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Let's talk about monumental stupidity -- in other words, let's talk about the Comic Book Industry.

Marvel Comics is suing City of Heroes, because it's too easy to make characters who look like Marvel characters in the game.

Okay, let's stop for a moment and have a look at the Terms of Service for the game:

(e) Character Name. In order to use the service, you must create a character and choose a name for your character to identify your character to other Members (your "Character Name"). You may not select as your Character Name the name of another person, or a name which violates any third party's trademark right, copyright, or other proprietary right, or which may mislead other players to believe you to be an employee of NC Interactive, or which NC Interactive deems at its sole discretion to be vulgar or otherwise offensive. NC Interactive reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (1) delete or alter any Character Name or (2) terminate any license granted herein, for any reason whatsoever, including, without limitation, any suspected or actual infringement of any trademark or trade name right, copyright, or other proprietary right.


(f) Super Group Names, Super Group Member Titles, Battle Cry, and Character Description. While accessing the service, it is possible to name your Super Group, give titles to members of your Super Group, create a Battle Cry, and write a Character Description. You may not create a Battle Cry, Character Description, give a name to a Super Group, or give a title to a Super Group member that is the name/description/title of another person, or a name/description/title which violates any third party's trademark right, copyright, or other proprietary right, or which may mislead other players to believe you to be an employee of NC Interactive, or which NC Interactive deems at its sole discretion to be vulgar or otherwise offensive. NC Interactive reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to (1) delete or alter any name/description/title given to a Super Group, Super Group Member, Battle Cry, or Character Description or (2) terminate any license granted herein, for any reason whatsoever, including, without limitation, any suspected or actual infringement of any trademark or trade name right, copyright, or other proprietary right.

In other words, you're explicitly prohibited from naming your character "Iron Man," your superhero group "The Avengers," use the battle cry "IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME," or use character or super group descriptions that make it clear you're just playing the X-Men. There is a mechanism in-game for slapping down people you see wearing Superman's togs (more or less) or the eight thousand variants of "Wolvernine" or "LogaNNN" out there.

This is apparently not enough for Marvel. They want to sue to force Cryptic to somehow prevent characters from modeling Marvel heroes at all, period, by hobbling the character creation tools so they can't possibly create the Hulk or Spider Man in any context.

It's not possible.

It's not possible. People are damn good at making graphics tools model what they want to model. Cryptic can only block explicit name-choosing and respond aggressively to reports that come in. They have no capacity whatsoever to ensure no one will dress a character up like the Black Widow. I mean, Jesus Christ, it's a grey leather jumpsuit. It's not like they can prevent people from choosing grey leather.

All this can possibly do is piss off video game fans and bias them against Marvel. And to be blunt, that doesn't do Marvel any good. Comic books are increasingly niche products. Teenagers aren't buying the Avengers -- thirty year olds are. And that's mostly okay with Marvel, because it's sale of the trademarks that drives their business now, not sale of the comics. Which is why they're suing, because they feel needlessly threatened.

Well, this won't kill off City of Heroes. It'll mean that there's going to be a lot stricter policing of character knockoffs, but I'm okay with that. Frankly, I get pretty bored with the Solid Snakes I've seen running around. However, it will pretty quickly be determined that Cryptic took steps to ensure Due Diligence, and the case will be dismissed. Or, Cryptic and Marvel will come to an accommodation before it ever reaches that stage. This won't end up being any big deal.

Except, of course, to Marvel's potential market. They will be pissed off at Marvel.

Someone explain to me how that's a good thing for Marvel. Seriously. I'd like to hear it.

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Comments

Friend speaks my mind.

I've blogged about this today myself at http://www.xanga.com/item.aspx?user=gravity&tab=weblogs&uid=156633083

And I popped a topic almost calling for a boycott of Marvel at Yirmumahville Forums: http://forums.pvcomics.com/viewtopic.php?t=993&sid=2d8cac7faba8f692cccd88dc41afbc45

It's completely outrageous for Marvel to do this. They must be stopped.

Unfortunately, cases like this usually are decided on whoever is willing to throw more money to the sharks, rather than who is right. Also, Dave Van Domelen argues against a boycott in his LJ at http://www.livejournal.com/users/dvandom/24955.html .

You may be amused by Scott Kurtz's response to this.

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