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Monday, September 11, 2000
Hasbro Settlement in Content Lawsuit
11:54 AM | Andy Largent | Comment on this story

Earlier in the year, Hasbro filed a lawsuit against many game developers, claiming they had stolen the ideas for their games from Atari (a company now owned by Hasbro) and their seminal series of arcade games. FGOnline is now reporting the company has reached a settlement with a number of game makers to cease sales of the titles deemed to be derivative of copyrighted material. Many of these games were shareware knock-offs of classics such Asteroids, Pac Man, and Missile Command. Here's a clip from the article:

eGames, MVP Software and Webfoot Technologies consented to a federal court judgement that acknowledges Hasbro Interactive's copyrights to properties such as Centipede, Missile Command, and Asteroids. The settlement also includes a payment to Hasbro Interactive for an undisclosed amount.

"This is a content-driven business, making the protection of our intellectual property among our highest priorities," said Hasbro General Counsel Barry Nagler.

This idea that a game's premise can be copyrighted is fairly shocking in the video game industry, which is often much more evolutionary than revolutionary. Many of the games listed in the article were enhanced 3D versions of the arcade classics. This likely conflicted with Hasbro's official remakes of classic Atari games such as Asteroids, which is now available from MacSoft. This sets a curious precedent, as the court decision suggests that the mere premise of a game can be considered copyrighted material, not just the game's contents -- by the court's logic, id Software could sue everyone who has made a first-person shooter since Wolfenstien 3D. There hasn't been much industry reaction to the ruling, but it seems logical that this ruling will have an effect on future creative ventures.

Asteroids Web Site
FGOnline Hasbro Article

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