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September 2021
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Kickstarter For Hand-Drawn Video Game Manuals Shuts Down Due To IP Threat

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You may recall that about a year ago we discussed one man's attempt to digitize the game manuals for really old games. Notably, that project didn't appear to face any threats over copyright laws by the normal companies -- Nintendo, Konami, etc -- though that almost certainly was partially the result of the project not being a commercial endeavor, but a simple attempt at art preservation that would clearly be covered by fair use. But the overall point is that there is a thirst for this sort of thing, especially when you realize that some of these game manuals are endangered species, close to being lost for all eternity.Well, apparently there is at least one company out there that is not so keen on letting something similar to that go forward if it means anyone is going to collect money over it. A Kickstarter for hand-drawn recreations of the sorts of video game guides that were popular decades ago, which far exceeded its initial goal, voluntarily shut itself down after facing unspecified legal threats.

Near the end of a staggeringly successful Kickstarter campaign, Hand-Drawn Game Guides was cancelled. Philip Summers, the individual behind this campaign, cancelled his Kickstarter due to legal pressure from unknown parties. In a statement released on Hand-Drawn Game Guides' Kickstarter, Summers says:"Tonight I pulled the plug on the Hand-Drawn Game Guides Kickstarter. Yes, for exactly the reason you think it’s for. I had hoped that I could successfully navigate any legal trouble, but alas I wasn’t able to do so."
Summers made it clear elsewhere that none of this was unforeseen, nor is he particularly angry about it. The source of the legal threats was never specified, but it's clear that Summers is facing some kind of copyright or trademark threat by one of the gaming companies that owns the rights for the games he's creating new manuals/guides for. It could be one of many companies, of course, though it won't surprise regular readers here to learn that I very much suspect it's Nintendo. If it is, the company can certainly argue it has a valid copyright claim on these manuals, assuming it has the relevant IP rights for them. But, as is always the question, why does Nintendo or whichever company made these threats feel the need to go this route?Summers started his campaign seeking $20k, but ended up amassing over $300k in pledges for the project, all for hand-drawn video game guides for very old games.
Summers' guides deal with IPs by Nintendo, including The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Just recently, Nintendo issued a cease and desist for Metroid Prime 2D, a game starring Samus Aran and based on the Metroid series, and not long ago they hit The Legend of Zelda: The Missing Link a fan-game that bridged Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask. Contra and Ninja Gaiden guides backers could have purchased, so legal pressure Konami, Koei Tecmo, or Nintendo is possible but not confirmed by any party. As we've seen previously, fan-made projects ending due to legal reasons is nothing new for the industry.This campaign aimed to bring guides of retro video games to the masses, which were completely hand-drawn and went over the workings of each title. This included tips and tricks, maps of dungeons and other levels, and more.
If there is an actual threat in any of that to any of the named companies, I am failing to see it. Instead, I only see the desire for total control over intellectual property playing out in such a way so as to destroy an otherwise wildly successful Kickstarter by someone who is obviously a very big fan of retro video games and the guidebooks of the past. And if that doesn't sound like Nintendo, I don't know what does.For now, Summers and his publisher are making it clear that the project isn't necessarily 100% dead, asking backers to stay tuned. But in the meantime, the funding for the Kickstarter has been canceled, all because someone had to kill the fun.

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posted at: 12:00am on 15-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Critics Of Patent Waivers Are Claiming They Were Right... Despite No Patent Waiver Actually Issuing Yet

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We were surprised, but pleased, when the US announced plans to support a patent waiver for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines (over Hollywood's strenuous objections). As you'll recall, the TRIPS agreement (an onerous, oppressive set of "intellectual property" rules that many countries have agreed to) includes a "waiver" process, in which the WTO will effectively waive international patent protection on certain patented items in an emergency situation. The COVID-19 crisis seemed to fit the exact intent of the waiver process, and yet there's been a lot of pushback from patent and copyright maximalists who hate the very idea of waiving copyright or patent monopoly rights on anything for any reason at all.Many of those against the waiver insisted that their reason for being against the waiver is that it wasn't patents that were holding up vaccines and treatments, but larger supply chain issues. They ignore, of course, that some of those supply chain issues are also because of overly aggressive intellectual property laws, or that both things can be true. Either way, Michael Rosen, who insisted that a waiver was a terrible idea, has now penned a piece for The Hill insisting that his view has proved correct because the waiver process has done nothing to help deal with COVID-19.Of course, the reason it's done nothing is because people like the author have been getting groups to protest the waiver and so it hasn't even been approved yet. I mean, the piece even admits that the problem here is not the waiver, so much as the slowness of the WTO in approving it.

... the WTO is uniquely unsuited to move quickly on the proposal given its bureaucratic and consensus-driven nature. Opposition to the waiver proposal in late July, primarily from the European Union (EU), has delayed further discussion until at least October, because disagreement persisted on the fundamental question of what is the appropriate and most effective way to address the shortage and inequitable access to vaccines and other COVID-related products. By the time the TRIPS waiver receives proper consideration, the Delta wave may have passed.
But... that's not an argument against the waiver. It's an argument for the WTO to get its shit together, and for people to stop trying to oppose the damn waiver.The other two reasons Rosen gives are no better.
First, the suspension of intellectual property (IP) rights will not quickly deliver shots in arms in the developing world, as the past four months have amply shown.
No one is saying that's the only thing that needs to be done -- but, also, how the hell can you say that it won't deliver shots when the waiver still hasn't come to pass yet?!?
... generic manufacturers cannot simply flip a switch and begin producing doses; instead, they must master the formulation of complex compounds (some of which involve mRNA), and their medicines must undergo local regulatory scrutiny for safety and effectiveness.
Yeah. You know what would help them get the ball rolling so that they can get those processes up and running sooner? Not having to worry about bogus patent infringement claims.And, of course, this kind of thing wouldn't be complete without a bogus claim of the great innovation incentive that patents bring.
Finally, the suspension of vaccine-related IP rights fundamentally undermines the global innovation regime that brought us these miraculous drugs in the first place wildly effective vaccines developed in absolute record time.
That's bullshit. The incentive to produce these vaccines was not patents, but saving the damn world. Second, the first of those vaccines, from Moderna, was developed in just two days because Chinese researchers uploaded the details of the coronavirus and made it openly available to researchers, rather than locking it up. In other words, it wasn't locking down information with patents that got us this vaccine, it was the opposite.

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posted at: 12:00am on 15-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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