Imagine Media, Victims?!?

by Justin Nation - January 18, 2001, 8:07 am PST

Sometimes you see something that is just so unbelievably bad that you just have to stand up and say something about it... this was one of those days

Before starting this let me point out in clear detail that the central reason for this controversy between in Imagine and Nintendo is that Imagine published a PRINT magazine. This isn't an on-line thing, the emphasis is on a product that is competing for profit at a newsstand with Nintendo's own guide. Now, on to the editorial...

You know, even though I could be spending my time working to get the prototype for the new Planet finalized after perusing the news around this morning I couldn't stop myself from getting into the mood to hit the keyboard. My faith in Imagine Media over the years has been bumpy at best. At times I like to commend them for a job well done or for having a few very talented and bright individuals but at other times they simply make me ill. Their newest mewling stunt I saw this morning trying to solicit support and try, once again, to paint Nintendo as the Draconian bad guy, however, plainly takes the cake.

Before even getting into the inevitable jokes about Imagine and Daily Radar discontinuing their 'unbiased and open-minded' coverage of Nintendo lets get to the brass tacks of this whole thing. I've already seen quite a number of people and even a site or two immediately howl over how Nintendo, once again, has done this, that, or the other in their usual manner to suppress their innocent victims, blah, blah, blah, blah. While I haven't always agreed with what Nintendo has persued and would concede that they're a very litigious company in this specific case people really should do some research and think before opening their mouths.

Instead of going by Nintendo Radar's outright pathetic excuse for a statement that very plainly tried to hide a number of facts lets get right down to Nintendo's legal brief and the basics of the situation here. Firstly, this case isn't being brought against Imagine for Daily Radar's content (many would say or lack thereof). It is specifically targetted at Imagine's The 100% Unofficial Pokemon Trainer's Guide. Now, while I love the Daily Radar Editorial's attempt to gloss over this issue as nothing more than Nintendo being overzealous with the protection of their Pokemon trademark, let's take a quite directly from Nintendo's brief that specifically states:

As set out in detail below, defendant Imagine Media is willfully and intentionally infringing Nintendo's copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights in the world-famous Pokémon® mark. Imagine Media has engaged in wholesale copying of copyrighted and trademarked materials by reproducing, apparently in a "cut and paste" fasion, copyrighted artwork, graphic material and audio-visual material from a variety of Nintendo sources, hundreds of screen shots from the copyrighted Pokémon® Gold and Silver game, and dozens of copyrighted Pokémon® Trading Cards. Imagine Media has rejected Nintendo's request that it cease its infringing conduct.

So there we have it... the real deal concerning what is going on. Basically Imagine is accused of creating a published material that is little more than a compilation of the efforts Nintendo has made through their art and other departments, loaded it up into the photocopier, and are trying to then sell that as a commercial product that is competing with Nintendo's own guides. So, essentially, Imagine wants to have done little work on their own beyond ripping off other people's hard work and make a tidy profit off of it. That should be perfectly legal, shouldn't it? Imagine can't help it if they're too lazy to hire their own artists and some other people to do some original artwork and stat collecting. Much cheaper to go out and buy the Nintendo strategy guide, go buy a few packs of Pokemon cards, scan what you need, throw in some text of your own when you absolutely have to, and send it out to the publisher.

Think of it this way. Nintendo or another company produces a game. Another company manages somehow to get the code of this game to work with. Instead of making a new game said second company changes some textures here and there and reworks the speech interactions to their liking, basically leaving you with the exact same experience still using the bulk of work done by the first company. Satisfied, the second company now releases that game and has it competing on the shelf with the game made by the first company. In broad terms, this is what Imagine is being accused of doing. Especially when the legal brief goes as far as using the specific term cut and paste it is apparent that there's much more going on here than the Daily Radar Editorial would like you to believe. But no, of course they're just the innocent little guys here... yeah, whatever.

As for people contending that Nintendo has yet to persue other published guides or even websites that engage in essentially the same behavior, this case is somewhat different. For one, Nintendo has persued legal action against publishers of other guides, and almost always for conditions similar to what we're seeing here. The publisher got lazy and started including maps straight from Nintendo Power or were copying things blatantly out of a user manual in every case... it may be just now that Nintendo has decided that Imagine has finally gone too far themselves. As for websites it would be a tougher battle for Nintendo to wage. To my knowledge nobody has yet tried to plain scan a Nintendo strategy guide and post it on the Net. That certainly would be dealt with. Beyond that though even if a lot of content is pilfered on a web site going after the said site wouldn't necessarily be worthwhile, most websites aren't being run strictly for profit (as a printed magazine/publication is) and the majority of on-line guides I've seen out there are very carefully constructed most often of material and content the author worked hard to produce... which isn't a punishable offense.

While Nintendo-haters will certainly dismiss the above as a smoke screen and go on believing that Nintendo is the root of all evil choosing this specific case as the cornerstone of your argument would show very poor judgement. Nintendo can very easily establish that any sales of a competing guide would obviously hurt its own profits and if it can then go on to establish that its competitor has as blatantly copied its own materials to do so as they're claiming this one will be an easy one to put to bed.

On a final note to Daily Radar: In the interim please find a way to provide some competant coverage in the future, Nintendo Radar won't be missed for anything other than it's amusing cluelessness and sad half-hearted support. Why not take some time as well to look hard at the sham your editorial is really trying to pull off, and think about actually doing some more real work in the future instead of simply being paid to cultivate the work of others. It makes a buck but it is certainly undignified and speaks volumes of the lack of talent the vast majority of your staff seems to suffer from, save for a few shining examples.

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