Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

General games-related topics
Post Reply
User avatar
kpalser
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:18 pm
Location: Dundee, Scotland

Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

Post by kpalser » Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:13 pm

Posting here the result of my search for answers with the hope that someone else might have information to get past an impasse.

Since 3D Monster Maze is such as a well known and loved title I’ve been looking into obtaining permission to bundle it with the iOS emulator app. If you read my previous posts you’ll know that Apple developer guide lines impose the limitation that block adding functionality to load programs unless they are included within the app.

Recently on the ZX81 Owners Club Facebook group Phoebus Dokos added a post to find authors that would allow distribution of their ZX81 games with the ZX Spectrum Next. With the help of Will Woodvine, Phoebus got in touch with Malcolm Evans and in turn put me in contact with Malcolm.

Malcolm is a gent and said he is personally happy for anyone who wishes to use his games or screenshots to do so. He also confirmed that the rights to the games have never reverted to him and that Interplay Entertainment Corp are the last known copyright holders. Over the years the rights to the New Generation Software catalogue were passed to Virgin Games, circa 1986, then to Titus Games and then Interplay.

In 2016 Interplay via Wedbush Securities decided to sell off assets in their IP portfolio. At the time other parties with interests (see http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.ph ... ff.110828/) made inquiries to Wedbush regarding the contents of the portfolio. An internal PDF was released describing the assets (Joe Morgan, who no longer works at Wedbush, was a point of contact and quite forthcoming). The PDF had no mention of New Generation Software and focussed only on more contemporary titles (90s onwards) and their relative value tiers. Interestingly though it does state the growing importance of retro gaming as an important source of revenue for IP buyers. I’ve subsequently contacted Wedbush and they have confirmed that they don’t have any information about any games that were not listed.

Whilst the CEO of Interplay, Hervé Caen, accepted my connection on Linked In, I never got response to my pm. He seems more focused on his culinary business interests in the US. Interplay like many of the original games companies had been struggling for years and it seems to all but halted operations.

In short, I have not been able to determine even if Interplay still holds the rights.

If the six degrees of separation rule holds true maybe one of you has or can get answers.

User avatar
1024MAK
Posts: 2009
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:56 am
Location: Looking forward to summer in Somerset, UK...

Re: Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

Post by 1024MAK » Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:38 am

This is the trouble with the copyright laws. Often, once the copyright holder is no longer interested, it hard to find out who actually is the copyright holder, let alone get them to reply to requests :(

I can't see a way of me helping you with this, but I do wish you good luck ;)

Mark

Thommy
Posts: 51
Joined: Wed Sep 28, 2011 6:37 pm

Re: Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

Post by Thommy » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:25 pm

This might be the worst advice ever, but: you could always just publish it and see what happens.

Almost eight years ago, we at the company I was then at released a ZX Spectrum emulator for the iPad. I sought out every freeware or free-for-distribution title that I could find. If you check WoS you'll see that Chaos is believed to be free to redistribute, so we included it. Steve Wilcox of Elite Systems posted a complaint to Apple asserting that he was the distribution rights owner for that market and did not consent, causing the app to be pulled. It was a non-profit app released for a bit of fun, and Wilcox hadn't set lawyers on us, so we just removed Chaos and republished. That closed the matter to everybody's satisfaction and Apple put the app back up.

So, practically speaking: there were no long term ramifications and publishing the thing turned out to be the most effective way to find out who owned the rights (or, technically, at least was willing to assert that they did).

It's a risk, of course. If there is an owner and the owner is feeling punitive then things might not work out so well.

User avatar
kpalser
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 2:18 pm
Location: Dundee, Scotland

Re: Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

Post by kpalser » Thu Mar 15, 2018 10:00 pm

I was given the email address of Mr Caen the CEO of Interplay a couple of days after my post. Unfortunately, there was no response nor automated delivery failure message. Either after all these years they cannot confirm ownership or it is not in their interest to respond.

I hope that the portfolio of Interplay does change hands in the near future because the new owners could be more communicative.
Thommy wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:25 pm
It's a risk, of course. If there is an owner and the owner is feeling punitive then things might not work out so well.
It’s this small chance of punitive action that I cannot risk. Very tempted though.

Do any of you know contacts with the current copyright holders of the original classic ZX81 games?

User avatar
RetroTechie
Posts: 344
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2011 12:16 am
Location: Hengelo, NL
Contact:

Re: Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

Post by RetroTechie » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:42 am

Thommy wrote:
Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:25 pm
This might be the worst advice ever, but: you could always just publish it and see what happens.
Second that. If "just remove offending title if a copyright claim is received" works for you, then why not just go ahead. Ah yes, the -mostly theoretical- risk of legal problems / monetary damages etc. :( Here's a quote from Wikipedia on the subject:
Law

In most cases, software classed as abandonware is not in the public domain, as it has never had its original copyright officially revoked and some company or individual may still own rights. While sharing of such software is usually considered copyright infringement, in practice copyright holders rarely enforce their abandonware copyrights for a number of reasons – chiefly among which the software is technologically obsolete and therefore has no commercial value, therefore rendering copyright enforcement a pointless enterprise. By default, this may allow the product to de facto lapse into the public domain to such an extent that enforcement becomes impractical.

Rarely has any abandonware case gone to court, but it is still unlawful to distribute copies of old copyrighted software and games, with or without compensation, in any Berne Convention signatory country.
In other words: the risk of a lawsuit is practically zero. But even if a lawsuit where to happen, monetary damages would be zero, or a token amount at worst. Having actually done everything that you could reasonably do to find copyright holder (and failing!), would be a very strong argument in your defense I think. So given the nature of this title, the risk you take is slim to none.

On the other hand: why bother taking that risk at all? There's plenty of free-to-distribute or open source / public domain titles out there for the ZX81. Or software for which an author can be found to ask for permission. Users who are too lazy to locate games themselves might even appreciate that, as it may introduce them to titles they've never heard of, authors / sources of newly released software and so on. Or provide you with a 'spotlight' to shine on a promising new author.

Personally I'd prefer the latter option. Rather than move into legal grey area, do the right thing and PROMOTE the freely available goodies out there (and their creators!).

RWAP
Site Admin
Posts: 1273
Joined: Thu May 08, 2008 8:42 am
Location: Stoke-on-Trent, UK
Contact:

Re: Copyrights for New Generation Software games (e.g. 3D Monster Maze)

Post by RWAP » Fri Mar 16, 2018 9:09 pm

RetroTechie wrote:
Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:42 am
In other words: the risk of a lawsuit is practically zero. But even if a lawsuit where to happen, monetary damages would be zero, or a token amount at worst. Having actually done everything that you could reasonably do to find copyright holder (and failing!), would be a very strong argument in your defense I think. So given the nature of this title, the risk you take is slim to none.

On the other hand: why bother taking that risk at all? There's plenty of free-to-distribute or open source / public domain titles out there for the ZX81. Or software for which an author can be found to ask for permission. Users who are too lazy to locate games themselves might even appreciate that, as it may introduce them to titles they've never heard of, authors / sources of newly released software and so on. Or provide you with a 'spotlight' to shine on a promising new author.

Personally I'd prefer the latter option. Rather than move into legal grey area, do the right thing and PROMOTE the freely available goodies out there (and their creators!).
I would also err on the side of caution - in many countries, it is actually illegal to share software and items in breach of copyright - so it is not just a case of whether the copyright holder wishes to pursue a court case for a stop order, or potential lost royalties; but they can also refer it to the police and the person breaching copyright and any hosting company can actually be prosecuted and receive a substantial fine and/or prison sentence.

To some extent, the whole issue is also highlighted by the release of new hardware clones, such as the Spectrum Vega, (promised) Vega+, Spectrum Next and the Recreated ZX Spectrum. Copyright holders see these raising huge amounts of funds on Kickstarter (and also in some cases reaching mainstream media and even high street attention); then realise that (apart from the Spectrum Next) they are being promoted as including 1000+ games; with access to a vast library of free software online. Copyright holders then of course wonder whether their titles are part of the 1000+ included games, or are indeed free to download on line, as this could be valuable new source of revenue for them.....

Post Reply