Law Technology News - Et tu, Marvel? [via BoingBoing]
For kids reared on comic books, what could be more natural than tumbling into the backyard with their friends to make up new adventures for their favorite superheroes? How many comic book fans adorned their grade-school notebooks with hand-drawn images of the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, and Captain America?
Apparently Marvel Enterprises, Inc., which owns the copyright and trademark rights in these classic superhero characters, thinks that these generations of American children were all infringers, little better than the downloaders targeted by the music and movie industries. At least that’s the impression left by a complaint filed Nov. 10 by Marvel against NCSoft Corporation and Cryptic Studios, the operators of an online game called “City of Heroes.”
[...] “City of Heroes” is, as described on the Web site, an “online world that’s home to an entire universe of heroes, where you and thousands of other players take on the roles of super powered heroes — in a stunning, 3D graphical world.” Players buy the “City of Heroes” software, create their own superhero characters from a palette of character types, powers and costumes, and then log into one of the various “City of Heroes” servers to join the action already in progress. The setting is “Paragon City,” where players seek out adventures with other players, develop the powers and abilities of their characters, and generally have enough fun to justify the monthly subscription fee of $14.
Enter Marvel and its league of lawyers. Marvel filed suit against the operators of “City of Heroes,” alleging copyright and trademark infringement, as well as a variety of state law claims. The chief claims are for contributory and vicarious copyright and trademark infringement. In other words, Marvel’s complaint is premised on the notion that NCSoft and Cryptic should be held responsible for the infringing activities of the players in the game. According to the complaint, the players are infringing Marvel’s copyrights and trademarks by creating characters that are recognizable copies of Marvel characters, including Wolverine and the Incredible Hulk.
Yes, you read that right — Marvel’s claim is based on the idea that private individuals who pretend to be Wolverine for fun in a video game are breaking the law.