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The Courts Games Your Rights Online

Games Workshop Sues Warhammer Online Fansite 182

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-anger-your-base-again dept.
chalkyj writes "WarhammerAlliance.com (run for the last five years as one of the leading fansites for the MMORPG Warhammer Online) is being sued by Games Workshop for the use of the 'Warhammer' name, 'cybersquatting' and 'unfair competition.' This lawsuit is yet another in Games Workshop's disturbing pattern of suing their fans and hobbyists, this time going after a legitimate fansite for their MMORPG franchise. The full complaint (PDF) has been posted online."
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Games Workshop Sues Warhammer Online Fansite

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  • "legitimate fansite" (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:31PM (#32139890)

    Owned and operated by a commercial company (Curse).

    Misleading news items? In my Slashdot?

  • by JorDan Clock (664877) <jordanclock@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:37PM (#32139952)
    The domain warhammeralliance.com was registered in 2005. But the lawsuit claims it happened in 2009. What's worse, GW even provided promotional materials (such as interviews) over the past five years.
  • by MicktheMech (697533) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:41PM (#32139980) Homepage
    As someone who's played GW games in the past I can tell you that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past year they've been sending C&Ds to lots of the tabletop fan sites. Lots of gamers have been moving towards Privateer Press who's attitude towards their customers compares like night and day to GW.
  • by psnyder (1326089) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:46PM (#32140030)
    Trademarks exist to help the public distinguish the original source of something. If it's possible that people may be confused and think this fan site is actually made by people at Warhammer, then they may have a trademark infringement case.
  • Typical GW (Score:5, Informative)

    by _KiTA_ (241027) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:48PM (#32140042) Homepage

    This is pretty typical GW stupidities.

    The one I like is how you can't sell Games Workshop games online -- they use the same theory to block that, too. See, Games Workshop sells their own miniatures on their own online store. GW prices are, to be charitable, completely fucking nuts. We're talking $35+ bucks for a single miniature, most armies using hundreds of miniatures. What people were doing were buying bulk orders from GW and GW's resellers, then reselling them online for 40-50% discounts.

    Well, can't have that, can we? So GW now prohibits anyone from selling their product for more than 20% off, and prohibits the use of online stores [thewarstore.com] to sell their product. How is that legal? Rule of first sale and the like?

    Hell if I know.

    I myself have rumbled with the big dumb collective -- their website had a simplistic naming scheme, so I guessed the URL of the Necromunda website (Necromunda is one of GW's "flavor of the year" games, wherein they release a rulebook with slightly tweaked rules, a new miniature set or 3, then promptly stop supporting after the early adopters give up some cash -- see also: Mordheim, Inquisitor, Bloodbowl, Battlefleet Gothic, Epic...) and posted screenshots of the incomplete page. I got a nastygram in my email pretty quickly. They were cordial enough about it, but they still had a "do this now or else" vibe going on.

    The local gaming store told me why he didn't like carrying GW products, either -- I was buying a Tyranid Hive Tyrant, and he flat out told me that GW would require he buy 2-4 Hive Tyrants to replace that single one. This is despite my purchase of said Hive Tyrant being the only HT purchase that year. GW requires minimum orders, GW requires minimum shelving space, GW requires X number of GW dedicated gaming tables, the works, in order to work with them instead of a re-reseller. And god forbid if you want to host official GW tournaments -- in order to be an official GW store you basically have to dedicate their entire store to them, and get used to buying the "new release of the week" and swapping it out, even if the existing stuff hasn't sold yet.

    Did I mention that GW also runs their own dedicated retail store network -- the "Rogue Traders", which means that even if you ARE dancing to the GW tune, you're still a dirty little competitor, and thus they hate you and want to see you suffer?

    There's no wonder Warhammer Online is an utter failure, why their wargames aren't selling anywhere near the levels they used to, the works. GW is, to be frank, toxic as hell to work with, and it is finally catching up to them.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:48PM (#32140048)

    That's true, but otoh, if you, even retroactively, give someone your blessing to use your trademark, you are doing enough to protect it. You only lose it if you allow someone to use it out of context or as a generic term. If they allowed "Warhammer game" to become the term for any kind of tabletop game, they certainly would be in trouble.

    To defend their trademark, all they would have had to do, in this case, is basically nothing. Their content was not used out of context (it was used in the Warhammer context, to promote a Warhammer franchise game).

  • by NPerez (930539) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:12PM (#32140234)
    Rather than hopping on the 'Screw GW!' bandwagon, I actually decided to rtfa and look into the situation.

    The site was originally a fan-site, and it was welcomed by GW. Then it was bought out by a corporation called Curse. Curse is running it with intent to make profit. It's common sense that a for-profit site with 'Warhammer' in the name is not exactly fair business.

    It's not a fan-site anymore. It's a corporate asset
  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:14PM (#32140258) Homepage

    Woops. Replied to fast.
    This fansite is operated by a commercial company for commercial purposes. That is most definitely NOT fair use.

  • It's worth noting (Score:5, Informative)

    by Runefox (905204) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @01:19PM (#32140296) Homepage

    If you look into the forums, the second post [warhammeralliance.com] actually explains that Games Workshop was promoting the site back in 2006 and that they had come to an agreement between the site, Games Workshop and Mythic Entertainment by way of a disclaimer. Apparently, they now allege that they had just discovered the site.

    Either there's incredibly bad miscommunication going on inside Games Workshop, or... Well, I can't really think of how anything else really sounds remotely sane about this. I'm not a fan of Warhammer Online or anything, but seriously?

  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:07PM (#32140674)

    The registration is through domain by proxy. The contact information is not false, it's just information for an intermediary. If using intermediaries was illegal GW's lawyers would be out of work.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:27PM (#32140812)

    Among other things, it asserts that the warhammeralliance.com domain was registered in 2009 using false WHOIS information, which would make this particular iteration of the site, at least, *way* younger than 5 years.

    I suspect that 2009 is just when they switched to using private WHOIS information during a renewal. Doing a WHOIS on warhammeralliance.com shows a creation date of November 3rd, 2004. However, the information is for a private registration via Domains by Proxy. That's not really anything unusual or nefarious though -- if I were running a site as an individual, I wouldn't want my contact information being broadcast to the world, either. The last thing you want is phone calls at 3 am and getting signed up for every conceivable junk mailing just because you booted a troll from your forums.

  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Informative)

    by mathias_thulmann (1796518) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:32PM (#32140848)
    We all know that lawyers are servants of the Chaos gods... Sigmar save us all...
  • by Unoti (731964) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @04:01PM (#32141464) Journal
    It's not a troll, it's informative-- from the perspective of explaining how trademark law works. The mod who marked it troll may not like it, but this is what the trademark law is about.
  • by Jer (18391) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @04:15PM (#32141576) Homepage

    Games Workshop is a strange beast. They've been like this for a long time. They treat their fans fairly poorly all around in general, and the fans generally put up with it.

    From what I understand, it's mostly a social network thing. There's a critical mass of gamers in a local area and while they might all at any point in time be severely pissed off at GW over something, it's not enough for them to dump their expensive investment in GW games and start doing something else. They'll complain about it, but it doesn't impact them directly enough to do more than that. Warhammer - and moreso Warhammer 40k - has been around long enough and people have enough of a financial and emotional investment in the game that GW seems to think that they don't need to worry about what the fans think of their business actions. Which at least for the moment seems to be true. Longer term GW might piss off fans enough that this bites them in the ass, but there seems to be something fairly compelling about the Warhammer 40k property (that I don't see myself, I guess) that keeps even the most angry 40k gamer coming back for more.

  • Re:Typical GW (Score:3, Informative)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @05:44PM (#32142206)

    So GW now prohibits anyone from selling their product for more than 20% off, and prohibits the use of online stores to sell their product. How is that legal?

    Well, apparently it just became legal. Supreme Court decision in June 2007 nullified the anti-trust law that made it illegal for manufacturers/wholesalers to mandate minimum retail prices. Surprised the heck out of me when I started googling the matter.

  • Re:Damm lawyers (Score:4, Informative)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @01:20AM (#32144914)

    It was the legal department that waylaid a bunch of sites last thanksgiving (2 days left to comply with most folks on vacation when the letter arrived- somehow taking 12 days to cross the sea from UK.

    They are jerks-- even sued the fan site that helped them redevelop the bloodbowl rules.

    I will not be buying their products again.

    There are too many other forms of entertainment-- more than you can consume in a lifetime-- to bother supporting jerks.

  • Re:It's worth noting (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sundo (1050980) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @04:32AM (#32145564)
    As was pointed out above, it's also worth noting that the website was recently acquired by http://www.curse.com/ [curse.com]. There is obviously a big difference in privately run fan site and a site owned by for-profit corporation like Curse. Naturally the agreements made with the previous owner do not hold after he sold the site to a corporation trying to make profit with it.

    I believe it is possible that they have recently discovered that the site is now ran to make profit. While I certainly don't like corporations suing devoted fans, I can see why they are suing the new owner of that site. It's not owned by a devoted fan anymore, it's a corporate asset. It may still be a bad move PR-wise, but it's lot more understandable than "suing a devoted fan site", which most people here seem to think is the case.
  • by Gaian-Orlanthii (1032980) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @10:12AM (#32147110)

    Anyone who's old enough to remember playing tabletop roleplaying games in the 80's and early 90's is likely already aware of Games Workshop's track record. They set boardgaming back by twenty years.

    After establishing themselves as the dominant games publisher in the U.K. and having formed a network of like-minds in the 'White Dwarf' magazine and Citadel Miniatures staff, GW merged with Citadel c1989 and White Dwarf became the house publication. Actually, I'll re-word that: It became a monthly advertisement for all things GW.

    White Dwarf was almost the only source of games news in those pre-internet days and it had the kind of persuasion and disinformation powers Rupert Murdoch could only envy. The letters page (what they had in place of forum posts in those days, kids) was first neutered (only GW fanboys got printed) then dropped altogether. Presumably because GW wanted to remove all traces of thinking from their fans. Only Games Workshop published games were reviewed - and always only every favourably - and only Games Workshop events were publicised. By 1992 it wasn't even covering anything outside of GW's current catalogue.

    Citadel Miniatures had also been co-opted. Their range of miniatures became so much a part of the GW product line that older miniatures were often renamed to suit GW's revised history.
    (E.g, a range of 1986 Elric of Melnibone characters became generic GW Elves and an early line of Lord Of The Rings characters were all dispersed to generic 'warrior' or 'wizard'. Even the White Dwarf himself was later redesignated 'Imperial Dwarf'.)
    As well as this, the style of the miniatures became ever more 'cartoon' and a lot of the earlier sexuality and violence was purged. Citadel used to have miniatures of slave-girls being roasted over open fires, nude Goblins and Ogres carrying sacks of bloody body parts. Now, every miniature is relentlessly (Christian) family-friendly.

    However Games Workshop's corporate policies are hardly 'friendly' in any sense of the word. Endlessly re-releasing the same core games as 'new' releases with (barely) altered rules, unreasonably overpricing miniatures (currently, a 5-man Space Marine squad costs £20. Twenty Pounds Sterling! for five plastic toy soldiers you're meant to paint yourself.), delaying deliveries and payments to competitors, endless recycling of illustrations and ideas, it goes on.

    A lot of gamers will point and say that GW has some great games and awesome miniatures but in fact, nothing GW does is original, their best work was pre-1993 and they don't make a single item that isn't designed specifically to shift large amounts of overpriced, crap, miniatures paint. Even the pulp fiction they churn out. There are good, cheaper miniatures made by their competitors. There are also far superior boardgames available (see http://www.boardgamegeek.com// [boardgamegeek.com]).

    It's pretty obvious at this stage that Games Workshop have no respect for their customers or fans. Most of their fans are teenagers and although teenagers with a Games Workshop habit need pretty well off parents to pay for their fix, GW clearly expects them to 'grow out of it' at some stage and piss off. Just as long as there's another generation of saps in line, GW doesn't care.

    And that, ladies and gentlegeeks, is why Games Workshop are bastards and why should anyone be surprised at anything they do?

  • by MicktheMech (697533) on Sunday May 09, 2010 @05:44PM (#32149918) Homepage
    I can't say I know much about how they fare internationally, but I do believe Australia has a pretty strong wargaming community, so I'm a bit surprised you're having trouble. Did you look at Irresistible Force [irresistibleforce.net]?

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