It seems Marvel Comics’ insane lawsuit against City of Heroes has been settled. Details are sketchy, but “no changes to City of Heroes® or City of Villains’™ character creation engine are part of the settlement.”

Given that the lawsuit was basically the equivalent of suing pencil manufacturers because they could potentially be used to draw Spider-Man, it’s good to see that Marvel didn’t win (though a precedent-setting loss for Marvel might’ve been better in the long run).

(via Slashdot)

According to The Beat, a judge has thrown out about half the claims in Marvel’s lawsuit against City of Heroes.

Apparently several of the “infringing” works they cited were in fact made by Marvel, not by players. The judge also threw out claims that the game makers infringed trademarks directly and refused to issue a declaration that they are not a service provider (if they are considered a service provider, then they are shielded from liability under the DMCA as long as they take action quickly enough).

The post mostly reprints a press release from NCsoft, so it’s noticeably upbeat, but they do have precedent on their side—such as Sony vs. Betamax. Well, as long as none of the morons in Congress manage to force the Induce act through. That would basically declare that makers of pens and pencils are liable for any copyright or trademark infringement.

Follow-up post: The suit was settled in December.

Marvel is suing City of Heroes’ makers for copyright and trademark infringement. What’s that, you say? The game doesn’t have any Marvel characters or lookalikes built-in? Of course not—they’re suing because it’s technically possible for players to design a character with a similar costume and use a similar name. Sure, it’s against the terms of service, and they try to stop it when they find it, but people do it anyway.

But note: the game makers aren’t the ones doing the infringement. As I understand it, the character designer is rather like HeroMachine: you pick a body type, colors for different parts of the costume, accessories and masks, etc. So sure, you can create a brick, make him green and give him purple shorts… but it’s not as if they built in textures and symbols specifically to make a Spider-Man costume.

I’ve only read about half the comments on the thread where I found this, but many of them seem to misunderstand the situation as if CoH were the ones designing or providing patterns for the knock-off characters. If someone puts out a “How to Draw the X-Men” book without authorization, then sure, you sue them, but if they sell “How to Draw Super-Heroes” and people can apply those skills to Wolverine, you don’t have a case… and you definitely don’t sue the people who made the pencils and paper!

Follow-up posts: A judge dismissed half the claims in March, and the suit was settled in December.