We here at 8bitrocket.com spend a lot of time trying to educate small developers on the issues of Intellectual Property" (I.P. or IP). Why? Well, one because we love you. Two, because we both have vast experience working for major corporations that really take the issue of "Intellectual Property" seriously. These large corporations all have tons of lawyers, on-staff, and ready to sue. However, that is not all, there are many companies that do business with their lawyers. That is, they are more apt to sue first and ask questions later. In fact, in many cases it does not even matter if you (the indie developer we love) are in the "right" or not. All that matters is that you are tied-up in court spending money you don't have to fight a lawsuit that could have been otherwise avoided.
In our yearly predictions from last year, we had this one: "an I.P. incident similar to the Facebook "Scrabulous" issue will rock the viral, Flash game world. It will force many domestic U.S./Europe portals to screen games more closely...". We were wrong about the Flash market, as this has not happened yet. However, yesterday a funny yet slightly disturbing story came out of Game Set Watch. Apparently, a joke was created on the New Zealand gaming site Game Console about a "breakout/arkanoid" style game for the Playstation Network that was going to get a "William Shatner/Star Trek" graphical overhaul. While it was a funny joke, someone took it very seriously... William Shatner's lawyers!
Not only was cease a desist letter sent to the developer of the game threatening a lawsuit, but they also claimed to have alerted Paramount Studios of the this "I.P. crime". In a vacuum, this story has all the elements of something quite funny. Its got uptight lawyers, William Shatner, and mistaken identity, etc. However, the internet is not a vacuum. (unless you consider that some days it totally SUCKS). Since we see these kinds of I.P. issues with viral Flash games almost daily, it is only a matter of time before some tiny Flash developer is sued for all their Mochipennies (plus legal costs - read: $$$$$) because they used a copyrighted Megan Fox image in their dress-up game. We await the hammer to fall. In any event, I claim another one of our predictions to now be validated.