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Bethesda denied in preliminary Fallout MMO ruling

Court rules against publisher in case against Interplay and Masthead

Bethesda has suffered a minor setback in the ongoing case against Interplay and Masthead over the potential copyright infringement involved in the development of a Fallout MMO.

Judge John F Walter denied the publisher's request for a temporary restraining order against the game's co-developer, Masthead studios, without even waiting for Masthead to file a defence plea. Bethesda had alleged that by involving Masthead in the process of development, it has improperly sub-licensed the game's rights.

"[Bethesda] has not demonstrated that it will be irreparably prejudiced if the requested ex parte relief is not granted, or that it is without fault in creating the crisis that requires ex parte relief," reads Walter's statement.

"Indeed, Plaintiff was aware as early as February 2011 that Masthead was potentially infringing its copyrights."

As the temporary restraining order is designed to deal with emergency situations, where the time taken to reach a final judgement could prove damaging to the plaintiff, the denial is not a ruling that no copyright infringement has taken place, merely an assertion that Bethesda has no right to fast-track a judgement.

The case has been rumbling on in some form for several years, following Interplay licensing the Fallout IP exclusively to Bethesda in 2007.

Bethesda simultaneously licensed some rights back for the exclusive purpose of creating a Fallout branded MMO.

However, Bethesda maintains that the agreement also meant that only the Fallout name was to be used in the game, not any of the characters, technology, locations or any other recognisable device. The publisher also asserts that Interplay has failed to meet agreed development targets for the game, codenamed 'Project V13'.

Interplay contested that interpretation of the agreement, calling it absurd and telling press that they had offered Bethesda the rights to a Fallout MMO, but that the publisher refused to meet the $50 million pricetag.

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Dan Pearson

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