Fallout Fan Takes On Bethesda's Lawyers

WMDogma

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Fallout Fan Takes On Bethesda's Lawyers


Artist uses "fandom" as his legal defense.

It's pretty well-known that developer Bethesda is pretty protective of its trademarks [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/113339-Mojang-and-Bethesda-Are-Going-to-Court], and is no stranger to laying down the law to secure its interests. However, when it recently sent a cease and desist letter to internet entrepreneur Erling Løken Andersen, requesting he hand over the reigns to his Fallout-themed art site, Andersen decided to give Bethesda a taste of its own medicine and shot back with his own legal letter.

In late 2011, Andersen set up a website called "Fallout-posters.com" [http://www.fallout-posters.com/], dedicated to fan images inspired by Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, several of which were created by Andersen himself. However, Bethesda felt that his site and its content were hitting a little too close to home, and demanded that Andersen take down all of the infringing images and cede control of the website to Bethesda.

Although complying with the request to take down the art, Andersen determined that he hadn't done anything wrong in purchasing a domain with "Fallout" in the name and composed a lengthy rebuttal contesting each of Bethesda's infringement claims. In a fair amount of legalese, Andersen posits that both his artwork and his website were created under Fair Use and weren't made with the goal of contesting any of Bethesda's trademarks. Andersen even goes so far as to state that Bethesda had no claim over the use of the word "fallout" in the first place.

"I'm not out looking for trouble. I set up the website out of pure 'fandom', and the last thing I wanted - or expected - was to be threatened with a lawsuit by Bethesda," wrote Andersen on his blog. "What pisses me off isn't the fact that they're looking out for their trademark - as they have every right to do so. What I'm pissed about are large companies abusing their monetary power, hiring global law firms to go after a fan online, immediately threating [sic] with a lawsuit."

While it's certainly impressive that Andersen played the law card in a manner almost as impressive as Bethesda's lawyers, what's a little sketchy is how Andersen suggested that Bethesda would've gotten a better response had it sent him some Fallout swag first before siccing its lawyers on him. Making things even more awkward is how Andersen decries Bethesda's method of protecting its trademarks almost within the same breath as stating he understands the reasoning behind sending him a cease and desist in the first place.

Andersen has yet to say if he's received a reply from Bethesda's lawyers in regards to his response. For now, the Fallout-posters.com website is still up and operational, albeit with the supposedly infringing artwork removed.

Source: Stormen.wordpress.com [http://stormen.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/threated-with-lawsuit-by-bethesda-this-was-my-reply/]

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BehattedWanderer

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Jun 24, 2009
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As of me going to look, the site is there, but all of the images normally there have a big "Down due to copyright infringement by Bethesda. Sorry." Though, my favorite part?


"Fallout-Posters.com is a fansite and not affiliated with or endorsed by Bethesda Softworks. Please don't sue. (UPDATED: DAMN, too late!) All design reinterpretations are subject of Fair Use under the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107. Copyright Erling Løken Andersen 2011, 2012. All rights reserved."
 

A Raging Emo

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BehattedWanderer said:
Fallout-Posters.com is a fansite and not affiliated with or endorsed by Bethesda Softworks. Please don't sue. (UPDATED: DAMN, too late!) All design reinterpretations are subject of Fair Use under the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107. Copyright Erling Løken Andersen 2011, 2012. All rights reserved.
I saw that too, and lol'd.
 

Screamarie

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Yeah, I don't know whether to cheer for Anderson or not...but what I don't understand is is he making money off the fallout posters? Cause if he is then, yeah, Bethesda has every right to sue.

If he's not and it's just like a gallery of art then I think Bethesda is taking it too far.
 

Tanis

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Aug 30, 2010
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I don't like it when game companies act like jerks.

There's a reason why I only buy used games from several publishers/developers.
 

CardinalPiggles

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And people think Bethesda aren't just another money hugging faceless business?

If they weren't then they would have made sure shit like this didn't happen again.
 

Vampire cat

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Apr 21, 2010
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There must be some sort of mistake, misgiving or something someone isn't telling us here... Bethesda and most other companies haven't had a problem with non-profit fan sites in the past, there are surely countless of fan-created content on both the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series that go untouched.

I find it hard to believe they would just go after this guy randomly? I should maybe show my support as a fellow Norwegian, but idk... It all seems so absurd. Are Bethesdas legal representation really so stupid that they would risk another mess of this nature so close after the Mojang thing?
 

croc3629

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What I would like to know is, what does Bethesda's non-legal departments think of all this?
 

Rooster Cogburn

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I don't understand what the guy did wrong. There are lots of fan sites that include fan fiction and fan art and have the name of the subject in their URL.
 

DiamanteGeeza

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(I will preface this comment with "As long as Anderson wasn't trying to make some cash out of Bethesda's IP"...)

It's such a shame these days that the majority of IP owners' first response to anything like this is to immediately get the lawyers involved. Once that happens, any sense of reason or logic goes out the window and it's legal-speak all the way. And, once that path is taken, it's very hard to back out of it because the lawyers won't let you; doing so might put you in a weak position if it does end up in court...

Bethesda could have used this to generate a really positive bit of PR for themselves. Perhaps offering what is clearly a very dedicated fan that has a dedicated following the chance to run a competition or something? Best piece of artwork wins something cool from Bethesda, and maybe even gets featured in a future title? Something along those lines would have gone down very well for their public image.

Ah, well...
 

Terminate421

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I personally would have hired him as a merchandiser (if I was Bethesda)

Kind of how the FBI and such sometimes forcefully hires certain people who did illegal things (Catch me of you can, for example), that way they all benefit
 

Sylveria

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Bethesda seems to be trying quite hard to be jerks in an industry that is already drowning in them. It is starting to look like highschool with each game company seeing who can be the bigger bully toward the fans.
 

Sylveria

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croc3629 said:
What I would like to know is, what does Bethesda's non-legal departments think of all this?
Their non-legal departments probably don't even know this is happening. Their legal department likely has 2-3 lawyers on staff who spend all day Googling "Fallout" and write up C/Ds for every site that shows up in the search list.
 

sunburst

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Mar 19, 2010
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It's nice to see the number of people defending Bethesda and rationalizing their actions drops with each new case of dubious legal bullying. Gamers might start standing up for themselves yet.
 

NLS

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Jan 7, 2010
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Could be any kind of reason behind this, but my guess it's either:
1. Protecting the Fallout IP. If the website and service is "too good", consumers may confuse it with say, an official product by Bethesda.
2. Protection of the original artists' work. Let's say the artist working for Bethesda has signed a licensing agreement that the artwork will only be used within the game or for any future printed products by bethesda. What if the work was outsourced to someone not directly working within Bethesda? The problem arises when someone is distributing these artworks outside of their original context in high resolution without giving any sort of credit.
 

Sandytimeman

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Jan 14, 2011
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this is just another example of why I cannot stand Bethesda. They will sue anyone. Shit I'm surprised they aren't suing the Escapist for running their game trailers and reporting news stories on their products.

It won't be long before they start suing people with 'the' in the title because it infringes on their copyright of "the elder scrolls"
 

Saulkar

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Unless he was making any profit from his work Bethesda/Bethesda's legal team can take a walk off a short dock while being fucked by a horse. How will they walk you ask? Easy!!!
http://bitloaded.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/physics-*****-i-am-a-horse.jpg