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Education Programming Games

NAMCO Takes Down Student Pac-man Project 218

Posted by Soulskill
from the chasing-ghosts dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The core of how people first learn to do stuff — programming, music, writing, etc. — is to imitate others. It's one of the best ways to learn. Apparently a bunch of students using MIT's educational Scratch programming language understand this. But not everyone else does. NAMCO Bandai sent a takedown notice to MIT because some kids had recreated Pac-man with Scratch. The NAMCO letter is pretty condescending as well, noting that it understands the educational purpose of Scratch, but 'part of their education should include concern for the intellectual property of others.'"
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NAMCO Takes Down Student Pac-man Project

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  • Play for free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brainboyz (114458) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:33PM (#33117018) Homepage
    • Re:Play for free? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:40PM (#33117110)

      Look at the source of the page:

      "PAC-MAN's 30th Birthday! Doodle with PAC-MAN & ©1980 NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc."

      Perhaps Google actually worked with NAMCO?

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Perhaps Google actually worked with NAMCO?

        They did; there was a writeup about it on Google itself.

        But in the vein of "IP", I want to educate them (yeah, I know, they're not reading this) about their assertion "part of their education should include concern for the intellectual property of others". NAMCO is the entity that needs to educate themselves. In the US at least, Pac Man is NOT their property! It's OUR property. It belongs to everyone. MAMCO merely has a limited time monopoly on its distribution.

        I ho

        • I thought NAMCO was an American company.

          >>>It's OUR property. It belongs to everyone. MAMCO merely has a limited time monopoly on its distribution.

          Excellent point. Also hasn't Pac-Man (the code/maze not the character) fallen into the public domain by now?

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      Makes me wonder if Google got the same take down notice??
      • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:51PM (#33117268)

        Makes me wonder if Google got the same take down notice??

        No, it probably went like this:

        Namco: I am big company! Hear me RAWR!
        Google: I eat companies like you for breakfast. HEAR ME RAWR!!
        Namco: *whimpers*
        Google: Yeah, that's right. Back away slowly little one, else Imma buy you and get EVIL on your ass.

        Okay, so it was probably done with more legal talk and less Rawrs, but that would have been the idea - or close to it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Restil (31903)

          It's also possible, that out of the blue, Google lawyers approach Namco, say they want to make a cool front-page gizmo that emulates a pacman game in light of the 30th anniversary, and works out a contract for the right to do it. Pacman being a classic, but old and relatively profit-less production at this point, probably allowed it for not much more than the name recognition, if that. Getting permission in advance is usually much easier, and besides, if pacman wasn't a realistic option, there are hundred

        • Re:Play for free? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Eraesr (1629799) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @03:45AM (#33120534) Homepage
          The whole thread that sprang from this post reeks of sadness. Look at all these nerds worship Google. Everyone just look at some AC's post a bit up the page. There's a copyright notification for NAMCO Bandai in the Google page. It makes it kind of obvious that Google licensed Pacman from NAMCO Bandai.
        • by V!NCENT (1105021)

          "Hey Google. Heh, you old search giant! Did you know-"
          -"Sue us and we'll make this court thing cost you way more money than you could possible make from the Pac-Man IP."
          "I was just about to tell you it was going to be a hot day today, so you might want to keep an eye on the airconditioning for your servers... Hey it's this late already? Geez gotta pick up my kids from school."

  • by Anarchduke (1551707) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:34PM (#33117040)
    Say, have NAMCOman eat the developing brains of college students while being chased by the ghosts of creativity. Then NAMCOman can eat a copy of the DMCA and kill off the creative spirits one by one.
  • O'RLY (Score:3, Funny)

    by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3@EEEgmail.com minus threevowels> on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:36PM (#33117056)

    because some kids had recreated Pac-man from Scratch

    Perhaps if this was the sentence the NAMCO lawyer had read, oh wait, things would have gone down the same.

    part of their education should include concern for the intellectual property of others.'"

    And part of our collective foots should be up NAMCO's ass.

    • by mangu (126918)

      because some kids had recreated Pac-man from Scratch

      Perhaps if this was the sentence the NAMCO lawyer had read, oh wait, things would have gone down the same.

      Being lawyers, they should look at precedents [wikipedia.org] to realize that "look and feel" isn't "intellectual property".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by tepples (727027)

        Being lawyers, they should look at precedents to realize that "look and feel" isn't "intellectual property".

        Namco would rely on Atari v. Philips [wikipedia.org], a lawsuit over a Pac-Man clone that Atari (Namco's console licensee at the time) won. The difference between that and other look-and-feel cases you're thinking of (Apple v. Microsoft, Capcom v. Data East, and Lotus v. Borland) is that Pac-Man is an identifiable character, and identifiable characters have stronger copyright protection than elements whose form is dictated by function or by stereotype. One could replace Pac-Man and the ghost-monsters with original chara

        • by AngryNick (891056)
          Well, my mom stood in line for an hour to buy the Atari 2600 version of Pacman [youtube.com] when it came out...and it SUCKED, even by 1982 standards. Namco should consider allowing the Scratch project to continue if for no other reason but as retribution for ripping off thousands of kids for that crappy port.
    • by msauve (701917)

      part of their education should include concern for the intellectual property of others.

      "Intellectual property?" I prefer the term "thought hoarding."

  • If the empires of the past sought to control physical resources for their own gain, I don't think it takes too much imagination to see what the future holds for the information economy.

    Also, I'm looking forward to all of the sci-fi book recommendations. Can I get them on my Kindle?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ant P. (974313)

      If the empires of the past had guarded their "intellectual" "property" so jealously as these money-grubbing little cunts, we'd all be shitting in open trenches today.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        If the empires of the past had guarded their "intellectual" "property" so jealously as these money-grubbing little cunts, we'd all be shitting in open trenches today.

        No we wouldn't, because with bronze-making a closely guarded secret, only the richest could afford trenches to be dug.

        You would simply collect your shit to a big pile and dig in to stay warm at winter, hoping that you wouldn't be found and clubbed to death for stealing the idea from that Einstein fellow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:39PM (#33117090)

    why aren't they being taught to respect the rights of others (fair use, etc)? why aren't they being taught that they can't have an indefinite free lunch in a free market? why aren't they being taught that broken business models propped up by government do everyone a disservice?

    • by couchslug (175151) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:08PM (#33118012)

      Because business is war, only restrained by law, and free of morals. Conventional morality is a liability in business.

      The goal of business is profit, and if we would shape its behavior that must be done by imposing fear of punishment as a deterrent acts which we sufficiently disapprove. People respond to fear even if they are amoral. Be ready to inflict pain upon those you would have behave themselves.

      • by erroneus (253617)

        ... fear of punishment has effectively been removed under the protection offered by corporate entities. "We were just doing our job" goes all the way to the top when it gets written into law that corporations must "serve the interests of the share holders" whatever that is interpreted to mean at any given moment. No one is responsible for their actions in a corporation.

  • by WoollyMittens (1065278) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:41PM (#33117118)
    A vital part of human culture is that every generation of people can build upon the innovations of the previous. This is how we got from living in caves to reaching for the stars. Greedy corporations are systematically destroying this mechanism for their own personal gain. This must be stopped or our civilization will have no future. Lawrence Lessig dat a much better job at explaining this than I do: http://remix.lessig.org/ [lessig.org]
    • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:32PM (#33117704)

      Exactly. If Pac-Man was 3 or 4 years old and still sold on store shelves I would have infinitely more understanding and sympathy for the IP owners.

      Over 20 years old, during which you had the opportunity to profit from your work, I have no sympathy at all. In fact, it goes from sympathy to loathing for all the reasons you outlined.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Imagine the consequences of Mozart suing Beethoven over the first 3 stanzas of Beethoven's First Piano Sonata.

      Or for that matter, if copyright had dissuaded Beethoven from creating his Ninth Symphony.

      Some of history's greatest pieces of music would never have been...

      • by tepples (727027)

        Imagine the consequences of Mozart suing Beethoven over the first 3 stanzas of Beethoven's First Piano Sonata.

        Imagine George Harrison getting sued for a song he wrote because it matched the hook from a song that was already on the oldies station. Don't imagine; it happened [vwh.net].

        Or for that matter, if copyright had dissuaded Beethoven from creating his Ninth Symphony.

        Some of history's greatest pieces of music would never have been...

        I did the math [slashdot.org] in a past life.

      • by dissy (172727)

        Some of history's greatest pieces of music would never have been...

        I would like to take this time to give a moment of silence for the multiple orders of magnitude more music that will never be...

        Oops, I just infringed on John Cage's [wikipedia.org] copyright of silence :/

        Pretty ironic that Namcos lawyers most likely were infringing the same copyright, while writing the take down notice about MITs copyright infringement

      • Upholding intellectual property right doesn't seem fair unless your paying italian and greeks for the alphabet, arabs and indians for numbers.

  • "concern" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Josh Triplett (874994) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:42PM (#33117150) Homepage

    part of their education should include concern for the intellectual property of others

    Sounds like a good idea; they should learn to find intellectual property deeply concerning. These students already have, the hard way.

  • by Kildjean (871084) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:44PM (#33117180) Homepage

    It is sad that one of the oldest gaming companies in the world has become so shortsighted as to punish a group of students using as inspiration one of the best games ever made, by a bunch of students that want to honor "Pac-Man" by recreating it on Scratch. Not to sell it but to learn. Shame on you Namco (and your lawyers), too bad non of your games now are worth even pirating otherwise i would wish that to you.

  • by StarDrifter (144026) on Monday August 02, 2010 @06:50PM (#33117260)

    One down, about 1620 more [google.com] to go.

  • Is there a parallel here between seeing a piece of art and recreating it in a new medium. That new piece is like the old piece but created with your flair and in your medium. Isn't this exactly the same, just with programming?
    • by hedwards (940851)
      If you're doing that you have to be mindful otherwise you could end up in trouble. A painting of a photo for instance, or vice versa, would almost certainly have problems, however it really depends on how it's done. L.H.O.O.Q is sort of the canonical example, as the minor changes make for a very distinct message rather than being a copy of the Mona Lisa.
      • by hoggoth (414195)

        > L.H.O.O.Q is sort of the canonical example,

        I was going to scold you for not defining an obscure acronym... but... well you know...

  • http://kotaku.com/5315632/grand-theft-auto-and-pac+man-the-same [kotaku.com]

    The trick is, don't make it look so similar? Since calling out the similarities doesn't seem to be a problem..

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:08PM (#33117472)

    There really is a good lesson about intellectual property to learn here. No, it's not exactly the lesson Namco wants these students to learn, but in this overly litigious society, it's important for everyone getting an education in computer programming to learn about patents, copyrights, and trademarks, both in terms of how they work and in terms of what their limits are. After all, you can create a Pac-Man-like game without treading on Namco's turf, and programmers should take some time to learn just how to do this sort of thing.

    • They are being a bunch of whiney crybabies because somebody copied an *IDEA* that they had... Ideas are not copyrightable.

      If the person had actually copied any of Namco's original Pacman code to make the game, then there would be copyright infringement. But that doesn't seem to have happened here... somebody just recreated it (no pun intended) from scratch.

      Admittedly, there is still the trademark issue of "Pac Man", and it's only on that premise that they should have any claim whatsoever, but I notice

      • by hyphz (179185) * on Monday August 02, 2010 @07:53PM (#33117900)

        Well, I've taken a look at the site.

        What it APPEARS has happened here is that NAMCO have _assumed_, based on the appearance of the site, that what's running on the site is actually a Java emulator running the Pac-Man ROM. I say that because a) the loading sequence that Scratch projects show when invoked via the web looks just like the startup for such a Java emulator, and b) there are still lots of pac-man games on the Scratch site that haven't been affected.

        Alternatively, it could be the case that an evil-minded student rival reported the page to NAMCO. See, letting people infringe on your copyright just by turning a blind eye is ok; but if there's an actual paper trail proving that you _knew_ about the copyright infringement, you HAVE to take some legal action to enforce it - otherwise, your copyright can be overturned.

        There is definitely something deeper here than what has been reported, and it may be worth reserving judgment until we know what it is.

        • by mark-t (151149) <markt@@@lynx...bc...ca> on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:14PM (#33118066) Journal

          "if there's an actual paper trail proving that you _knew_ about the copyright infringement, you HAVE to take some legal action to enforce it - otherwise, your copyright can be overturned."

          AFAIK, what you're describing happens only with trademarks, not copyrights, so I think you may be confusing the two. At most, people that the copyright holder does not take rightful action against might be construed as having been given implicit permission to copy the work, but that should not remotely affect future cases against other people.

          • by langelgjm (860756)

            You're correct. Trademarks need to be actively defended, lest, among other things, they become genericized. This is absolutely not the case with copyrights, which can be selectively enforced.

            On the other hand, laches could apply to copyright under certain circumstances (see this example [constructionweblinks.com]), but that's a different story.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          The problem with that fallacy is that NAMCO can just give the students a license. So, no, NAMCO did NOT have to shut down the project.
        • by westlake (615356)

          if there's an actual paper trail proving that you _knew_ about the copyright infringement, you HAVE to take some legal action to enforce it - otherwise, your copyright can be overturned.

          You are confusing trademarks and copyrights. But the Pac-Man characters - and the other distinctive design elements of a Pac-Man game - almost certainly are trademarked.

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          but if there's an actual paper trail proving that you _knew_ about the copyright infringement, you HAVE to take some legal action to enforce it - otherwise, your copyright can be overturned.

          Bullshit. So citation please.

      • by sorak (246725)

        you can copyright the look and feel of something. I would consider it analogous to making a new painting and saying "no you can't photocopy it, and no, you cannot hand-paint an identical replica". But, had they changed the stages, maybe added a new feature, or changes some play mechanic, and used slightly different images, then they would have been fine.

  • Should include what's broken with current IP law, so that when you get out of school and become a member of the voting public you can be sure to ask you congressman to fix it. Or run for office and fix it yourself.
  • ... (no pun intended) then, by definition, it is not a copy in any sense of the term that would be applicable to copyright.

    It may infringe on trademarks if it used those...

    But you can't copyright an idea. It's unfortunate that it appears to have been taken down

  • Somewhere in the federally-declared disaster area I call an apartment, I have an old programming book that details remaking various arcade classics...on the Commodore 64. I'm not sure, but Pac-Man might have been among them. I guess times change.

  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:32PM (#33118206) Homepage

    The core of how people first learn to do stuff — programming, music, writing, etc. — is to imitate others. It's one of the best ways to learn

    Correct, and I did my share of imitating other's games when I was learning. However, I didn't use the same name as the original, and I didn't take copyrighted artwork or music from the originals.

    Using the same name is a clear trademark violation, and NAMCO has to tell them to stop, or they risk losing their trademark here.

    As far as copyright goes, you can't copyright the idea of a "be chased around a maze while gathering prizes, and have power-ups that sometimes let you chase the monsters" game. However, there are a lot of ways to express that idea in a game, and copyright protects NAMCO's particular expression. There's plenty of room left for someone to do a similar game, but different enough that it incorporates no protected elements. From the descriptions i've read from people who played it before it was taken down, they did not stray far at all from NAMCO's particular expression.

    A damned good case can be made that learning how to imitate the idea of something without copying the expression is an important skill that any professional or serious programmer should learn.

  • Intern to troll the interwebs for "violations": $40
    Information infrastructure to hand it to a lawyer without thinking about the consequences: $20,000,000
    Lawyer to send a nasty letter: $400
    Telling MIT how to teach: Priceless
  • Dang guys, you can't be doing this, I am a devoted fan.
    I love Tekken, Soul Calibur, Even Ridge racer is still kind of cool.
    NOT COOL GUYS, NOT COOL!
    I am still mad at SF4 x Tekken(and vice versa), But I can deal with it.
    I dropped capcom for all the stupid crap they have done.
    Don't go pissing off your fanbase or we will spend our money elsewhere.
  • 1) The non-commercial use of a trademark for educational purposes shall not invalidate said trademark
    2) The limited use of copyrighted media in a classroom setting consisting of low resolution pictures or video and music clips less than 30 seconds in length for educational purposes shall not be construed as a violation of copyright
    3) Any copyrighted book, magazine, DVD, or computer code, that has been out of print or removed from sale for at least 5 years may be duplicated
    for non-commercial,educational, a

    • by mattr (78516)

      Classes that study literature and film need to view the entire piece.

    • Under current copyright law, educational use of copyrighted material is already protected under fair use. At least, it should be, but that determination is generally made by a judge, and he doesn't get to make the call unless someone is brave enough (and rich enough) to stand up to a herd of corporate lawyers.

      Trademark law has no fair use provision, and is more likely to be enforced. It was not always as zealously enforced as it is now, because corporations did not have eyes and ears everywhere like they do

  • nowadays you need to pay them.

  • Dear NAMCO,
    You are irrelevant, and your Pac-man brand is dead (your bad, evolve and keep releasing, or die). No one is trying to rip you off, nor does anyone want to. Get over yourselves.

    Sincerely,
    Everyone
  • would have liked to see the pacman game, the other I tried looked like the ones we made in public school.

  • The game the Scratch user 124scratch made used graphics ripped off the pacman roms. It is IP theft. Of course, it's questionable if NAMCO should have sent the take down notice, because it's quite silly; this scratch game is not gonna keep NAMCO from profiting from pacman.

    What NAMCO should have done is to require 124scratch to put a copyright disclaimer and a link to NAMCO's pacman games' site, encouraging them to try to mimic other NAMCO games.

  • If you call it "Ghosts and pills", and don't use any of the original artwork, can they do anything at all?

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