Kickstarter For Hand-Drawn Video Game Manuals Shuts Down Due To IP Threat

from the book-burning dept

You may recall that about a year ago we discussed one man’s attempt to digitize the game manuals for really old games. Notably, that project didn’t appear to face any threats over copyright laws by the normal companies — Nintendo, Konami, etc — though that almost certainly was partially the result of the project not being a commercial endeavor, but a simple attempt at art preservation that would clearly be covered by fair use. But the overall point is that there is a thirst for this sort of thing, especially when you realize that some of these game manuals are endangered species, close to being lost for all eternity.

Well, apparently there is at least one company out there that is not so keen on letting something similar to that go forward if it means anyone is going to collect money over it. A Kickstarter for hand-drawn recreations of the sorts of video game guides that were popular decades ago, which far exceeded its initial goal, voluntarily shut itself down after facing unspecified legal threats.

Near the end of a staggeringly successful Kickstarter campaign, Hand-Drawn Game Guides was cancelled. Philip Summers, the individual behind this campaign, cancelled his Kickstarter due to legal pressure from unknown parties. In a statement released on Hand-Drawn Game Guides’ Kickstarter, Summers says:

“Tonight I pulled the plug on the Hand-Drawn Game Guides Kickstarter. Yes, for exactly the reason you think it’s for. I had hoped that I could successfully navigate any legal trouble, but alas I wasn’t able to do so.”

Summers made it clear elsewhere that none of this was unforeseen, nor is he particularly angry about it. The source of the legal threats was never specified, but it’s clear that Summers is facing some kind of copyright or trademark threat by one of the gaming companies that owns the rights for the games he’s creating new manuals/guides for. It could be one of many companies, of course, though it won’t surprise regular readers here to learn that I very much suspect it’s Nintendo. If it is, the company can certainly argue it has a valid copyright claim on these manuals, assuming it has the relevant IP rights for them. But, as is always the question, why does Nintendo or whichever company made these threats feel the need to go this route?

Summers started his campaign seeking $20k, but ended up amassing over $300k in pledges for the project, all for hand-drawn video game guides for very old games.

Summers’ guides deal with IPs by Nintendo, including The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Just recently, Nintendo issued a cease and desist for Metroid Prime 2D, a game starring Samus Aran and based on the Metroid series, and not long ago they hit The Legend of Zelda: The Missing Link a fan-game that bridged Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Contra and Ninja Gaiden guides backers could have purchased, so legal pressure Konami, Koei Tecmo, or Nintendo is possible but not confirmed by any party. As we’ve seen previously, fan-made projects ending due to legal reasons is nothing new for the industry.

This campaign aimed to bring guides of retro video games to the masses, which were completely hand-drawn and went over the workings of each title. This included tips and tricks, maps of dungeons and other levels, and more.

If there is an actual threat in any of that to any of the named companies, I am failing to see it. Instead, I only see the desire for total control over intellectual property playing out in such a way so as to destroy an otherwise wildly successful Kickstarter by someone who is obviously a very big fan of retro video games and the guidebooks of the past. And if that doesn’t sound like Nintendo, I don’t know what does.

For now, Summers and his publisher are making it clear that the project isn’t necessarily 100% dead, asking backers to stay tuned. But in the meantime, the funding for the Kickstarter has been canceled, all because someone had to kill the fun.

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Comments on “Kickstarter For Hand-Drawn Video Game Manuals Shuts Down Due To IP Threat”

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21 Comments
Paul Bsays:

How is any of this a trademark or copyright issue?

Hand drawn guides to games is 1) Not using any copyrighted material, aside from the most generic transformation (he’s creating new art in the theme of the original material). Not using any Trademarks other than to correctly identify other people’s works aka A guide to "Nintendo’s, The Legend of Zelda".

The only issue for the above items is that the courts make you use an affirmative defense instead of letting you dismiss the case. If anything in copyright or trademark needed to be fixed, it would be moving transformation and trademark to grounds to dismiss instead of an affirmative defense.

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tpsays:

The real problem...

The problem isn’t that the copying would cause tons of damage to the large companies owning the copyright. The problem is much more subtle. The kickstarter project was using goodwill of the game developers to get popularity. I.e. attaching their project to someone elses popularity. This attach operation is always dangerous copyright-wise. You might get undeserved publicity and significant problems handling the resulting publicity.

While some people might think that any large publicity is good, this isn’t always the case. When there are areas of the world that are enjoying large publicity, they actually worked hard to obtain and keep the priviledge. When some newbies who have no experience with large marketing operations try to attach themselves to something widely popular, the copyright owners have no other choice than try to shut down the project, before larger damage (to the newbies) happens. Worst case the original author died before that happened, and he couldn’t save the newbs from too much publicity, and then they got huge community maintainance burden.

Basically copyright area has dangerous parts, where newbies might get burned if they explore too far to the copyright area. You actually need like 15 years of work before you’re ready to withstand the harrassment and humiliation caused by large scale marketing operations feedback activity. Large companies might handle the burden by large chains of feedback weakening organisation.

Anonymoussays:

typical greed and selfishness situation. the company in question is too bone fucking idle to do anything but cant bear the thought of someone else doing what it should have done anyway! as for the monetary side, it goes without saying that the company involved, doing no work whatsoever, wants to cream off whatever money might be available from SOMEONE ELSE DOING THE WORK!!
does this happen as much, as frequently worldwide (excluding pricks like Nintendo and Sony, of course, over game stuff), or is the USA the only/maybe worse/greediest bumch of fuckers going?

naschsays:

Fan games

Just recently, Nintendo issued a cease and desist for Metroid Prime 2D, a game starring Samus Aran and based on the Metroid series, and not long ago they hit The Legend of Zelda: The Missing Link a fan-game that bridged Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

Resurrecting a long dead title the company isn’t interested in is one thing, but how did anyone think Nintendo might let those slide when (in addition to just being Nintendo) they’re still actively developing those franchises?

ECAsays:

Lets see some options

There are/used to be, a site ofr older abandoned games that had pictures of the manuals. DMCA(nin)
There used to be Allot of sites with old roms that you could use with emulators. DMCA(nin)

Would it be interesting if you had original(org Made copies) of manuals for sale on a Few sites? selling them underground type? But who is making all these? the Org. maker?

In the past,
After a game was released, A book would come out with cheats, hacks, shortcuts and soforth. And they started in magazines, thent he corps got wind of this and MADE their own. GOOD MONEY.
This is the Making of the razor and Blade idea. as SOME had more then 1 manual. Same book with 1-2 changes, as Some games had versions. Some games on 1 machine was abit different. So at $10 per book(when a paperback was <$2), it was worth it.

Then comes the Big idea for copyright. The Art has CR, the Book has CR. The original manuals kinda sucked, became Simplistic. Those Cheat book were worth the money JUST TO PLAY THE GAME.
What is the CR time on the manual?
What is the CR for a Cheat Book?
What is the CR for ART?
Take your pick and the corp has it covered. And TONS of the Major corps did this. And as the smaller game companies got BOUGHT(atari, and others bought up those CR).

How is this person going to combat any of that?

jonrsays:

Re: naming the bully

From the latest followup posted, it seems they actually think they might be able to work something out (which probably means either they are painfully naive or it’s not Nintendo). Of course, since they are doing manuals for three different games from three different companies, working something out with just one of them doesn’t put them entirely in the clear…

Also, to be clear, they have said what they got was not a formal cease and desist letter. Rather, "We were contacted by a lawyer representing one of the game companies suggesting there may be [unspecified] concerns."

Samuel Abramsays:

Re: Re: naming the bully

From the latest followup posted, it seems they actually think they might be able to work something out (which probably means either they are painfully naive or it’s not Nintendo).

Even the ever-intransigent IP bully Nintendo is willing to bend. Check this out. (For some strange reason, Nintendo doesn’t take the same strict manipulative attitude to hardware as they do to software, otherwise neither the chiptune scene nor NES and Super NES clones would exist)

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: The real problem...

Nobody needs to brainwash anyone. Ordinary citizens are not so insecure they feel the need to brainwash another person who falsely accuses them of piracy. You, on the other hand, have consistently appealed to others to fund your mansion through coercion, lies, and guilt-tripping.

Also if Blender and Unreal actually sue you, this is your reminder that "I created the copyrighted work myself" is not a defense that magically forces them to go away, per your "stricter copyright rules". You’d have to defend your case in court and pay them $2 billion as you feel every copyright holder is entitled to.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The real problem...

Sure, but if they keep fighting losing battles, they will need to pay my lawyer’s fees. When I spend my money on good lawyers, it’s going to cost significant amount of money.

Cute. You actually think you have a fighting chance against large companies who hold copyrights to popular software, or that you have the money to pay for lawyers willing to defend your poor joke of a case.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Doubt it. If we were thinking of Prenda Law after they admitted their fuckups, maybe, but Prenda Law original? They were dumb enough to plead the Fifth Amendment and call the judge "not a friend of copyright", following multiple attempts to bamboozle courts across the US by posing as unrelated amicus curiae. They continued to dig down until one of their main team members kicked the bucket and used it as an excuse to throw said member’s corpse under the bus.

Tero Pulkinnen’s gimmick is to leverage the fact that Oracle v. Google happened and try to push for monetary demands to the tune of $2 billion (conveniently sidestepping the fact that Oracle did not get that demand met), and deploy lawyers as his attack dogs while drumming up the narrative of a copyright holder and independent developer getting bullied by someone bigger.

Don’t forget, after the joke that was Prenda Law, the copyright team followed up swiftly with Paul Nicoletti, Richard Liebowitz and Lincoln Bandlow. There’s no shortage of lawyers greedy, desperate and unscrupulous enough to make use of a "David vs. Goliath" narrative under the assumption that it’s a slamdunk, especially when a vague allusion to copyright is involved. The IFPI lucked out with Monique Wadsted being friendly with the judge in the Pirate Bay trial and received no punishment for this undeclared affiliation that should have seen her and/or the judge recused.

Of course, that’s not to say that Tero’s case has a chance in hell of succeeding. I’ve said that he’s more than welcome to try, but if he’s actually dumb enough to have that bluff called, "discovery will be fun" looking into the money he’d use to fund such an enterprise.

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