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Wolfire Talks  Lugaru HD  Counterfeit, 'Worst Ethical Violation'

Wolfire Talks Lugaru HD Counterfeit, 'Worst Ethical Violation'

February 3, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander

February 3, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

Wolfire Games says that its open-source Mac game, Lugaru HD, has been counterfeited -- its source code ripped off and re-sold on the Mac Store for a much cheaper price.

The developer added Lugaru HD, a game about a combative rabbit, to the Mac App Store a couple of weeks ago, priced at $9.99 -- and soon after discovered a game called Lugaru listed right beside it, priced at $0.99.

As Wolfire's Jeffrey Rosen explains on the developer's blog, the person who had submitted Lugaru as their own went under the pseudonym of "iCoder"/"Michael Latour."

And the way that the two Lugaru games appeared on the store might lead an unknowing user to believe they were facing the choice between a low-priced standard version and a richer HD version of the same title -- a set-up which Wolfire believes will siphon sales away from its game.

"This is a kind of software fraud we've never even heard of: a pirate simply downloading the app and resubmitting it to the same distribution channel at a lower price," the developer writes. Further, Wolfire claims that Apple hasn't yet responded to its plea to investigate the situation and shut down the fraudulent app.

"We expect pirated copies of games to be available in shady corners of the internet, but not in well-known digital distribution channels with famously long review processes," says Rosen, which adds that Wolfire has been unsuccessful at contacting iCoder.

It appears that iCoder took advantage of the fact that Wolfire made Lugaru HD's source code available under General Public License -- encouraging other developers to mod and port the game, but retaining all rights to the game's assets, characters and other non-code content.

Wolfire is generally known for its community-minded focus on accessibility over driving sales or guarding secrets: it's also the developer that launched the Humble Indie Bundle package effort, which allows users to pay what they want for a selection of indie titles and then decide how to allocate the money among the developer and the Child's Play charity.

"Ignoring the fact that this is obviously a violation of our license, the reason we made the source code available is to give more opportunities for modders and novice programmers to experiment with full game engines and help promote the message of the Humble Bundle, "says Rosen.

"Corrupting this effort for fraudulent financial gain is the worst ethical violation we've ever experienced."

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