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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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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you don't defend it, you potentially lose it. If you do defend it, you look like a jerk. What they need to do is come up with a $0 license for the site to use the name for specific purposes.

    • 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).

      • To defend their trademark, all they would have had to do, in this case, is basically nothing.

        Except - doing nothing is doing nothing, not defending.

      • You know, it would have been better from a PR stand point to have the lawyers and whomever draft up some kind of Trademark usage license for the site. I know that we have such agreements with several companies that clearly define what and how we can use their logos and marks. Hell, most of the agreements are only one sheet of paper. It would have seemed to make more sense for any company to make a reasonable and fair deal.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      I don't think you need to defend against fair use.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mwvdlee (775178)

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

  • Wow (Score:4, Funny)

    by deep9x (1068252) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @11:56AM (#32139618) Homepage
    Getting sued by GW must be frightening. You can never be sure when they're going to declare Exterminatus on your offices.
    • Well, considering how their fans and customers probably know more about the way an Exterminatus works than any exec at GW, I wouldn't be so certain which side should be frightened...

      • Aye (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Moraelin (679338)

        Aye, a few fans showing up with chainsaws and cries of "Blood For The Blood God!" would probabl be scary ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      We all know that lawyers are servants of the Chaos gods... Sigmar save us all...
  • Electronic Arts has done more the pollute the good name of Warhammer than any fan site.

  • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:00PM (#32139640)

    ... the ones you love

    another in Games Workshop's disturbing pattern of suing their fans and hobbyists,

    • Love? They despise their customers.

  • In the past, I've considered both playing the tabletop game, and did play the MMO beta. After reading about their past and present legal idiocy, I decided to take a pass.

  • Does it really never occur to anyone in the "common sense" departments of these corporations that suing devoted fans leads to having fewer of them? And that further, making it difficult to find fan sites (by suing them just for using the name of your product) also diminishes the fanbase? Seriously, if I want to meet other people who play Warhammer Online, a place called warhammeralliance.com is going to be the first place I stop. I'm not going to go to the "Warhammer Fan Page" on wecantusethenameoftheproduc
    • Common Sense department

      Hahahahaha! Good one!

    • Obviously you've never run a major corporation *intotheground* before!

    • by SpeedyDX (1014595) <speedyphoenix&gmail,com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:27PM (#32139858)

      Dear fans,

      Please be advised that usage of the Warhammer(TM)®© name on third party websites is not legally authorized. However, we really do value our beloved fans. To show our sincerity, we have come up with a few example names that you may wish to use* to set up your fan site for your favourite online game, Warhammer(TM)®© Online. Instead of Warhammer(TM)®© Alliance, please consider another name similar to the following:

      - Battlesmasher Alliance
      - Fightmace Alliance
      - Pewpewbangbang Friends

      Now it's your turn! Try making up some names to refer to the Warhammer(TM)®© franchise without actually using the word Warhammer(TM)®©. It's more fun than you think! More fun than Warhammer(TM)®© Online anyway.

      Thanks for your support of the Warhammer(TM)®© franchise.

      Sincerely,
      Games Workshop.

      * No matter how much you wish to use them, Battlesmasher Alliance, Fightmace Alliance, and Pewpewbangbang Friends are registered trademark copyright properties of Games Workshop and may not be used for any reason whatsoever in any third party materials.

      • Now it's your turn! Try making up some names to refer to the Warhammer(TM)®© franchise without actually using the word Warhammer(TM)®©.

        Um, do you mean something that is similar enough to the name and yet describes the company? Something like ConflictTools(TM)®©, 'cuz, you know, they are.

      • by selven (1556643)

        Dear Games Workshop,

        Please be advised that usage of the BattleSmasher(TM)®©(pat. pend.) name on third party websites is not legally authorized. However, we are not nearly as nice as you are, so we will be collecting $80,000 damages for each of your two uses of the BattleSmasher(TM)®©(pat. pend.) name.

        Sincerely,

        BattleSmasher(TM)®©(pat. pend.) Horde

    • The common sense department was downsized due to the economy crisis, we had to cut everything that isn't directly involved in making money.

  • by sourcerror (1718066) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:01PM (#32139652)

    I can't imagine anything worse for their PR. No amount of advertisement can fix that.

    • by hibiki_r (649814) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:02PM (#32139666)

      They took down a bunch of stuff from BoardGameGeek too: They are doing their best to commit PR Suicide.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by QuantumLeaper (607189)
        They took it down because the reviews stunk. I don't know anyone who plays GW stuff anymore, even though they have a store in town. A decade ago, I know a dozen or more who played regularly.
    • by Draek (916851)

      I can't imagine anything worse for their PR. No amount of advertisement can fix that.

      Sadly, Blizzard has been proving you wrong for quite some time now.

      • by Rallion (711805)

        Blizzard doesn't shut down fansites. Shutting down cheating software and software that can be used for piracy is really not even close to the same thing.

    • 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.

  • by masmullin (1479239) <masmullin@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:07PM (#32139700)

    Im going to open a fan site for corporations that sue their fans.

    • So instead of the dotcom deadpool site fuckedcompany you could make a fanbase deadpool site. That could be fun!
  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:15PM (#32139754) Homepage

    Two points:

    1. It's not cybersquatting when the domain name is used for legitimate purposes.
    2. I don't know about trademark law, but a non-legal, average person interpretation of the term "unfair competition" suggests that you'd have to be competing against the trademark holder rather than expressing support for their product.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by psnyder (1326089)
      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.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Unoti (731964)
        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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      I don't know about trademark law, but a non-legal, average person interpretation of the term "unfair competition" suggests that you'd have to be competing against the trademark holder rather than expressing support for their product.

      Perhaps the "unfair competition" comes from having a more popular fan site than the company's own Internet properties? They are both "embarrassed" and "irritated" that they are not leveraging those fans to the fullest financial extent on their own site... Idiots. Typical MBAs.

  • This is a natural consequence of intellectual property for something like GW who essentially relies on people consuming their storytelling, artwork and game mechanics. On one hand, the publisher wants you to be able to do what you want with their IP, but on the other, they don't want you to go so far as to start competing with them in the development of IP. It's a moronic business philosophy, the same as putting DRM on your video discs trying to stop attackers who are the exact same people as the users.
    • Er, oops, that last part should read:

      Traditionally, the stumbling block has been a lack of good artwork, but NWN proved that a sufficiently motivated community could come up with decent artwork and 3D models (a lot of which I admit were ripped from elsewhere, but people used them just the same).

    • I remember seeing this all the time with NWN mods based on Tolkien's work, a couple of them shut down for fear of being sued by Tolkien's estate.

      that the heirs of the guy who wrote about a struggle against an evil overlord residing in a castle, became very much like that overlord themselves.

  • Looks like they (Score:3, Interesting)

    by toxygen01 (901511) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @12:24PM (#32139832) Journal
    chose the very opposite path that CCP hf. (EVE-Online) decided to go. They are doing whatever they can to prevent their fans to create some fan platform.
    CCP is helping fans with:
    • making videos
    • writing and publishing books about eve
    • reporting on events from eve universe
    • writing howto's and publishing them online
    • reporting on events from within CCP
    • providing API's for fan's servers and custom programs

    creators of warhammer seem to take the exactly opposite way...
    let's see how long it'll last

  • "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 Nemyst (1383049)
      That's like saying Slashdot is a misleading open source website because it's ran by Geeknet. The fact it is backed up by a company does not in any way change that it wasn't competing, it was promoting their games!

      Next up, why don't they sue people who don't paint their little Space Marines in the proper official colors?
  • 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.
  • 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.

    • I want to know why they act this way? What kind of idiot thought that such horrible business practices would be a good idea? Is it to "protect" their franchise? Do people actually graduate from business school anymore or do they just take some classes and remember their lessons just long enuff to get that paper? WTF! I hate life.
    • Easy solution, don't buy their products. Let them wither on the vine. There are lots of other games you can play.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jonwil (467024)

      Here in Australia I see a bunch of "Games Workshop" stores around that I assume are owned by GW themselves

      Other than that, I havent seen any GW stuff around (not that there are that many places around that sell tabletop fantasy and sci-fi war gaming bits)

      Games Workshop needs to realize that the whole "screw the customers, fans and resellers" crap isn't a good way to make money. (Wizards Of The Coast, another big player in gaming owning both Magic The Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons seems to be doing a lo

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Vintermann (400722)

        Not on nearly the same scale. You can still sell your MtG cards on ebay. WotC also are not abusing their resellers to anything near the same degrees.

        What you could say they have in common is that they are ripping off their customers. And WotC used to be a lot better (open gaming license, selling PDF versions), so they are moving in the wrong direction. But they are still a long, long way away from GW.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bieeanda (961632)
      I was in a local gaming store, when the owner was explaining why he stopped carrying Warhammer stuff. They tried to twist his arm over minimum purchases, and he told them that if he wanted to be a Warhammer store he would have opened one. This was at least ten years ago, and the actual Warhammer store in town that opened at about the same time lasted all of three months.

      Warhammer Online's faults should be laid at Mythic's feet, though. Their earlier Realm-vs-Realm game, Dark Ages of Camelot, was plagued wit

    • Re:Typical GW (Score:5, Interesting)

      by makomk (752139) on Saturday May 08, 2010 @02:40PM (#32140892) Journal

      Yeah, there was an interesting post [slashdot.org] on this in the last thread on the topic. Of note is that their anti-reseller antics only apply in the US and not in the UK - not because Games Workshop is any more ethical in the UK, but because the Competition Commission here came down on them like a ton of bricks and forced them to cease their anti-competitive practices forthwith. Unfortunately, the US is kinda lacking in the consumer protection department and there's a lot of political opposition to correcting this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by kalirion (728907)

        "Anti-competitive practices"? What are you talking about? Suing your own fans is the ultimate "pro-competitive" practice since it drives your fans to the competition!

    • So what you're saying is that all GW store owners are suffering from battered wife syndrome?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Mattern (191822)

      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.

    • So it's like Apple than and the Apple-Stores. They are doing pretty good.
  • Is it that time of the year again?

  • 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
    • Curse wanted Warhammeralliance not for the name but for it's history ... I doubt they really considered legal consequences, since if GW had legal claims it would have had them 5 years earlier too. Whether it's a fan or a company makes not a lick of difference legally. Driving up 10s of thousands of dollars in lawyers cost bringing a suit without even giving Curse an opportunity to remedy the situation is just a complete asshole move.

      Before bringing suit I would have said GW had the moral right to demand Cur

    • by MachDelta (704883)

      The website has always been running with ads to generate revenue. It shouldn't make a difference who's handling the money or where the excess goes to.
      More likely GW is just being it's usual incompetent self and suing the people who love them best.

      -A former fan (15 years ago)

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Slashdot is a corporate asset, too. Does Slashdot have a license from Games Workshop to be using their trademarks "Warhammer" and "Games Workshop"? No, they do not. I guess you think they have an equally reasonable case for a permanent injunction barring Slashdot from mentioning them, too? You must also think they should shut down IGN.com. They reviewed Warhammer Online, and totally used Games Workshops trademarks to do so! They probably even used some copyrighted images in the review!!!!!!! Holy shi
  • 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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sundo (1050980)
      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
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        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.

        Depends on the agreement. Just acquiring something doesn't invalidate all contracts. And I'd guess the previous site was not non-profit (as setting up such things to be legal non-profit entities is harder than just running it like a pro-profit business).
  • It's behavior like this that has kept me from buying Space Hulk or any Warhammer 40k minis. I haven't even picked up any of the Dawn of War games since I found out what they've been doing.

    You hear me, Games Workshop? I am your ideal customer. I have lots of money and I want to give you some of it. But I'm not going to until you stop being a goddamn asshole.

  • That worked out GREAT for TSR too. Didn't it? [cox-supergroups.com]

    Oh wait...

    Never mind that fansites like this help build community that otherwise would go unserved or underserved and helps...oh...RETAIN CUSTOMERS?

  • Love the IP, hate the company... I used to work for them in the Australian arm. Back then, they had had slave wages for the drones who loved the games and filled the lower rungs, but for some reason, the upper echelons had non-gamers who seemed to be doing alright for themselves.
  • 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 xmundt (415364)

      Greetings and Salutations.....
      "games workshop"...now that is a name I have not heard in a long time...
      A big thumbs up to this post, as it clearly and concisely summarizes the history of GW. I ran an AD&D Campaign for 19 years, starting back in about 1978, when it was only "D&D", and consisted of a couple of roughly printed paperback books, and the promise of more. Of course, I subscribed to "Dragon" magazine, and, would

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