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Zenimax, Oculus in legal dispute, and John Carmack's caught in the middle
Zenimax, Oculus in legal dispute, and John Carmack's caught in the middle
May 1, 2014 | By Kris Graft

May 1, 2014 | By Kris Graft
Comments
    55 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR has led to a fight over rights to virtual reality technology -- and game programming legend John Carmack is in the middle of the dispute.

In legal letters obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Zenimax Media -- parent to Elder Scrolls and Fallout developer Bethesda Softworks -- is claiming it owns key technology behind the Oculus Rift VR headset, which was the impetus behind the $2 billion acquisition deal.

Caught up in the dispute is Carmack. He was working with Oculus on VR technology while still employed at id Software -- which is owned by Zenimax, leading to Zenimax's claims of rights ownership. Carmack left id Software for Oculus last year, and had been working with Oculus in the months prior as chief technology officer.

An Oculus rep told Gamasutra, "It's unfortunate, but when there's this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims. We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent."

Zenimax reps said in a statement (see full statement below), "Zenimax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests." The company is seeking compensation, though there's no official word yet on whether court proceedings will ensue.

Zenimax claims that without Carmack's help, Oculus wouldn't be the successful startup it is today. In a letter from April, Zenimax told Oculus and Facebook lawyers, "It was only through the concerted efforts of Mr. Carmack, using technology developed over many years at, and owned by, Zenimax, that Mr. [Palmer] Luckey [Oculus founder] was able to transform his garage-based pipe dream into a working reality."

Oculus has been hiring top VR talent from other companies, namely Valve Software.

Earlier this year, Carmack explained why he ended up leaving id Software, a company he co-founded, after working on the side with Oculus in the months prior: "When it became clear that I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do any work on VR while at id Software, I decided to not renew my contract."

We're seeking further comment from the companies involved in the dispute.

Update #1: Zenimax provided Gamasutra with its statement regarding the dispute. Here it is, in full:
ZeniMax confirms it recently sent formal notice of its legal rights to Oculus concerning its ownership of key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift. ZeniMax’s technology may not be licensed, transferred or sold without ZeniMax Media’s approval. ZeniMax’s intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others. ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings.

The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax. Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax’s legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests.


Update #2: Re/code claims to have obtained a copy of a non-disclosure agreement between representatives of id and Oculus VR that would seem to govern their partnership to work on VR, including Zenimax's rights to the work Carmack was doing while he was still at id.

The agreement was signed in May of 2012, roughly a month before the first Oculus Rift prototype was showcased at E3, and includes language like "[Oculus VR] shall not acquire hereunder any right whatsoever to any proprietary information."

The agreement further stipulates that the term "proprietary information" encompasses things like prototypes and research data.


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Comments


Jane Castle
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This should be a warning to anyone who works on their pet projects on company time or using company resources.

Michael Joseph
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And a warning about selling your company and demoting yourself from owner to employee.

Chris Book
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Any proof he did either of those things? Companies routinely like to claim that ANYTHING an employee creates - even on their own time - belongs to the company. It also rarely stands up in court.

edit: Also, from Carmack's twitter: "Oculus uses zero lines of code that I wrote while under contract to Zenimax."

John Paduch
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@Chris - Right, because one side should be given the complete benefit of the doubt over the other, right? Carmack's tweet is utterly meaningless here, without proof.

Speaking of proof, Zenimax is claiming to have exactly that, by stating that Luckey signed a statement agreeing to what Zenimax owns.

Clu Fourteen
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Now that's what I call a sticky situation.

Vyacheslav Gonakhchyan
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They can prove that Carmack worked on Oculus VR during work hours in Zenimax?

Adam Bishop
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Depending on the structure of his employment contract, when and where he worked on it may not matter. When I last worked for a large game developer my contract explicitly stated that they claimed ownership over anything game-related I worked on for the duration of my employment with them. I once sought permission to work on something for fun as a side project and was denied. Some game industry contracts are extremely heavy handed in regard to intellectual property.

Jeremy Alessi
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Yeah, I don't know. This makes it sound like Zenimax is claiming ownership of Carmack's brain and its collective potential, not the iP he created on company time. It'll be interesting to see how this boils down.

Christian Nutt
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The update / the statement from Zenimax sheds some light on this. It sounds to me more like while he was multitasking on Oculus stuff before he quit Id, there was an agreement there that Zenimax would derive some benefit from that work. I don't know the truth of it (that's also going to be for other people to decide) but it doesn't sound quite as sinister as it did at first.

Now, I do agree that the way companies try to control the creative output of employees is problematic, especially the idea that "anything you do here, even in your off-time, is ours." That's reprehensible.

However, we don't know the ins and outs of this situation at all. I think it's a gut reaction to be anti-Zenimax, pro-Oculus, but if you step back, at I think you can admit that there is likely some grey area in this situation, without a full understanding of what happened.

Josh Foreman
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Yeah, at first I was like "Of course this would happen". But on further reflection this is a more nuanced issue. It sounds like Carmack wanted to go one direction, and his employer wanted him to do other stuff. But he was clearly spending his time as an employee working on VR stuff that they weren't as excited about as he. From a legal perspective it does seem that they have a valid argument. From a gamer/developer/yay-let's-advance-our-artform perspective this is obnoxious as hell.

Mike Griffin
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Right, and we don't really know the extent of Carmack's consulting work for Oculus whilst still employed at id.

It's entirely possible that during this period Carmack's involvement with Oculus also convinced some Zenimax execs to invest in Oculus, in one way or another.

Not just in the sense of 'investing' John Carmack's Oculus efforts while still a Zenimax employee, but something beyond that. And maybe, unlike a burned Kickstarter donator, Zenimax has a real stake in the technology that they legally have a right to see a return on.

Ian Uniacke
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Naaah...sounds more like this to me:

JC: This VR is going to be big, we should make Doom for it.
Zenimax: ok give it a shot
...
Zenimax: nah...lets stop with this vr nonsense
JC: Ok well bye
...
Zenimax: THIS VR THING IS HUGE! FACEBOOK! 2 BILLION DOLLARS! PANIC STATIONS EVERYONE! OH WE TOTALLY OWN THAT SERIOUSLY LIKE FML!

(their claim being that developing doom for VR somehow helped VR...like as if I made a gameboy game and declared that I own the gameboy)

Jeremy Alessi
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LOL, yeah that sounds really spot on. Not so much due to greed, but perhaps remorse for missing the boat and losing their resident genius in the process.

Alan Barton
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@"sounds to me more like while he was multitasking on Oculus stuff before he quit Id"

His research position at ID gave him the right to research whatever technology he though he should, to help the company he greatly helped create...
http://www.polygon.com/2013/11/22/5134500/id-software-founder-joh
n-carmack-resigns

But then he found the new bosses didn't see and want to listen to the potential in what he was trying to tell them they should do...
http://www.theverge.com/gaming/2014/2/4/5378476/the-real-reason-j
ohn-carmack-left-id-software

So he left. That should have been the end of the story. He done research for them and **they must have got results at that time** and the bosses didn't want to listen to the results at that time and so chose not to pursue it. That should have been the end of it. But no, now his old bosses (who didn't listen to him at the time, when they had the chance to greatly profit from what he was telling them), are now trying to find a way to get money out of the new company he has gone to.

He has given them enough ... but clearly they want more and now they see a $2B Oculus deal, they want more.

This sounds sickeningly ruthless of Zenimax to pursue him after he created so much for the company they bought.

It sounds like they are fishing for more money.

But even worse, their angle is even more sickening, because they sound like they are trying to exploit and manipulate to the maximum they can, the ridiculously one sided contracts our industry uses. This just shows how badly these one sided contracts make us effectively slaves to be exploited without limit by ruthless bosses.

I would guess most of us here who have been employees for some years, have probably from time to time been in similar situations, where the bosses in some of the companies we have worked for, have simply not wanted to listen, even when we could have shown facts to prove they are wrong and should have listened. The irony is the bosses could have profited most, if they did listen, but they adamantly refuse to listen, as they are in charge. Been through that a few times over the years and this sounds exactly like one more example of that kind of behaviour. (I wish more bosses would see they stand to profit most from listening to the people with expertise in areas they don't have to the same degree).

Zenimax are not winning sympathy by doing this. Zenimax's move is really showing themselves in a poor light, but I guess with bosses behaving like this, they will be the last to accept they are wrong to behave like this. The bottom line for me is these frankly arrogantly self-interested ignorant morons running Zenimax should have listened to Carmack when they had the chance. Its their failure not to listen to him more about VR. That should have been the end of the story and its their mistake to pursue this further and I hope Zenimax loose badly.

John Paduch
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@Ian - Your statement is baseless and irresponsible, given what little we know of the specifics. Zenimax claims to have - IN WRITING - a statement from Luckey that Zenimax is the owner of the IP in question, whatever that specific IP is.

You and @Jeremy sound like trolls, the way you're expressing yourselves.

Jonnathan Hilliard
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if they sued before the sale to FB I might believe it is something other than greed.

Michael Joseph
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Could FB decide there wasn't proper disclosure of Zenimax's ownership claim prior to their acquisition of the company and go after the Occulus shareholders who benefited from this sale? well time will tell...

Robert Carter
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According to the updated statement they were talking about this before the FB acquisition. They were trying to work things out between what they claim to own (Which they also claim Occulus says in writing is theirs) in business talks. Legal action is only being pursued because they were not consulted about the sale.

If what they say is true they may have a claim and were making it long before the FB sale

Ian Uniacke
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The statement about 'Occulus says in writing' is very vague. I have a suspicion that this statement is in regards to Occulus saying that Zenimax owns Doom oculus edition and they're trying to say that this somehow means they own the occulus. Which is ridiculous.

Shannon Rowe
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I expect they are extrapolating from that NDA he signed and interpreting it as evidence of Palmer conceding that the Rift's success arises from the use of ZeniMax's IP during its showcasing stage. They probably do have a case for some small amount of compensation on the grounds of the tweaked Doom 3 demo that helped get the Rift noticed, but if they also want to go after ownership of the contents of Carmack's head, then it's going to get ugly all round.

George Menhal III
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Sounds like a bunch of corporate suits who have nothing better to do besides legally scam people out of money. Stories like this really infuriate me.

I work as a Software Developer and I'm really sick to death of signing these horrible agreements. It's the single biggest complaint I have with being a programmer / developer. Some companies are even so greedy that they want to claim any independent work you do while you are OFF the clock.

It's another example of corporations thinking they control and own everything, and for the most part they do. It never ends. They will find a way to privatize everything on the planet if they have their way. It really makes me sick.

Kevin Fishburne
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Indeed. At least now we get to witness the Battle of the Douchebags: ZeniMax v. Facebook. Let them burn their money. The only thing that would make the situation more ironic, considering ZeniMax's previous disinterest in the OR, is if the final product isn't successful. The last time I checked it was still expensive and induced vomiting. When all the smoke and puke has finally cleared hopefully we'll at least be left with a decent product.

George Menhal III
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I've got an Oculus Dev Kit 2 coming to me in July. I have about a million design ideas that I want to try and implement NOW before the consumer device hits shelves. Whether or not the thing is a failure, I want my ideas to have a presence on Oculus when it launches.

As a gamer, I have wanted Oculus since the beginning. As a budding young designer, I really want Oculus to succeed.

But "Battle of the Douchebags" nails it right on the head. Even though I want Oculus to be a success, I've been pretty outspoken in that I think the Facebook buyout is a horrible direction.

Robert Schmidt
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So our employers own our experience in perpetuity. Any income I generate based on the experience I acquired working for past employers is really their income. I am in essence the property of my employer. What a sick world of corporate fascism we have created.

Judy Tyrer
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In some ways this could be the best thing to happen to developers, depending on how the case goes, of course. It brings into question "Who owns your thoughts" while you work for someone else. We need a big case to bring the travesty of companies who refuse to fund projects their employees come up with forcing the employees to leave and get funding themselves and then coming back once they are successful and claiming rights.

I would like to see those contracts tossed out by the courts and for us to return to a "first right of refusal" system where once the company chooses not to fund a side project, ownership of that project reverts to the employee. It's a much more equitable solution than what we are seeing here.

Employers do now OWN their employees.

SD Marlow
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Sounds like this: We drafted a promising young quarterback but kept him on the bench for 2 whole seasons, then he signed with another team and led them to a super bowl victory. Since we had him first, we should get some championship rings too.

The bases for Carmack's leaving was a lack of VR development with id/Zenimax, so they can't really claim that he took "their" VR tech with him. It IS true that some super bright people in the industry signed-on to work with Oculus, and Facebook (Zuckerberg) believes in them 2 billion percent.

John Maurer
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The game industry is notorious for claiming ownership over employee work, doesn't really matter if they were on the clock or even at work when they did it. Most of the larger publishers even have post periods of employment where if you even work on something similar to what you where doing within a given span of time you can find yourself in legal hot-water. Couple that with getting paid at least a third of what your worth while big wigs earn $1m annually and it starts getting pretty obvious how one sided things are.

alex velazquez
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That is a foolish statement. Everyone thinks they are worth more than they are getting paid. The truth is your only worth what you can negotiate for. And if you don't like the terms of the contract, guess what .. You don't have to sign it. If you want to work at one of these "evil" studios than you agree to the terms. If you have some great project idea while your employed and you want to pursue it, then resign wait the agreed upon period and then pursue it. I know several concept artists that have done just that.

John Maurer
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Yea, that's kinda what I did man. Speaking of foolish, so your saying if I have a great idea and want to leave to pursue it, then I've gotta starve for x amount of years doing something else until that window is closed, and you can't think of one practical reason why that plan may not pan out? What, you live with your mom?

alex velazquez
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Why did you agree to it in the first place? And really .. Mom comments? Pretty low brow.

John Maurer
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Not if it's true

alex velazquez
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Why do you have to starve? What's this other thing your going to do that doesn't pay you enough to eat. I can think of a thousand reasons why it might not pan out. where is it written that you are entitled to success. The clause is invalid because life might get in the way of you accomplishingthis idea? If I could sleep tonight I wouldn't have wasted my time on this. Your just another bitter bs "developer" with bs ideas no one cares about.

Amir Barak
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A contract is only as valid as the legality of the statements within it. One cannot sign on a contract which gives away their inherit legal rights (as far as I understand it, though I'm not a lawyer). That said, a lot of companies add illegal sections anyway on the hopes that people won't research and won't fight.

****
On a side note, replying to an ad-hominem with another ad-hominem contributes very little to the conversation and simply perpetuates an abusive cycle. Just sayin'

Alan Barton
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@"That is a foolish statement. Everyone thinks they are worth more than they are getting paid. The truth is your only worth what you can negotiate for. And if you don't like the terms of the contract, guess what .. You don't have to sign it."

The irony is your statement is the foolish one.

If every employer gives the same kind of contract, (which they try to do in this industry) there is no real choice, because the need for money forces us to sign our lives away.

Employment all to often functions and feels like open air prisons side by side. Sure you can leave at any time you like, but without the money to truly escape, you'll have to walk right into yet another open air prison and start again. But then too many bad bosses like it like this, as they can ruthlessly exploit people for their own gain and throw you out if you try to ask for more, so few dare to ask for more and the few that do try will fail even if they try to ask for more.

Its called a Hobson's choice
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_choice

Oh and if you think you can hold out for getting better terms on your contract before signing, then one of two things will happen. Either someone who needs the money more than you will sign first and you will loose out, or yes wonderful you will get signed up on a better deal. Great you've won, only you'll later find you've really lost, because you'll be made redundant as soon as the boss can, to replace you quietly with someone cheaper.

That is how the game is really played and its taken me 30 years of employment to learn it.

And if you are lucky enough to find a good company, because some do exist, they unfortunately all too often get pushed out of business by more ruthless companies.

So companies that are good and stay in business are rare opportunities indeed. I would happily spend the rest of my life in one if only I could find a new one, but sadly all to often events and our society as a whole, favour and allow bad bosses to profit more from being ruthless, so they dominate.

alex velazquez
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There is a thriving indie market. It is not a Hobson's choice. If you require what the big studios provide then yes your options are somewhat limited if your are not a high demand employee. It is unfortunate that it took you thirty years to figure that out.
Unions were designed to combat that exact problem. I doubt the industry will go that route though.

Alan Barton
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Indie market requires money to escape and repeated luck to escape by that route.

As much as we would all like to think it was entirely down to creativity, the reality is all too often luck to escape.

The result is idealic hoping of success != success ... been there, tried that a few times.

Also unions have been demonised in the media for years, to the point they have almost been wiped out of society, which is exactly what bad employers want, as unions could help employees stand together, to stand up to bad employers. Result is bad employers are dominating, which is exactly what they want.

alex velazquez
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And another thing regarding this idiotic idea of first right of refusal. So a company working on 1 title, with 150 employees needs to fund and pursue every idea their employees come up with or else loose all that intellectual and creative property that they foster. Think about that for more than a second. They would have to have unlimited budgets and then hire on more staff to pursue those ideas, and then those employees will have ideas, and exponentially so on and so on. Genius.

Michael Joseph
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So the employees should just hold onto their employers' "fostered" property by keeping it a secret and unveiling it only after whatever contractually specified amount of time has passed? By that reasoning there is still a theft involved and the employees only get away with it because of the technical limitations of extracting the truth from their brains. Genius.

And make no mistake this goes on in the software industry all the time. So they're all thieves? Of course not. They're just not dumb enough to concede ownership of their own thoughts to another.

The reality is people are inspired from countless sources with some seeds of creativity having been planted in early childhood only to finally bare fruit decades later. By what rationale or moral justification can the current employer declare themselves the owner of the entirety of an employees creative output - output that is truly the product of a lifetime of experiences?

alex velazquez
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Exactly. Wow you really think you have made some kind of eloquent observation there? Yes there are real world limitations to proving when and where an employees ideas came from. In a lawsuit the company would have to show proof that is was generated while a contract was in place. There is no way to prove where the idea started until the minute you start spouting your thoughts around the water cooler or email your boss about it. I can't believe I have to explain that.

John Maurer
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How long have you been brainwashed Alex?

alex velazquez
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Oh the ignorance.. When you start throwing out brainwashing you've already lost. Try formulating a reasoned response next time. People sign and agree to these terms all time, and for the most part rarely have issues with them. I have been in on dozens of interviews with candidates who say they want to be at a studio to learn and grow from the amazing talent there. Studios provide access to software, talent and material otherwise unavailable to them. The learning and growth doesn't stop at six o'clock. They don't turn in that knowledge when they do their exit interviews. The employee benefits outside of the studio walls. Great ideas get discarded all the time for all manner of reasons. You have a great idea outside of work and the studio rolls with it no ones complaining about it, they even expect credit for it. If they don't then the bitching starts. This is the game industry, your hired for your creativity. You don't bring ideas to the table, you won't last long. But you risk that idea not being realized. If it's something you absolutely must realize, resign wait and pursue. Otherwise prepare to be engaged in a lawsuit if you are successful and you told people your idea. Or how about this go work at a smaller studio or an indie that doesn't have that stipulation. No one is forcing you to work at those big bad studios. That's the bottom line.

Michael Joseph
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"They don't turn in that knowledge when they do their exit interviews."
--

Thanks for that. I think this one sentence epitomizes the view held by people like yourself who believe that employers and the workspaces and environments they provide are THE catalyst for the creative works of young adults.

It's narcissistic baloney. The absolutely _only_ thing that gives an employer a right to it's employees' work or inventions are the contracts. Yet you keep trying to suggest in your round about way that there is some kind of tit for tat thing going on that gives employers a moral right to their employees creative output. It's not enough for you to say this is a contractual matter ONLY, you persist in trying to make this into something more fundamental. But I don't think anyone is buying it.

This desire to own people so deeply and completely seems to me quite pathological. Should every industry related discussion at the watercooler be a trade secret because the company enabled the environment that allowed professionals to come together to have the discussion in the first place?

I think you give the four walls, ceiling and watercooler too much credit.

I would agree with you however that employees should defeat their contractual obligations if need be by withholding their "great ideas" until after they've left the company and non-compete or whatever relevant clauses have expired.

"Oh the ignorance.." if everyone on Gamasutra placed as much stock into these ideas as you do, this site would not exist. This site was built on the liberal sharing of knowledge. Or maybe Gamasutra should start suing mofos! Afterall, it's not as if websites haven't tried before to take ownership of their users' posts claiming that their website provided the inspiration and impetus, means and method for their users' exchanges.

alex velazquez
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Ok now we are getting somewhere. Yes it's contractual. You asked for the rationale behind it and then accuse me of making a fundamental argument. Fine if you're no longer interested in the reason behind the clause then it's pretty simple. You signed the contract now you must be held to it.
If you started a think tank, hired a group of people to come up with ideas, and those people came into work and said so I had an idea last night. How is that not the very core of what you are paying them for. How is it that those ideas do not become the property of your organization.
There is a bit of paranoia when it comes to this subject. Like I said before most of the time this doesn't matter at all for most employees. Zenimax Isn't going to go after you for developing a skateboard in your off time even if you talk about it around the office. Only when it creates direct competition to its own products or you get bought by Facebook for 2 billion.
At that point you were under signed contract.

This idea of a website suing for ownership of ideas on forums is more relevant subject to more people, less to this article though. When did this occur?

Amir Barak
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Unless an employee works in direct competition with their employer I don't think the employer has any legal right to oppose the employee's pursuits (again, not a lawyer, I'd love to hear from one on this).

" If it's something you absolutely must realize, resign wait and pursue. "
Wait? why wait?

"No one is forcing you to work at those big bad studios. "
You're missing the point of people bringing these practices into the open. This argument is irrelevant to the topic, people working in an environment should strive to make that environment a better place for themselves and others. Why don't you care about the places you work for and/or the people you work with?

"studios provide access to software, talent and material otherwise unavailable to them"
Then again, by your previous argument, no one is forcing the studios to provide any of these things. No one is even forcing them to hire and train more people. If people are such a liability to the studio why have them in the first place?

Alan Barton
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@alex velazquez "Oh the ignorance"

Funny as I was thinking the same about you. :)

Its ironic you are so domineering because that is preventing you seeing you are wrong and that is why you are wrong.

You show you have a lot to learn, but you evidently don't want to learn, with the way you are behaving.

Fact: Try getting a job in a games company with no experience?
The simply fact is you won't. You have to hit the ground running with extensive knowledge or you won't be employed. If you try with no knowledge you will fail as they will find someone who does know what they are talking about. Yet from the moment you are employed, they then claim they own your knowledge. There therefore HAS TO BE A LIMIT to what they can claim they own. Their claim isn't absolute.

I have no problem with a company owning what I create for them *** during the hours they pay me in return for my work ***.

I have every problem with a company trying to own what I create *** in my spare time or after I stop working for them ***, as its time they don't pay for.

If you can't see the different its your problem and your loss and you are part of the problem of people being like this.

The fact is in life, some arrogant narcissistic people will try to take as much as they can from other people. There has to be a line against that behaviour or they will reduce others to awful situations.

If you can't see a company fishing for more money here, you show you are ignorant of business.

And if you still want to come back with more domineering, Mark Twain has some advice for you, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.". You show you have a lot to learn. Try start learning, for your own gain. Your loss if you don't.

alex velazquez
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What exactly am I supposed to learn here? Where is the lesson? All I've read is philosophical romanticized dribble about the way the world should work. Utopian ideals where everyone wins and there are no losers. Have you considered all Kickstarter supporters who got burned by the Facebook deal. At the end of the day we're working in the games industry. Could be a lot worse. I'm done here.

Alan Barton
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@"What exactly am I supposed to learn here?"

That you are wrong. That you allow and expect way to much control over you. That you don't admit that there are greedy narcissistic people in business who will arrogantly try to take way more than is fair.

Are we to not enforce what we think is fair? In your view?

Bosses don't own you, they employ you to do a job and once that work is done, its end of story. If they make mistakes by failing to pursue opportunities, then that is their mistake. They can't come running afterwards for a slice of the money, after they failed to see they were wrong.

With your attitude, you would make an awful manager or boss.

John Paduch
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@Alan - To be fair, you really ARE speaking in terms of what people SHOULD be doing and how businesses in the industry SHOULD work.

The industry is not going to change because of flowery talk about workers' rights and what they SHOULD be able to claim as their own that they make off-hours. You either sign these contracts, go indie somehow with your own resources (or seek investment), or you leave and work in another industry.

The world doesn't owe you jack shit.

Alan Barton
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If a company CHOOSES to not do what it "should" be doing (your words), then it has no reason for staff to invest long hours in that company, so the company will be at a competitive disadvantage to other companies they do get it right. There has to be loyalty back from the company to the staff. All companies are big on wanting loyalty from their staff, but the bad ones who are short on showing loyalty to their staff, will ulimately fail, but not before they rip off their staff.

However knowledge of this behaviour allows potential staff to skip being ripped off, by avoiding staying at the bad companies. So there is something to gain from talking about it.

Michael Thornberg
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@Amir:

"Unless an employee works..."

No you don't actually. Unless you are given an OK from the company you work for, then this will happen. It really doesn't matter if you are in competition or not. The rule is, always inform what you are doing. No need to say exactly *what* or *how* you do it, simply stating something like 'write a game' is OK. But make sure you do it *before* you begin, or even the idea is theirs. Trust me on this one, this is a legal minefield. Make sure to close that door before it opens. Lock it.

Amir Barak
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@Michael
As I've said, I'm not a lawyer but if you've got a direct reference to the related workplace laws which state this I'd love to read. Are you a lawyer by any chance, or is this your idea of what you think is the law? (because I often find that thinking something and it being real are different things).

Under this logic, if I make a chair at home then sell it, should I pay a portion to my employer? Should I ask them for a permission?

John Maurer
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Ok Alex, I'm going to chime one more time and I'm done. A lot of vets are resonating the same thing. Your obviously a young man who's experienced some degree of success, and like most young men its gone straight to your head. Here's the problem for the older crowd:

So, over the years you'll undoubtedly have pet projects. At first it has a lot less to do with ambition an a lot more to do with improving your trade, whatever that may be.

Over time, this body of work starts to become very near and dear to you, and you start seeing that it is all starting to become relative to itself. There's a big idea there, taking form.

More time goes by, and you see a legit vision, something that could be real, could be great, and should be yours. Then you remember The terms and conditions of your hire paperwork. All you can do is sigh and say, "O shit".

Now, a loyal servant such as yourself may readily hand over said life's work, but the older crowd had more capitalist roots than you young'ins, but they also have developed liabilities by now; mortgage, lingering student loans, retirement, maybe even family.

So what do you do? Even if you are willing to risk all, you've still have to allot time to allow any restrictions to your works to expire. That said, most will still go for it, but it'd be a damn shame to go through all that just to find yourself in court defending the ownership of said idea.

John Carmack is a fucking legend dude, he's had more influence over the look an feel of the industries products than you or I ever will.

To listen to your smug elitist remarks talking about how foolish he, myself, and other vets are for falling victim to and\or finding outrage with rigged contracts and employee exploitation is making everyone else's ass itch.

I don't expect you to understand, because based on your comments you outright refuse too. Your pride outways your reason, and for your sake, may you never try to hard, at anything, cause you may just be at risk of eating your words.

Michael Thornberg
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@Amir:
I see. You got some idea that attempting to minimize me would invalidate what I said. And I am not going to get caught up in a knowledge debate either. Use Google. Also: I think you know the answer to the 'chair' question if it affects your performance at work. I was giving helpful advice, but if you don't care to listen, then that is fine too. Personally I don't mind taking advice from anyone, even a homeless bum. If the advice is sound, I'll listen. But hey, that's me :)

alex velazquez
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Oh the ignorance.. When you start throwing out brainwashing you've already lost. Try formulating a reasoned response next time. People sign and agree to these terms all time, and for the most part rarely have issues with them. I have been in on dozens of interviews with candidates who say they want to be at a studio to learn and grow from the amazing talent there. Studios provide access to software, talent and material otherwise unavailable to them. The learning and growth doesn't stop at six o'clock. They don't turn in that knowledge when they do their exit interviews. The employee benefits outside of the studio walls. Great ideas get discarded all the time for all manner of reasons. You have a great idea outside of work and the studio rolls with it no ones complaining about it, they even expect credit for it. If they don't then the bitching starts. This is the game industry, your hired for your creativity. You don't bring ideas to the table, you won't last long. But you risk that idea not being realized. If it's something you absolutely must realize, resign wait and pursue. Otherwise prepare to be engaged in a lawsuit if you are successful and you told people your idea. Or how about this go work at a smaller studio or an indie that doesn't have that stipulation. No one is forcing you to work at those big bad studios. That's the bottom line.

Michael Thornberg
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I would think Carmack regrets selling ID now. And I am not really surprised to yet again see someone being ripped apart by the same company they sold out to. There is a lesson there, one that many never seem to learn.


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