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36-Hour Lemmings Port Gets Sony Cease and Desist 268

Zerocool3001 writes "The recently featured 36-hour port of the original Palm version of Lemmings to the iPhone and Palm Pre has received a cease and desist letter from Sony. Only one day after submitting the app for approval on the two app stores, the developer has put up a post stating that he 'did this as a tribute to the game — we can only hope that Sony actually does a conversion for platforms like iPhone and Palm Pre in the near future.' The text of the cease and desist letter is available from the developer's website."
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36-Hour Lemmings Port Gets Sony Cease and Desist

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  • Lemmings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:39AM (#32741412) Journal

    Sony still sells Lemmings across various platforms. He had to see this coming.

    Besides directly calling it Lemmings was even more stupid move. Sony has to defend the Lemmings name too, and if the port is low quality it hurts the whole Lemmings brand.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

      if the port is low quality it hurts the whole Lemmings brand.

      It wasn't up to Sony's standards; no rootkit.

  • What's the difference between a lemming and lawyer?

    A lemming is less short-sighted: he must at least be able to follow another lemming.

    • Your point makes no sense, especially if we're talking about the game lemmings.

      1) Lemmings do NOT follow each other. They move blindly, period.
      2) Lawyers do seem to follow each other, or at least follow where the money is.

      • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

        A lawyer that smells blood is like a vampire or leech.

        A lemming doesn't care about blood.

  • Linking to his poor server twice in as many days. The slashdot hordes make their presence felt yet again!

    More on topic though, very honestly, what did he expect submitting it to the Apple and Android app stores? That Sony would just let that happen? Then again, with all the copies already downloaded (did anyone actually get to download it?) it'll be very hard for Sony to prevent this from spreading...
  • anonymous (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    allowing 36 hours to remove it instead of 48 hours would have shown at least a little bit of humor...

  • Hands Up (Score:5, Informative)

    by Triv ( 181010 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:52AM (#32741478) Journal

    Hands up if you saw this as happening the minute you read the original story a few days ago.

    • Obvious to you too huh?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He used the trademarked name and copyrighted graphics. He wanted to sell it in official app stores. What else was going to happen?

      As much as I dislike Sony for this step, I have no pity for the developer. Fan games are dead. Don't touch them or you will get sued and your time and effort will be wasted.

      There's a similar story every other month on slashdot. By now it should be common knowledge that you don't talk about IP of big corps and don't try to generate free publicity for them. Just don't.

    • s/story/headline;
    • Re:Hands Up (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:38AM (#32741730) Journal
      Such a think is actually legal in progressive countries like Scandinavian countries : reverse engineering and porting to an unsupported platform is legal and is an exception to several laws. Sony does not provide an alternative way of playing Lemmings for Palm, therefore, it can not claim that this represents a loss. If Sony were to make an official port, then yes, a cease and desist would be lawful.

      But yeah, we are all used of the balance of rights like they are in Corporate America so yes, we saw that coming.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sowelu ( 713889 )
        Legally allowing porting to an unsupported platform sounds kind of dangerous. Let's say company A releases a game on the XBox 360 three months before they release it on PC. During the intervening period, is it "unsupported" on the PC? Portal was not available on the Mac for a couple-three years, but as of a few weeks back, it is now. Was it "unsupported" in the meantime, and could people have legally cloned it, ripped off all the assets, and distributed it for free? I don't even think this is a slipper
      • Re:Hands Up (Score:4, Insightful)

        by koiransuklaa ( 1502579 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @07:06AM (#32742384)

        I'm willing to bet that doing what he did is extremely clearly illegal in every Scandinavian country. He used original artwork, apparently copied the game mechanics to a T and even used the same name.

        The "port theory" falls flat when you think of a situation where apps are used as differentiators between platforms: What if iPhone had been hugely succesful because they included Lemmings with their OS -- would it have been ok for Palm to rip them off and do the same thing?

        This isn't about "corporate America", it's about copyright and trademark law as it is applied pretty much everywhere in the world. Could you (or the people who think you are Insightful) please explain how this could be legal in Scandinavia?

      • Re:Hands Up (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nmg196 ( 184961 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @08:07AM (#32742678)

        You seem to miss the fact that he submitted it to an App Store! That's totally illegal in all countries which recognize copyright - even Scandinavian countries (where it might be permitted for personal use). You also don't take into account the fact that Sony might be intending to release it for that platform and that's the entire point of copyright - to allow you to do that without another company doing it before you and taking all your revenue.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
          I did not see it was submitted to an App Store, yeah, that move was pretty stupid...

          By the way, I disagree on the point of copyright. The point of copyright is (was?) to help give a financial incentive to creative and cultural productions and to help the dissemination of cultural works, not to protect anyone's "reserved" revenue. Lemmings has been released two decades ago. Porting it is shown to be a straightforward 36-hours work that is not done probably for political or revenue reasons. Having it ported
    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      Hands up if you saw this as happening the minute you read the original story a few days ago.

      Now put your hand down if you work for Sony.

  • by fearlezz ( 594718 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @03:58AM (#32741514) Homepage

    They forgot to rootkit the original release.

  • From the C&D letter:

    Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and its subsidiary Psygnosis (collectively "SCEE") have published or licensed "Lemmings" games...

    Lemmings was developed by DMA Design, and published by Psygnosis:

    The end of Psygnosis came when, in 1999, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) completely absorbed the company. Psygnosis' head office in Liverpool and studios in Stroud, Camden and Leeds were rebranded as Sony Studio Liverpool, Stroud, Camden and Leeds, with other studios being closed.

    [ref] []

    I hate how they abuse their ownership over 'their' IP.

    CAPTCHA: HOARDERS - hanging on to IP that wasn't even ours originally while we refuse to publish the titles

  • by flimflammer ( 956759 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @04:55AM (#32741806)

    As much as I want to call Sony the villain here, they really aren't.

    The person who ported it took everything from the original game and released it on a newer platform. That is like someone taking Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario bros and porting it over with all the same graphics, sounds, and design.

    They're protecting their property from theft, here. Had he used his own art, sounds, etc, with the same gameplay then Sony wouldn't really have a leg to stand on, but he basically stole everything from the original and ported it over. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. He shouldn't have assumed that he could take the assets without asking.

    • by devent ( 1627873 )
      But only because the law is broken. Lemmings was first released in 1991, that's almost 20 years ego. Mario was first released 1981, that's 31 years ego. You should have copyright for 20 years at the outmost maximum. In fact, since we have now the Internet as the fastest delivery platform, the monopoly grand should be much less then 20 years. In the I.T. industry 20 years is like 60 years (or more) in the traditional industry. The copyright in this industry should be much much shorter.

      The real villain here
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lostlander ( 1219708 )
      When will you IP trolls learn that Copyright Infringement and Theft are not equal. Theft requires that you are depriving the first party of something by acquiring it in an unlawful manner. You see the first part can never be satisfied in regards to software and text (excluding physical media) as you do not remove their source when you make a copy. Unless of course you decide to hack their servers and delete all their copies when you make yours.

      You can't steal an idea just like you can't kill one it lives
  • by ardiri ( 245358 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @05:19AM (#32741882) Homepage

    nice to get slashdotted twice in a week - the website still seems to be up this time around.

    since i am on vacation (in egypt) for two weeks - i had to simply withdraw the submission and downloads from the application catalogs and own website, since sony gave a 48 hour window, i can deal with it in more detail when i am back from vacation. as for the intellectual property, no original code was uses (in fact, the palm os version was my own implementation) the only thing that is definitely "used" is the name (Lemmings) and the original EGA graphics from the game. even the levels are redesigned in the event that they are not workable with one player mode and the limitations of the palm os platform

    IANAL - but since no original files are used, in fact everything is re-created without reference to the original source code, the only infringing rights here are the use of the name "Lemmings". there have been a number of copyright cases dealing with the look and feel - so it can go either way, intellectual property rights come down to if a jury believes there is confusion between the original and the remake.

    i will try to open discussions with SCEE (Sony Entertainment) about getting an official license for the game, in fact, we were looking for the original license holders back in 2001 when we did the palm os versions - but it was in flux between Take Two Interactive, Sony and no-one knew their ass from a hole in the ground. the good news is now SCEE are claiming ownership, so we can now talk to them - and we have proof of concepts made, so if they play nice, this title will officially come to these platforms, if not - then you can start saying how evil they are.

    lets see how the discussions go!

    • if sony own the name lemmings (that's *if*) then they very likely own the copyright original EGA graphics. sony have shut down every lemmings clone that has used the original files or name and left alone every clone that has not. they also released new lemmings games on psp recently so it's not abandonware, How exactly are sony the bad guys here?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ardiri ( 245358 )

        every lemmings clone that has used the original files or name and left alone every clone that has not.

        we have NOT used the original files, in fact - if you read the blog, you will see how we actually generated the levels using bitmaps and text files for configuration, all built without the original lemmings DAT files (yes, you can use them - but we did not). right now, it comes down to the Lemmings trademark with video games and the look for feel issue.

    • by snap2grid ( 630315 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @07:05AM (#32742380) Homepage
      As I posted yesterday, I was part of the team who created Lemmings in the first place. A minor member, to be sure, but I was there. What bothers me most about these efforts to convert games is not so much the use of the original graphics and certainly not the fact that it's been ported, but the respect that we don't seem to get. I didn't see any mention of credit for Mike Dailly, who invented the idea, or Russel Kaye who wrote the PC version from which you took the EGA graphics, or Dave Jones who coded the Amiga original, or Gary Timmons who animated the characters, or Scott Johnson who drew background graphics or... well you get the idea. Intellectual property be damned; did you get in touch with anyone to ask if they were cool with it? (I once had the experience of reading a rip of the Hired Guns manual which I wrote, with a huge list of credits to all the guy's cracker buddies, but not one mention of anyone who'd spent two years of their lives on the game itself.) The sad thing is, if you'd asked, I know they'd have been cool with it. (And if you had, then I apologise)
    • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @07:10AM (#32742396) Homepage

      Word to the wise: your first words to SCEE should be "Sorry", followed by "Thank you".

      It sounds like you think you didn't really do anything wrong. Uh, no. No, sir. You are guilty as original sin.

      SCEE could have bitch-slapped you from here to breakfast, and they really should have done so in order to protect their trademark. Sure, all you have to do is to change the name and the graphics slightly to be fine, but you chose not to do so. As they noted, you chose wilfully to infringe on their trademarks (name, distinctive images) and their copyrights (the EGA graphics).

      Don't get me wrong: as hobbyist game developer myself, I admire what you've done and I wish you the best of luck in getting it licensed. But as an ex-professional game developer, I can assure you that I won't view SCEE as being in the least bit evil for defending their rights.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @07:56AM (#32742616) Homepage

      The relevant rule is ASK FIRST, though, as always. The rights holders may be separated (i.e. one owns the graphics, one owns the name, one owns the historical versions of the software, one owns a certain port, one owns the sound, etc.) and impossible to trace - that doesn't give you the right to use anything at all. "Look and feel" is only relevant to similar but non-identical works, in general. You say yourself that you used the original EGA graphics - even if this meant you printed them out on paper, then traced the same pixels onto graph paper and then "digitised" them to pixel-values in your head, it's still a large, gaping legal hole to fall through. Check out the history on certain typefaces. Otherwise, I could scan in a photo, print it out enlarged on graph paper, hand-digitise it by guessing colour values and if I end up with a pixel-by-pixel identical file claim that it's now "my" copyright / right to distribute and not the original photographer's.

      You were using the original works as reference, and your works are virtually pixel-for-pixel identical to the original graphics. You *definitely* infringed on any trademarks/brands/etc on the name Lemmings (would it have been difficult to call it something like "Gophers" or similar?) - that's clear-cut "passing-off" on its own. Someone owns the name. Someone owns the graphics. Someone owns each piece of that software/concept, and you have *no* idea who that was. Sometimes those things revert back to the original artists after a while, sometimes they stay with the company forever, sometimes they got lost in a legal limbo and nobody's quite sure who owns them.

      It doesn't give you the right to basically rip them off. I appreciate that the original project was fun, entertaining, a good proof-of-concept, etc. but you went *too* close to the wire - calling the damn thing Lemmings and referring to it as that at all times (to be honest, I assumed you were part of the original development team / some sort of official coder when I first saw the article yesterday, and at least one person who posted a comment on here actually WAS), using substantially identical graphics that by your own admission are derived from the original data files (however that may have happened), and then trying to distribute your work (maybe for a fee, maybe not, I don't know).

      All you had to do was call it a "Lemmings-clone", make the graphics yourself (come on - Lemmings was EGA resolution with about 5-10 pixel high graphics - you could do that in MS Paint), and then nobody would have cared. You really have no defence here and I'd be surprised if, now, anyone wants to negotiate with you at all in terms of licensing. If you'd asked *FIRST* they might have. Now they know it's possibly popular, and they have damning evidence against you, they'll be setting their licensing fees for you at the top end of the scale - if you can port Lemmings in 36 hours, they can do it in a lot less and take you to the cleaners too.

    • by nmg196 ( 184961 )

      > no original files are used, in fact everything is re-created without reference to the original source code,

      I don't know where you are, but in Europe that's irrelevant. It's not the source code that's copyrighted, it's the game itself (most software doesn't even ship with the source code - so source code it totally irrelevant when talking about software copyright). It's the design, function, and concept that's copyrighted in Europe and I'm pretty sure the same is true in most other countries that recog

    • by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Wednesday June 30, 2010 @08:26AM (#32742774) Homepage Journal

      >>the only thing that is definitely "used" is the name (Lemmings) and the original EGA graphics from the game

      Well, then.

      I'm certain you'll be fine!

    • Obviously you can't use a trademarked name.

      Obviously you can't just take their artwork and redistribute it.

      Hopefully you aren't wealthy enough for them to be able to tell you are, otherwsie have fun paying out all of it to sony for wilfull infringment.

  • Here's the letter from Sony [].

    I gotta agree with what others have said: 2 slashdottings in such a short period of time seems almost cruel and unusual.

    Note to the Editors: If by some chance you run another story linking to this guy's website, use Coral Cache. Please.

  • Turn the new one into a parody; the lemmings are now Lawyers, Protected speech. Done.

  • The likelihood of Sony allowing a new port of Lemmings to non-Sony platforms is exactly the same as Nintendo allowing a Mario Bros. port to the iPhone or Xbox: exactly zero. The name, trademark and visual art of Lemmings is a valuable asset, and by making it exclusive to Sony hardware, Sony can claim a minor marketing advantage when the iPhone is eating their lunch. (Granted, few people would buy a PS3 for Lemmings these days, but exclusive ports to new Sony Ericsson phones or the next iteration of the PSP

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.