Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

November 12, 2004

Marvel Sues City of Heroes for Its Municipal Policies Regarding Freedoms of Expression and Dress

According to wire reports, Marvel Enterprises has sued South Korea-based NCSoft Corp. and San Jose-based Cryptic Studios Inc. for the way their City of Heroes on-line game allows its players to mimic Marvel characters in the body of play. In other words, you can't officially be the Hulk in City of Heroes, but Marvel feels you shouldn't be really, really like the Hulk, either.

City of Heroes is a computer game where you can participate as a superhero of your creation in a virtual world shared by other users through on-line connections.

Marvel's suit is doubtless noteworthy for a number of reasons. Here are three I didn't have to have explained to me by a lawyer:
First, Marvel has sued the company that allows such theft to take place rather than those perpetuating the alleged crime, which is similar to litigation brought against organizers of flea markets that host bootleg vendors and Internet sites that host music file swapping.

Second, in order to go after the making of dopplegangers Marvel seems to be making at least a vague claim for its characters as a bundle of attributes rather than simply a name and visual key. This may have ramifications for comics, where the use of wink-wink close copies has been accepted practice for a couple of decades now.

Third, this fits in with Marvel's newly-energized philosophy of "With great power comes the added power of me suing your ass." Marvel recently took action against Disney over the custodial status of some of its television iterations of successful properties. This suit could be seen as a strike on behalf of its planned, similar role-playing game.

Your various comics-related news sites and blogs should be all over this story due to its magnificent nerd synergy and fertile soil for one-liners, so even if your interest is limited you might mine any you routinely visit for humorous nuggets. Early this morning, I got a laugh from a section in Newsarama's article that points out a player's guide that practically flaunts Wolverine almost-likes:
"...the City of Heroes Official Strategy Guide (licensed by Prima, and approved by NCSoft and Cryptic Studio) includes a comic strip where three characters that look like Marvel's Wolverine, calling themselves Wulferine, Wolvereen, and Wulverine, joke about who's the 'real' character."

I wonder if that was found in Appendix Three: Please Sue Us.
posted 7:55 am PST | Permalink

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