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Gaming Like It's 1923: Winners Coming Soon!

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Judging is almost complete! If you entered our public domain game jam Gaming Like It's 1923, or if you've been following along, get ready for the upcoming announcement of the winners in our six categories:

  • Best Analog Games
  • Best Digital Game
  • Best adaptation of a 1923 work
  • Best remixing of multiple sources
  • Best Deep Cut (use of a work not listed on any of the round up articles)
  • Best Visuals
If you haven't had a chance to try out any of the games, go check out the submission page where you'll find all 35 entries, with a mix of analog and digital games in a wide variety of genres and styles, all based on works that entered the public domain in 1923.Our panel of judges has finished trying out the entries, and now we're tallying up their scores and going through their reviews to determine the final winners, who'll be receiving prizes including Techdirt swag and copies our our game, CIA: Collect It All. We'll be announcing the results in the next week or two, so stay tuned for an announcement!Thanks to everyone who entered the jam, everyone who's tried out the entries, and of course our panel of judges!

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posted at: 12:00am on 17-Feb-2019
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Wrestler Booker T Sues Activision For Copyright Infringement Over Fairly Generic Character Depiction

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It's old hat by now to point out that on matters of copyright far too many people are unaware of the nuances of the law as to what constitutes infringement and what doesn't. While this is generally true, it's all the more so when it comes to how copyright covers specific characters or settings. For instance, George Lucas may have a copyright claim on the specific character of Darth Vader, but he most certainly does not have any claim to the more generic black-armored space-magician with a laser sword and a bad attitude. Copyright covers expression, in other words, not mere ideas.Which brings us to ex-WWE wrestler Booker T and his lawsuit against Activision over a G.I. Bro character he created and a character in Black Ops 4.

Booker T. Huffman has filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision for allegedly stealing his “G.I Bro” character in the Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 video game.Huffman filed a lawsuit today against Activision Publishing, Inc, Activision Blizzard, Inc., and Major League Gaming Corp.The lawsuit alleges that Booker T’s character G.I Bro was copied by the Black Ops character David “Prophet” Wilkes. Booker T used the G.I Bro character in the 90s as a professional wrestler, and also created a comic book based on the character in 2015.
You can read the entire filing below, but I will tell you right up front that this isn't a strong case. Booker T is asserting copyright infringement over a character that does not share a name with his, does not share a backstory with his, and does not exist in the same setting as his. Instead, it appears the only thing the two characters do share is that both are African American gunslingers in combat gear with long hair. Seriously, that's about it. The filing itself uses these side by side images to demonstrate the "blatant copying" that has occurred.
If you think there is any kind of unique identifier in Activision's image on the right that somehow makes it a clear copy of Booker T's character, you're a crazy person. Again, to put it bluntly, it's just an African American guy with long hair in combat gear. Complicating Booker T's suit further, this is an established character in the Black Ops ethos, with this supposedly infringing depiction being simply some imagery around when Prophet was younger. The character is Prophet, full stop. It's not G.I. Bro at all and nobody is going to think otherwise, except apparently for Booker T and whatever lawyers he convinced to file this lawsuit.And none of that even touches Booker T's own character's name, a clear homage and reference to G.I. Joe. One wonders if Hasbro wants to get involved at this point, given the stink that's being made over intellectual property rights.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-Feb-2019
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Appeals Court Takes No Time At All In Rejecting Patent Troll's Ridiculous Lawsuit Against Cloudflare

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You may recall that back in May of 2017, a patent trolling operation called Blackbird Technologies picked on the wrong internet company to troll. Having built up some success blasting frivolous lawsuits at other internet companies, it chose to go after Cloudflare. That was a mistake. Cloudflare didn't just hit back, it promised to destroy the patent trolling firm, Blackbird Technologies. It opened up a campaign to crowdsource prior art not just on the patent at issue in its lawsuit but on every patent that Blackbird Technology claimed to hold.Almost exactly a year ago, Cloudflare won its case with the court invalidating the patent. It was such an easy decision that it took US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria barely over a page explaining why the patent was so clearly invalid and the case was dismissed.Blackbird, for reasons that escape me, decided to appeal to the Federal Circuit. Now, we've spent the better part of two decades mocking the Federal Circuit and its history of nutty decisions, but there are some cases so obviously bad that even the CAFC can't fuck them up. This is one. A CAFC panel heard the case last week and found the situation so utterly stupid that it only took a few days for it to affirm the lower court ruling. Indeed, its ruling is even shorter than the district court's ruling. The CAFC opinion doesn't even say anything other than: "Affirmed."Ouch.According to Cloudflare's General Counsel, Doug Kramer, in a blog post on Cloudflare's site, the CAFC panel didn't have a single question for the company's lawyers (which is nearly unheard of), leaving him with tons of extra time:

A panel of three judges from that court heard arguments on the appeal last Friday, but didn't ask our attorney a single question about the substance of our argument on the abstractness of the patent. He sat down with almost half of his 15 minutes of argument time left because there was nothing more to say. Yesterday, just three business days after that hearing, the court affirmed the lower court's decision in summary fashion, which means they didn't even write about the claims or arguments, they just said Affirmed (see below).
Of course, as Kramer further notes in the post, even "easy victories" take a ton of time and resources, not to mention other kinds of costs that can impact a business in lots of ways:
Blackbird filed this case in March 16, 2017. For nearly two years, anyone doing due diligence on Cloudflare might have had questions about whether there was a cloud over our rights to our technology. And we had to go through a lot of briefing, and the related legal expenses, to get to this point. Blackbird's combined legal filings at the district court and appellate court amounted to more than 650 pages, our responsive briefs were more than 900 pages.The two courts spent less than two pages describing a result that was obvious to them, but it took us two years of uncertainty and cost to get there. Federal court litigation doesn't make anything easy. Even if Blackbird had won the case, it is not clear they would have been able to collect significant damages. Our allegedly infringing use was not a product or feature that we charged for or made money from - it was essentially posting interstitial messages for various errors. Even though we were able to win this case early in the legal process and keep our costs as low as possible, it's possible we spent more money resolving this matter than Blackbird would have been able to collect from us after trial.
This is why trolling works. This is why so many plaintiffs use the judicial system as a weapon, even when their lawsuits clearly have no merit. Even to get an "easy win" you can lose, big time.

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posted at: 12:00am on 16-Feb-2019
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FBI's Internal Investigations Of Shootings By Agents Clears Agents 98% Of The Time

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An agency that investigates itself will almost always clear itself. The FBI, which still allows interviews of suspects to be "memorialized" with pen-and-paper recollections by the interviewer, is allowed to handle its own internal investigations of deadly force deployment. Unsurprisingly, FBI agents are rarely found to have acted inappropriately.

New FBI data obtained exclusively by NBC News shows the bureau found fault with the actions of agents five times in 228 shooting incidents from 2011 to the present. Eighty-one were intentional shootings involving people or objects, 34 were intentional shootings of animals, and 113 were accidental discharges.
The large number of cleared incidents quite possibly includes this list of questionable shootings:
  • In August, an FBI agent was acquitted of federal criminal charges that he lied about firing his weapon in a 2016 standoff with right-wing extremists in Oregon. The FBI declined to comment on any disciplinary investigation.
  • In June, an FBI agent — off-duty but armed with a handgun — accidentally shot someone in a Denver nightclub after he did a backflip that dislodged his weapon. He pleaded guilty to third degree assault and was sentenced to two years probation. The FBI would not discuss his status at the bureau.
  • In 2016, an FBI agent shot a 31-year-old man during a military-style raid to serve a warrant on a different person. The FBI says the man was armed; his family, which has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, disputes that and adds that he was blind in one eye and disabled. The FBI declined to comment on the case.
  • In 2015, the FBI terminated an agent who fired his weapon from a second-story apartment in Queens, shooting an unarmed man as he tried to burglarize the agent's car on the street below.
It's impossible to say if any of these might be one of the five incidents the FBI found problematic. The agency refused to comment on any of these shootings when questioned by NBC.Very little information can be obtained by those seeking to hold the FBI responsible for wounding them or killing their loved ones. Even as the FBI has tentatively encouraged other law enforcement agencies to be more proactive in releasing information about officer-involved shootings, it hasn't applied the same level of transparency to its internal investigations. What has been released is heavily-redacted, giving readers little to work with but a few raw numbers.This is especially of concern to Junior Valladares, whose father was shot by an FBI agent during a hostage situation in Houston, Texas. His father was the hostage. According to the FBI, an agent poked a gun through a window to try to shoot the man holding Junior's father hostage. The gun was grabbed by someone in the room, resulting in the agent firing two shots into the room. One of those two bullets struck and killed Ulises Valladares, who was tied up on the couch.The hostage was the only person in the room, and the FBI went on record as stating it was the hostage who grabbed the rifle. It seems like an unlikely thing for a bound hostage to do, but the FBI has stuck to this story. Houston police chief Art Acevedo -- who is dealing with the fallout from a botched raid himself -- stated at a news conference last fall he no longer believes the FBI's narrative. It's unclear what Acevedo has seen that has changed his mind, but at this same news conference he called out the FBI for allowing the investigation to drag on for months, denying Valladares' son any closure.Law enforcement agencies have proven time and time again they can't be trusted to police themselves. The FBI is no exception.

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posted at: 12:00am on 15-Feb-2019
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