to a budding developer than the game itself. But if people like those at iCoder abuse it this way and the large companies thought responsible for protecting small devs from this kind of theft simply sit on the fence and do NOTHING (speak up Apple, NOW) Then developers simply wont release source code, and many people miss out on something they could really learn from.

Posted:3 years ago

#14

Steven Yau Senior Game Developer, King.com

17 0 0.0
From GameDev: [link url=http://www.gamedev.net/topic/594695-selling-other-peoples-games-for-money/page__view__findpost__p__4769337
]http://www.gamedev.net/topic/594695-sell...[/link]

It appears in a source release, they haven't included a specific license for the assets which can go against them here.

Posted:3 years ago

#15

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