Developer IP and Identity

The character of Statesman is part of City of Heroes. NCSoft bought City of Heroes, but Jack Emmert, the Statesman himself, did not go along. So Mr. Emmert no longer has rights to that identity. I imagine the same thing happened with Lord British, and will with General British if Mr. Garriott leaves NCSoft.

Is that right? How does that work? Does the new IP owner ask the original fellow to stop using that name/handle/whatever? It is not as though Mr. Emmert can log into City of Heroes on Statesman, but it might cause some oddities to have a forum post from Mr. Emmert (anywhere, not just about CoX) under that name.

I like the notion, “We just bought you. Please vacate your identity by 5pm. Security will escort you out.”

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Developer IP and Identity”

  1. Simply using the handle probably wouldn’t be enough to get him in trouble with the law, although it might make his superiors upset. Statesman is too common a word to be trademarked by itself: just using the name as a pseudonym would make it nearly impossible to show “look and feel” of the character rather than just a statesman. It’s not like they could show much in the way of damages, either.

    If he started churning out stuff involving the Statesman persona, that could be more of an issue, but PlayNC’s policy allows for nonprofit use of their concepts, settings, game audio, and game video.

    If he tried to make another game with a Statesman-like superhero, or used the persona in a way significantly harmful to NCSoft, they’ll probably sick the sharks on him, but up to that, he’s still in the clear.

    Other companies and individuals may have different situations, though.

  2. I agree with gattsuru that it really depends on the person/situation. I’m pretty sure Garriott didn’t give up Lord British when he left Origin, but he also built the identity over 9+ games and who knows how many years. Statesman, on the other hand, has only been used for a single game, and is much easier to distinguish as a character rather than a person. There’s nothing stopping NCSoft from assigning some other developer/community manager the Statesman role. It would be a lot harder for EA to have someone start posting on the forums as Lord British.

    All in all, it’s an argument for either sticking to real names for community relations or never revealing the identity of the handle used. Since I think the latter would be impossible, it falls to using real names. (Personally, I’d rather see handles, but the legal world isn’t much for allowing fun.)

  3. And then there’s the other side of this…why would he want to continue using Statesman? Admittedly, it was his identity with CoH/V, and Jack had quite a bit of himself invested in it, but at this point it would do nothing more than promote what is now his competition if he were to continue using it.

    As to the question at hand, I would assume the developers would have something similiar to the language of an EULA in their contract, wherein all in-game concepts become property of the company that owns the game, which would now mean it belongs to NCSoft…unless Jack had it in the sale contract that he keeps the name, which I don’t see as being workable.

    In my opinion…they should handle it like DC Comics handles the Flash…every time there’s a company-wide crossover, the current Flash dies and a new one “takes up the mantle”. The new lead dev on CoH/V should take the mantle of Statesman.

    Either that, or kill off Statesman in-game, turn it into a huge in-game event, and christian a new “lead hero”. I think we should all volunteer. :)

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