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Friday, April 20

So when should the big guy sue the little guy?

bethseda's fallout
Copyright Bethseda
The recent example of how Bethseda sicked the laywers on to the Fallout Poster fan site made me think of what a tricky line it is for video game producers and publishers to walk in terms of giving the community but not letting them dictate the terms of that community.

As usual, I have to cite Bungie as the archetype for community management - they have fostered the development of Halo fans so that those fans stay loyal to the game. Even Microsoft who own the Halo intellectual property for Halo allow fans to use game content and the like on the basis that no monetary gain is made (George Lucas is a famous example of this as well). 

However fans don't own the IP so when they make posters that breach copyright or a trade mark those rights holders have to ask themselves. Is this kid worth it? Is he contributing to the community? Or are the abusing it? Are they taking a yard instead of an inch? 

Some video gamers and fanboys (and girls!) can be observed to feeling they are rights to the games themselves. Think the Mass Effect 3 ending. People were outraged that the ending to their game sucked. And then promptly demanded ME3's producers change the ending. 

But fans don't have that right. In the case of the ME3 ending DLC, they might have won this short term battle but they sure as heck have not won the war. 

The converse applies to the issue as well. If a company comes down too hard they run the risk of looking like big giant corporate bullies who don't care about their fans.

So when should the big guy sue the little guy? What do you think?

2 comments:

Joshua said...

While the consumer can often go too far in what they expect and believe they 'deserve', I'd say the companies shouldn't be stepping on toes when they don't need to. Groups such as Bungie have shown what benefits come with allowing their user-base access to material otherwise owned by the company itself. User- and self-generated content is a large boom in digital media these days, and is a great source of extending product shelf-life, re-playability, and otherwise just an increased love and appreciation for the works made by companies.

Non-profit actions shouldn't be shot down if a company truly values face and mutual respect. People are easily opinionated, and seeing the big guy step on the little guy can negatively affect potential and return customers. These actions are nothing beyond self-corrosive, and will only lessen respect, reputation, and return. But perhaps the bigger companies can afford not to care?

James Ryan said...

Amen bro, amen.