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Leaked Zynga Memo Justifies Copycat Strategy 384

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-new-under-the-sun dept.
bonch writes "After taking heat over allegations of copying hit indie game Tiny Tower, Zynga founder Mark Pincus wrote an internal memo justifying the company's strategy of cloning competing titles, citing the Google search engine and Apple iPod as successful products which weren't first in their markets. Pincus infamously told employees: 'I don't want f*cking innovation. You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.'"
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Leaked Zynga Memo Justifies Copycat Strategy

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:37AM (#38902713)

    Who wants to come up with the next great innovation, when you know damn well that the second you do, some big player with more resources is just going to swoop in and steal it?

    This is the kind of thing that copyright and patent laws were SUPPOSED to protect against. But, in reality, copyrights and patents are just something the big boys use as bludgeons against the little guys (and against each other). You think a little indie developer like Nimblebit has the money to hire even a single lawyer to go up against Zynga's *team* of high-priced lawyers? Good luck with that.

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:42AM (#38902765) Homepage Journal

      The premise of your post seems to be that de facto trusts are squashing innovation in the modern era. What resolution to this issue do you imagine is possible? Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help. What would?

      • by Exitar (809068) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:45AM (#38902809)

        Remove lawyers?

        • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:22PM (#38903297) Homepage Journal

          It troubles me that this was modded insightful and not funny. Do people really believe that advocates who understand the laws are an unnecessary part of the equation? I can't imagine the idea of being sued under a tort I didn't understand, and there being no one who could explain it to me, and help me defend my situation in court.

          • by countertrolling (1585477) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:27PM (#38903369) Journal

            We shouldn't allow such complex laws that we need lawyers.

            • Thank you.

            • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:43PM (#38903603) Homepage Journal

              This is a more reasonable direction to take, but part of the reason laws are so complex is because not every situation is the same. And you could have laws with a very broad scope with a lot left to judges to decide, that would harm one of the underlying principles of common law many people agree with, the equal protection provision.

              If person A commits a given action, and person B does the exact same, you don't want the judge to have leeway to execute A and give B a month's probation. This means that laws have to be specific about different cases and their distinctions. Complexity arises naturally from that.

              Basically, I'd need to see any proposed plan of simplification before I could ever agree to it. It's a nice idea though.

              • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @01:25PM (#38904129)

                If person A commits a given action, and person B does the exact same, you don't want the judge to have leeway to execute A and give B a month's probation.

                We already do this. We don't punish actions, we punish consequences. If I'm in a hurry and blow through a stop sign on purpose I get a fine. If I'm distracted by the guy behind me tailgating and blow through a stop sign and kill someone I'm up for manslaughter. My illegal activity, not stopping at the sign, is identical. But the consequences, and therefore the punishment are very different; in fact, they are nearly reversed from what some schools of ethics say they should be.

            • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:57PM (#38903821)

              walk into a lawyer's office or entry way. tons and tons of 'impressive' books, right?

              add to case law. add to this and that. no trimming; just adding.

              does this sound like a sensible design? from an engineering POV, does this sound sustainable and efficient? having so much stuff to sort thru to know what is 'right vs wrong' ?

              tons and tons of exceptions. lots of rules, but more and more exceptions. is that not broken, by design??

              I know why we allow it. those in the system who benefit from the system do not want to shake-up the system. its that simple.

              but its still very wrong. just like tax codes; ever-growing lists of things as rules and exceptions. how self-serving! not We The People serving, but so hard that few can file taxes without those dumb software programs we have to *buy* (again, those who benefit do not want the system changed.)

              • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @03:22PM (#38906013)
                Disclaimer: I am an engineer, though I did take a couple legal courses.

                Engineers deal with a fairly static set of rules. The laws of physics do not change from decade to decade. Most of the problems we deal with can be approached and solved (or approximated) by math. Sometimes very complex math, but it's still something you can program into a computer, feed some numbers as input, and get answers as output. So in most cases you can search out the solution space algorithmically to find optimal solutions.

                Law is an attempt to codify a rather amorphous and malleable concept - what society thinks is right and wrong. It's not static, and because it's constantly changing it requires constant updates. The requirements to change the law, from number of legislators' votes, to the President's signatures, to court approval, are there to regulate the rate at and degree to which it can change.

                The reason for a case law system rather than a statutory law system is that, unlike engineering problems, it's often difficult or impossible to algorithmically determine an optimal solution to a social problem. In order to optimize you need to evaluate, and in the social domain every individual has their own valuation for everything. Different valuations means there is no single optimal solution [wikipedia.org] - a solution optimal by one valuation is likely not optimal by a different valuation.

                One of the most effective solutions man has discovered for these types of difficult problems is to just throw a bunch of possible solutions out there and see what sticks. Capitalism basically does this. It's impossible to come up with one algorithm which distills all the different ways to evaluate a product - utility, reliability, aesthetics, trendiness, resale value, etc - into a single measure - a price. So every store is free to set their own price. The ones who set too high never sell, the ones who set too low sell out but don't make much money, and the ones who set it about right make lots of money from sales thus allowing them to buy more inventory to sell more. The "right price" here isn't set by any individual store or shopper. It's set by society overall, which decides what to buy and what not to buy.

                That's what case law does. One judge decides a case one way. Another judge decides a similar case a different way. Both get published, people debate about it. When a third judge gets a similar problem, the lawyers point out the two prior decisions, and present arguments for why the second judge's solution was better. The third judge takes it under advisement and makes his decision, thus adding his reasoning to this type of case. etc.

                It's this body of work which builds consensus and determines law, and allows the law to change with the times. It also harnesses the brainpower of the entire population of lawyers and judges to try to find an amicable solution. Instead of having a handful of lawyers deciding what's the best law and setting it in stone, you have all the lawyers and judges in your system working on figuring out the best law. Is it messy and complex? Yes. But like capitalism, in most cases it arrives more quickly at the most effective solution under multiple valuation systems.

                That said, there are areas where this could be optimized. As you point out, the tax code is a mess (primarily due to lobbyists inserting their paid-for tax breaks). But the types of problems law attempts to solve are very different from the types of problems engineers attempt to solve. With an engineering problem, I prioritize conflicting specifications (e.g. weight vs. strength vs. flexibility vs. price) according to the needs of the client. This allows for a relatively straightforward solution. But in law the order of prioritization itself is always up for debate.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by LordLimecat (1103839)

              Life is unfortunately complex enough, and people sufficiently devious, that simple laws like "dont be a dick" dont really cut it. Laws are complex because people look for loopholes, and exploit them, and then everyone clamors for a fix.

            • by Lashat (1041424) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @01:35PM (#38904281)

              do not read as being *that* complex, but their interpretation is constantly being argued in courts across the country.

              • by zzsmirkzz (974536)

                but their interpretation is constantly being argued in courts across the country.

                Yeah, by a bunch of purposely obtuse dickwads who would like to argue what the definition of "is", is. Most normal, rational, people have no problems understanding what was written and what was meant by them.

                • by StikyPad (445176)

                  Yeah, by a bunch of purposely obtuse dickwads who would like to argue what the definition of "is", is.

                  That was Bill Clinton, not the SCOTUS.

                  Most normal, rational, people have no problems understanding what was written and what was meant by them.

                  Most normal, rational people *think* they have no problem interpreting what was meant, but you'll find that there's disagreement, and that disagreement has to be resolved somehow. "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms, [sic] shall not be infringed..." Wh

          • by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:42PM (#38903579)

            The problem is not the mere existence of lawyers, which really is a necessity. The problem is we have too many lawyers, and too many of them are involved in writing laws. The result is massive legal complexity, so that even the simplest laws require lawyers, and often specialized ones at that, merely to understand. This is necessary, in many cases, simply to give the lawyers jobs.

            In some cases, the entire system is designed so that the only ones who really end up profiting are the lawyers. The law is the fundamental problem, but as I said, the law ends up being written by lawyers, who somewhat understandably try to keep themselves as necessary as possible. The result is an expensive mess for anyone who isn't a lawyer.

          • The problem is that the sheer number of lawyers means they cease to be simply advocates but instead become the formulators. We need less lawyers, a lot less.

          • by ArhcAngel (247594) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @01:24PM (#38904123)
            If it weren't for lawyers writing the laws in such complex terms it REQUIRES another lawyer to interpret there would be no need for lawyers in the first place. Judges..yes. Lawyers...NO.
      • oooooooh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by unity100 (970058) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:49AM (#38902861) Homepage Journal

        Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help

        and why it would not help. the case here is, the big boy easily copying the little guy, but not allowing little guy to copy him through lawyer power thanks to copyrights. remove copyrights, and what would lawyers do ? there. you just liberated the little guy. and 7 billion little guys' innovation > any corporation.

        • by erroneus (253617)

          It would be an interesting world indeed! Software should never be a product in and of itself. Sure it's a trillion dollar industry now. But look at all the trouble it has caused. And please don't give us all the load of crap about "quality" because it's simply nonsense as F/OSS often has as good or better quality over commercial "rush to meet the deadline, we'll push out fixes later", "EULA indemnifying against usefulness, functionality or suitability" software. We all know the realities of the softwar

        • Re:oooooooh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JustSomeProgrammer (1881750) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:15PM (#38903197)
          You lost me. The big boy is copying the little guy. The little guy is the creator and has a game on market that the big boy just blantantly ripped off and marketed better to a wider area and with distribution channels the little guy cannot compete with. Removing the copyright would allow the little guy to... copy the game that the big guy copied from him?

          I could be missing something, but how is the situation better? Are you proposing that every living human on earth (7 billion little guys aka the population of the earth) will band together to take down the big boy when copyright is gone? Or are you saying that 7 billion people innovating separately will create more value than 3000 people teaming together (# of employees at Zynga)? That's of course assuming that people won't copy off of each other when there is no penalty to do so. I honestly don't think that something like the Pyramids, any building bigger than a hut, most games that require a diverse amount of skills to create, would be made without people teaming together. I'm pretty sure even in this case the game wasn't originally created by just one guy but by a small team of people with different skills coming together to make a better product. Some people are better creators than innovators. And innovators aren't always the greatest creators. And I have rarely seen someone with one of those skills being a great marketer.
        • Re:oooooooh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by neonKow (1239288) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:24PM (#38903327) Journal

          Absolutely would not help. Copyrights allow little guys to get into a business. Without copyright, this wouldn't be a leaked memo; it'd be a public memo. There would be no reason for Zynga not to copy indie games if not for copyrights, and they would have the resources to market their product far better than most indie producers will.

          Removing patents and copyrights is not the solution to people exploiting a loophole in the patent/copyright system.

        • Re:oooooooh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bonch (38532) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:46PM (#38903643)

          Once consequence of there being no copyright law would be that the GPL wouldn't have any legal power. The GPL is a copyright license.

      • Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help. What would?

        How about restricting copyright holders powers to enforce their copyright, possibly back to what was intended with a short lifespan for copyright claims and using court action instead of acts like PIPA and SOPA?

        • by Surt (22457)

          In this particular case, that would seem to make the situation worse, right?

        • I don't think this would help in this situation where someone is blatantly ripping someone off within a year of release. But yeah I can support a 15 year copyright.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The premise of your post seems to be that de facto trusts are squashing innovation in the modern era. What resolution to this issue do you imagine is possible? Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help. What would?

        OK, I'll bite.

        How about going back to the anti-trust regime we used to have? You know, where anti-competitive practices were against the law - and the law was actually enforced (sometimes by breaking up big companies into smaller ones).

      • by Surt (22457)

        Forbidding corporations from growing larger than 50 people would clearly solve this problem.

      • Patents holders should be required to show yearly the amount of dollars invested in developing technology tied to the patent.
        If that level drops to zero for 3 year, the patent expires. If the company can be shown to be not actively using ( aka for making money) a patient then it can also be revoked by a court.

        Same with copyright, if the holder is not keeping the work published and available for purchase at no more then 200% of the normal market value for similar products , then copyright should expire.

        Bot

    • excuse me, this is what capitalism is. shareholders are in for making money. and if there is an easier to make money, they will always push the company to do it.

      • Re:aaaah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:53AM (#38902903) Homepage

        And that's why there are vast swathes of laws that basically act as a substitute for ethics. Because companies have none.

        • Re:aaaah (Score:4, Interesting)

          by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:22PM (#38903287)

          And that's why there are vast swathes of laws that basically act as a substitute for ethics. Because companies have none.

          Please don't refer to companies as if they were people. Actions taken in the name of those companies violate ethical principles because those in charge, which are the people who ultimately make decisions on how their subordinates act and subsequentially give orders, don't have ethics. Subbordinates act because someone in the organization makes a decision and orders them to enact them. In this case, Zynga employees are working on copying other titles because people like Mark Pincus, according to the report, ordered the company's employees to "[j]ust copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers." This problem isn't caused by the the legal registration of an organization, but by specific people within that organization.

          If we perpetuate this misconception that companies are to blame but not a single company employee has any responsibility on this problem then, in practice, we are giving these sociopaths a free pass on their sociopathic behaviour, and by doing this we are validating their anti-social contribution to society.

      • Re:aaaah (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:37PM (#38903501)

        that could be easily fixed by requiring that shareholders actually take an interest in the companies they fund making a law requiring that a purchased stock may not be resold for at least 5 years, should just about do it.

    • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:58AM (#38902941) Journal
      Apparently the Zynga mission statement is, "Do Evil".
    • But in what field? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:59AM (#38902963) Homepage

      Zynga's field is 'scummy games for retards'. Does it really matter if innovation in that field is stifled?
      Perhaps the parasite will kill it's hosts.

    • by alen (225700)

      no, historically innovators like Henry Ford are narrow thinkers and stubborn. even steve jobs made a lot of wrong decisions and had to be convinced by others to change his mind

      innovators come up with a cool new idea but never expand it for the mass market. the copycats like steve jobs, zynga and Alfred Sloan are the ones that make it popular

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:08PM (#38903101) Homepage Journal
      Has anyone actually tried yet? After the story a few days ago about how a photograph violated copyright simply for emulating the style of another photo, it seems like what Zynga's doing should be a lot easier to prove.
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:10PM (#38903139) Homepage Journal

      This is the kind of thing that copyright and patent laws were SUPPOSED to protect against.

      I'm not so sure about that. You can't copyright an idea. For instance, you could write a novel about a detective in a futuristic domed city who's investigating a murder, who hates robots and has a robot partner, without infringing on The Caves of Steel [wikipedia.org]. The novel is copyrighted, the idea is not and cannot be.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:42AM (#38902761)

    And look where they are at.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As I recall Linux is just a rip off of a much better series of OSs. But you know, that's the kind of honesty that gets one modded as a troll around here.

      • For something branded as "honesty", it's a little incomplete. In fact, it's probably more fair to say that the GNU tools (bash, gcc, etc.) are work-alikes of older technology. Linux, which as we all know is primarily a kernel, has evolved a great deal over the years, and has support for functionality (like journaling filesystems, for instance) that just plain didn't exist in System V or Berkeley. And, in fact, the kernel is even famous/infamous for its unstable ABI, tuning parameters, and changes in its sch

        • Let's see what Microsoft PR dept might say.

          In fact, it's probably more fair to say that Microsoft Windows (95, 98, etc.) are work-alikes of older technology.

          Internet Explorer, which as we all know is primarily a web browser, has evolved a great deal over the years, and has support for functionality (like Javascript, for instance) that just plain didn't exist in Mosaic or Lynx. And, in fact, the browser is even famous/infamous for its non-standard features, tuning parameters, and changes in its API. There's the document.all object, of course, and the filesystem access loopholes in ActiveX, but on the whole, I think it's fair to say that the IE browser is not, in fact, a work-alike of other browsers.

          Uh, I didn't really write this just to be sarcastic. It almost sounded like you were saying what I wrote above when I read how "great" Linux was compared to its predecessors and how it's supposed to be "better" than how the big bad corps "innovate".

          Really, Linux is really just a "user friendly" and improved Unix. I love it, but it's not where you point to for evidence of innovation.

      • by stanlyb (1839382)
        Which OS? Microsoft is based on WindowsNT (which is somehow close to BSD but nevertheless it is "home-made"), Apple on BSD. Linux on BSD. SO, again, which OSsssssss?
    • by Riceballsan (816702) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:59AM (#38902957)
      The difference between say windows and macOS, and even macOS and xerox, android and IOS, is still they all had unique features to a much larger degree. Zynga tower, quite litterally is a new skin on tiny tower, as farmville is a new skin on farmtown. There is a big difference between taking a general concept and adding features to it, and taking something and slightly sharpening the graphics.
      • Zynga tower, quite litterally is a new skin on tiny tower

        Someone should re-skin Zynga Tower.

        With the skin of Mark Pinkus.

  • by BondGamer (724662) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:46AM (#38902815) Journal
    Someone should start copying all Zynga mobile titles. They already have done the research and figured out what are the best games to copy. You copy their games, make what you think are the best improvements, and reap all the profits. Call it Dream Tower.
    • by Stormthirst (66538) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:52AM (#38902879)

      The irony here is that:
      a) You'd probably make quite a profit
      b) You'd get sued by Zynga - and they'd win.

      • by Gwala (309968)

        I don't know. I don't think Zynga would actually take it to a suit. They'd try a C&D first, but I can't see them encouraging any precedents being set that'd work against them later.

    • by Archon-X (264195)

      Zynga's business plan is a perfectly understandable one.

      1. They see a product that works - they know there is a market for this product, with an approximate size of N.

      2. They make a copy of the game, knowing that they'll capture 1/Nth of the market.

      You can't say Zynga has no model or plan. Their power comes from crunching numbers, and monitizing the crap out of their products. If their competition is not doing that - it's certainly not the fault of Zynga. The long and the short of it is - companies are in b

    • by forkfail (228161)

      Not sure you can improve on their games.

      Oh, I don't mean from a gamer's point of view - I mean from a success point of view.

      They've got psychologists and artists who know cute better than the lolcats folks; they understand exactly how to get the little rats to pull the Skinner Box levers.

      Which is why to them the actual "content" of the game doesn't matter; it's all about eye candy, about turning stripping absolutely everything except the achievements of other games, throwing in uber cute eye candy, then add

  • If the competition isn't copyrighting and trademarking their games as companies used to in the era of "Pac-Man" and "Space Invaders", then they haven't got the tools needed to defend themselves against Zynga's predatory practices.

    There have been many precedent setting cases in the US and Canada where competitors who cloned and renamed games without altering the play were able to defend against their predators, and force the competition off the market.

    In short, Zynga's approach is NOT legal, but it's no

    • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:02PM (#38903017) Homepage Journal

      And if the originators of the game ideas win the case, I strongly recommend that they demand jail time for Pincus seeing as he's clearly documented that this is a POLICY of the company under his leadership, so he can't pin the blame on some middle manager and fire him instead. Jail time would mean losing out on any cash settlement, but by the time there's a victory, no one will probably still want to play that particular style of game, so it won't help with FUTURE revenue for those companies.

      The question is whether the competitors want to PUNISH Zynga's leadership or PILLAGE them for cash. Unfortunately I suspect most of them will settle for cash, and Zynga will therefore just treat it as a cost of doing business and continue ripping off competitor's ideas.

      • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:09PM (#38903127)

        And if the originators of the game ideas win the case, I strongly recommend that they demand jail time for Pincus seeing as he's clearly documented that this is a POLICY of the company under his leadership, so he can't pin the blame on some middle manager and fire him instead.

        You don't seem to understand much about U.S. law. Torts are not crimes, and civil cases are not criminal cases. Individuals can't prosecute someone for a crime. You can only sue them civilly and get monetary damages, and/or an injunction to stop doing something. To send someone to jail, the state or federal government would have to criminally prosecute them. And there's next to no chance this will happen here, since it's not even clear that what Zynga did was a tort, let alone an actual crime. (Most trademark and patent infringements are not crimes, though some forms of copyright infringement are.)

        • by msobkow (48369)

          Ah, so it's the same as Canada, then. If you file a suit, you collect damages. If you go through the RCMP/FBI, you get justice.

          So the question is not whether they CAN pursue Zynga for jail time, it's a question of whether they CHOOSE to, or go for cash instead.

          It's too bad there isn't a provision on either side of the border for some sort of victim's damages collected on the basis of criminal cases.

          Here I thought lawsuits were the only way any one pursued criminals in the US unless the police/FBI g

    • by JDG1980 (2438906)

      If the competition isn't copyrighting and trademarking their games as companies used to in the era of "Pac-Man" and "Space Invaders", then they haven't got the tools needed to defend themselves against Zynga's predatory practices.

      Do you have any idea how many Pac-Man and Space Invaders clones there were in the early 1980s? And few, if any, of the cloners were ever sued. This is because, as others have noted, you can't copyright game rules. You can trademark the title and copyright the code and graphics,

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Yes I do. And do you have any idea how many of those clones were shut down by successful lawsuits?

        The fact that winning the battles in the face of rampant gameplay/idea piracy proved futile was because of the sheer VOLUME of players. I wouldn't recommend this tactic for dealing with iOS and Android game developers, because they're going to be outnumbered by them. But when the issue is one monolithic company that's abusive, like Zynga, then the tactic DOES WORK.

        As to citing cases, get off your lazy a

    • by slim (1652)

      You don't need to "copyright" things. You automatically own copyright, on works that are in-scope, the moment you create it. There's no registration process or anything like that.

      But: copyright doesn't apply to the rules of games. It's long established in US copyright law, hence all the variations of Monopoly.

      Remake Civilization, with your own artwork, title, and independently-worded rulebook and no lawyer can touch you.

    • by Kagato (116051)

      Civil law is not about what's right or wrong. It's about being the last man standing. It's about having the fortitude and war chest to defend what is yours. I've actually seen a case where a small company tried to defend it's patents against a larger one. The large company fly the lawyers in the meet with them. They took one look at the offices of the small company and told them point blank "You don't have the money to win this, we're not giving you one cent. Good day."

  • The problem here is not the COPYRIGHT, but the COPYCAT. And actually, that is the main reason of creating the copyright, to prevent the copycat, not to prevent the copy-use, copy-download. What Zynga is doing is stealing in its true meaning. Not fair use, not format change, but STEALING.
  • Google + iPod (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:03PM (#38903029)

    Of course, Google didn't just come out with a search engine that was a copy of the competition. They created the innovative PageRank algorithm, for which they were awarded a patent and were featured on the cover of Scientific American, which made their search engine much, much better than the competition (AltaVista.) Even today I am constantly surprised by how good Google is at figuring out what I'm searching for.

    The iPod too wasn't just an MP3 player. Competing MP3 players at the time had crap software that made it hard to load them up with music, poor UI, and either bad form factors (Nomad) or almost no storage (flash based devices.) What really made the iPod take off was iTMS.

    Remind me again how Mafia Wars was different from Mob Wars? Maybe some better graphics?

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Mod parent up. This AC is absolutely right -- the comparison to Google and Apple is a red herring -- it's not the same situation at ALL.

    • by Archon-X (264195)

      You've never used an iPod right?
      iPods were/are well designed, look good, have great interfaces, etc - but getting music onto them is horrendous.

      You can't just copy music on / off. You can't click and drag playlists across. You can't copy your music off (easily). iPods are many things, including "victim of bad software"

  • by pruss (246395) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:06PM (#38903065) Homepage

    When the Tetris folks try to squash all the Tetris clones, people here think that's bad, and we're right that it's bad to squash Tetris clones. There is no copyright on concepts. But the same applies here. It shouldn't matter too much if it's a big company copying the ideas of a small developer did or a small developer cloning the ideas of a big company. It would, of course, be polite for the big company to offer some sort of thanks, though.

    I looked at the side-by-side screenshots, and while the basic (uncopyrightable) gameplay ideas are very parallel and presumably copied, the graphics (which are copyrightable) are significantly different in style. And looking at coin amounts in the two screenshots, it looks like the rules weren't copied either (not that there would be anything wrong with copying rules, since there is no copyright on game rules, only on their written expression).

    Early in January, I released on Amazon's Appstore a popular app aimed at the Kindle Fire to dim the too-bright screen. About two weeks later, two others appeared. I don't know if there was copying of ideas going on. But even if there was, what's the big deal? The competing apps have somewhat different interfaces, and differ a little bit in feature set, and now consumers have more choice. And inspiration in respect of additional features can go both ways, and as a result all the apps can get better.

    • by Merk42 (1906718)
      I forgot I already posted but i wanted to mod you up!

      The mentality seems to be this:
      Big Guy copies Little Guy = EVIL!
      Little Guy copies Big Guy = A OK!
  • news? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by residieu (577863) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:10PM (#38903145)

    I assumed management knew what they were doing and approved all the copying. Do we really need leaked memos to prove it?

    This is like "Leaked memo from BizCo CEO: We should make money!"

    Nothing surprising here. Nothing incriminating

  • by bickle (101226) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:20PM (#38903261)

    This was in a SF Weekly article back in 2010. http://www.sfweekly.com/2010-09-08/news/farmvillains/ [sfweekly.com]

  • All's fair (Score:4, Informative)

    by slim (1652) <johnNO@SPAMhartnup.net> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:34PM (#38903459) Homepage

    It seems like everyone wants to object to this because Zynga's successful and commercial.

    If it was Take-Two suing FreeCiv, everyone would be taking the "information wants to be free" angle.

    We can't have it both ways. If you don't support Zynga on this, you've basically got to support software patents and all sorts of other bad, restrictive stuff.

    It's good that ideas can be copied. We can't change our minds on that just because the copier happens to be rich and successful.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:39PM (#38903523)

    Pincus infamously told employees: 'I don't want f*cking innovation. You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.'

    I'll probably get modded down for this, but I think the open-source movement would be well served if more OSS developers took this advice. Of course, it doesn't always apply, but if you're trying to compete with a dominant commercial product, don't think you know better than Microsoft or Adobe or Apple; just copy the damn thing. The GIMP crew thinks they know better than Adobe how to design a UI, and look at how far that has got them – the butt of every joke in the OSS world. People don't want GIMP, they want an open-source copy of Photoshop, so give that to them. Likewise, people don't want all the "innovative" desktop environments Gnome and KDE are coming out with; they want an open-source copy of the Windows UI. Or better yet an open-source version of Windows; it's amazing to me that ReactOS hasn't gotten more love, when it represents the best potential long-term method for open source to take over the desktop. I know it's not as rewarding for the coders, but if you actually care about the market share of OSS software, this is the way forward. Change the graphics as much as needed for copyright reasons, but copy the look and feel. After all, both Microsoft and Apple got their footholds the same way.

    • No, open source developers do not (by and large) care about large pieces of marketshare. More users usually just means more inane, useless bug reports. And if all software makers are supposed to be copying each other, who is going to drive innovation? Do we just cede the reins to Apple and hope that we get more candy than shit out of that deal? Should we wait until the next version of OSX or Creative Suite to see what they do, and hope that everything is perfect?

      For what it's worth, you can have linux with

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