Activision ordered to hand over Scratch source code

Judge orders megapublisher-owned 7 Studios to return source code of $6 million rhythm game, which has been in development for 18 months.

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Last week saw a nasty legal spat break out between the makers of two upcoming rhythm games: Activision's DJ Hero and Scratch the Ultimate DJ, the first game from DVD publisher Genius Productions. The latter game has been in development for 18 months, whereas DJ Hero was first revealed via a February 2008 trademark filing.

Justice: The Remix

Genius fired the first shot on April 14, announcing that it had filed suit against Activision for "intentional interference with contract, breach of contract...and misappropriation of trade secrets" after it purchased Scratch developer 7 Studios. Two days later, Activision announced that "the L.A. Superior Court found that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing by Activision and refused to grant any restraining order against Activision."

Now, Genius and its partner, turntable manufacturer Numark, are claiming that it was they, not Activision, who prevailed in court last week. Through an external publicity agency, the companies made public the transcript of the April 15 hearing, which was presided over by Judge James C. Chalfant.

The hearing began with the judge saying that, "There isn't any evidence against Activision. ...There is no reason to restrain Activision from doing anything." However, the judge quickly added that "There is evidence that...7 Studios has a duty to return the work product, source code, and software of the plaintiff [Genius]."

As the hearing continued, an increasingly impatient Chalfant deflected Activision's lawyers' arguments that they did not have to return the Scratch software. "It is actually very straightforward. They hired you. They have terminated the deal. Their agreement requires return of materials," said the judge. "No matter how you slice this banana, they are entitled to the work product back. I don't know why your client would want to continue working on a project for which they have been terminated."

Chalfant then ordered Activision to make its 7 Studios subsidiary turn over the Scratch source code by today, April 20, in preparations for a subsequent hearing next month. "You [Activision] turn over the source code, and then if you want it back, you can argue on May 6th as to why you should get it back. I can't under any circumstance think why you would be entitled to keep the source code."

When Activision lawyers said doing so might give Genius access to some of 7 Studios' proprietary technology, Chalfant grew testy. "Show me anywhere where you can refuse to turn over source code because it incorporates your preexisting tools and technology. ... They can use it for any purpose. It is theirs. It belongs to them. They paid $6 million for it. I'm done." Court was then immediately adjourned.

In addition to the return of the Scratch source code, Chalfant ordered a "wall-off" between 7 Studios and Activision that prevents the two companies from discussing any trade secrets that the former learned from Genius. Activision's lawyers adamantly denied that any such sharing had already taken place.

DJ Antihero?

"There is no indication that because you have a wholly owned subsidiary that's a developer that that developer is going to take that information and give it to the other party," said attorney Stanton Stein of the firm Line, Grode, Stein, and Yankelevitz. "Were we to do that, we would be subjecting ourselves to a substantial amount of liability and they would then have a case against us."

The case's next step will come on May 6, when Activision and Genius' lawyers again appear before Chalfant to discuss the "substantial damages" demanded by Genius--a hearing that could potentially lead to a ruling against the plaintiff. "Damages for breach are up to the underlying lawsuit," declared the judge. "If they [Genius] terminate for material breach and there is no breach, that termination for material breach is itself a breach of contract for which you [Activision] would be entitled for damages."

Discussion

92 comments
BlueFlameBat
BlueFlameBat

I just want to see both products released so we can possibly have at least one good modern DJ game. Besides, the DS with the flowers in her long black hair is hot.

nappan
nappan

@fester420: Counterargument: John Tesh.

fester420
fester420

doesn't matter to me, I am buying both games, can never have too much music

Fanible
Fanible

@Annogi You apparently have no idea what the "..." means when it separates lines of quoted dialogue. You also apparently don't even know what a "sentence" is.

Annogi
Annogi

@shoebox81 The point wasn't that he asked for evidence, it was that he asked for it and then left the room. He clearly just didn't want to hear anymore, yet he kept saying "show me proof". It was even in a single sentence too "Show me... I'm done". Did you even read what I said?

nappan
nappan

@Annogi: Yeah, actually, that's pretty much to be expected from some random LA county judge. There are a LOT of them, and they are entry point for the state judicial system. Believe me, one way or the other this goes to an appelate court. From there, who knows. The quality of (in LA it's) District judges tends to be higher, but unless you're talking Federal Circuit judges, it's a pretty grim scene. We may have one of the best legal systems, but it's still mighty ****ed from top to bottom.

Pete5506
Pete5506

lol sorta funny but I never thought it looked good

okassar
okassar

DJ Hero is the only one of the 2 games that I'm even remotely interested in,l don't care what went on,but I wanted Activision to win so there's no delay or restriction or anything(because I miight buy the game if it turns out cool). And what is this?A bunch of people ranting and hoping the music game genre to die out?That's ridiculous,bringing people over to my house would not be half as fun if I didn't have music games.

shoebox81
shoebox81

@Annogi Yeah! What was that judge thinking anyways? How dare he ask people to show him evidence!

huladog123
huladog123

This whole case is ridiculous. A contract is a contract, and its rules should be followed by all companies involved without complaint. If the contract indicates that Activision needs to return the source codes to Genius, then that's what they should do, regardless of the possible scenarios that may or may not emerge afterward.

phase4illini
phase4illini

Rereading this new bit, the last line of this article is KEY. Genius had better have an utterly solid case against Activision for material breach, or else they leave themselves wide open to legal repercussion from Activision.

0011992288
0011992288

Wait, Deltron 3030? I will actually buy this game for that song. Besides, that's a pretty healthy list of artists.

buffdaddy69
buffdaddy69

Both games looks like a big pile of monkey crap. I can't wait for the music genre trend to fully die out.

bigd575
bigd575

Man I love hip hop and stuff but I really don't want to see these games.

Annogi
Annogi

I have to say, if that is a verbatim response by the judge he needs to be taught not to be so childish. Everything about his response screamed "toddler" to me. "No, this is my courtroom! I don't have to listen to you!" You don't tell someone to "show you evidence" and then adjourn the courtroom and escape before they can...

StuDevo
StuDevo

DJ Hero sounds pointless but then no different from the million different versions of guitar hero

conan6980
conan6980

For those that keep complaining that a DJ game shouldn't be Hip-Hop, I might remind you that most of the innovators that today's DJ's get inspiration from, originated in Hip-Hop. Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Red Alert, etc....

TaMuK711
TaMuK711

DJ Hero? Seriously?? lol.....

phase4illini
phase4illini

So Activision has to "give back" the source code, but it's development efforts on this game aren't in any way affected. How is this possibly any sort of victory? Isn't that like stealing an apple, eating half of it, and then being told to give it back? For better or worse, Activision is still getting off scott-free on this one.

nappan
nappan

@jazilla: Heh... a game about white-collar crime would make the 20 second period from "arrest" to "respawn" make a lot more sense ;)

nappan
nappan

Oh, and try to remember that these are all Superior Court rulings out of LA county. The appeals in this are going to be going on long after both games have flopped. Activiation stands nothing to lose by trying to set a legal precedent that favours their position, and they can spend ages in court without sweating. It's going to be tough for Genius however, especially if this judge goes overboard on damages. Appelate courts loooove to smack-down lower court judges who really overstep themselves... keeps the competition down for circuit, appelate, and supreme court (state) positions)

nappan
nappan

@LookOutSnake: No kidding... What gets me is that if you WANT to be a "digital DJ", you can do it either honestly with a little cash, or frankly MANY people (I am not advocating this, nor have I done this myself) pirate what they need to practice with. The tools available to mix on the PC are vast... by the time you're ready for a couple of turntables, you'll have easily saved enough to buy them outright. A game like this, as with GH and Rock Band, relies on simplistic gameplay baffled by appealing graphics and music. In the end however, like a glut of RTS or Hack & Slash games... this endless stream of rythem games, and QTEs in games is starting to tire people. The gimmick isn't dead yet, but when a couple of companies are fighting like cats and dogs over the right to a sure-fail-game.... well... the wriitng is on the wall. I'm sure all activision can see right now are dollar signs floating around wads of incremental DLC. Ugh.

XturnalS
XturnalS

whats funny is the scratch game actually looks alright and is supposed to recreate the experience of DJing far more then DJ Hero, I hope Genius wins this. Hell they have Numark a maker of actual DJ hardware making the controller. For those interested in DJing it looks like a pretty cool game.

LookOutSnake
LookOutSnake

Hitting buttons for notes, a la GH and Rock Band, in a DJing game=fail. Period.

pski0065
pski0065

gnristuart @ I don't blame the developer for using more known or "mainstream" artists...thats where the money's at. Check the Billboard top 10.

FarmFreshDX
FarmFreshDX

They're just trying to re-market Guitar Hero for the hip-hop crowd. This game is going to tank harder than the Street Fighter movie.

gnrlstuart
gnrlstuart

that game looked sucky, if they make a DJ game with skream, benga, rusko, hd4000, i'd definitely buy it, not the "£$%^ black eyed peas.

vivendidoom
vivendidoom

I believe genius is correct on the allogations concerning activisions practices toward genius. If activision wanted the source code that badly, there had to be some important value in it for activisions source code writers may have not thought about in their games in order for their dj hero to work better. If that is the case, now there is no reason to think if it was that important, and activision had it for the time being before today, they must have new the court would make this decision and therefor, confiscate the code before the court made a decision. IF that's the case again, it proves my theory that activision AND seven studios are crap companies and dont know how to show dignity toward not only its co-workers in the industry, but also to us as an audience as a whole.

jazilla
jazilla

anything that involves misappropriation of funds...why don't they just make a game about white collar crime? GTA 5 could be about embezzlement, money laundering, racketeering and ponzi schemes. i would totally buy it too. GTA 5: White Collar Crimes!

j2oss
j2oss

DJing is about a lot of things... which this game is sure to make a mockery of.

MidniteShadow
MidniteShadow

Have to agree with a message i just recieved, DJing is about free styling. Although I despise both companies, the bigger they are the harder they fall.

otanikun
otanikun

Justice is eventually dealt to the wicked ones, you knew good and well Activision that you weren't going to get to keep it, tsk tsk tsk shame on you. And of course Activision would deny anything was shared, they're only saying that so they don't stick themselves any further into the mud; but we all know it happened regardless.

RobNBankz
RobNBankz

The idea that Activision thinks they can stop Genius from retrieving what is rightfully theirs is ridiculous. I'm beginning to hate Activision more and more each time I hear about them. --- I've been feeling that way for awhile now. For some reason, they always get a pass. Games like Halo, MGS and GTA are called rehashes and cash cows but then you have Activision releasing a Call of Duty every year and like 3 Guitar Heroes a year. Pretty soon we're going to be seeing Guitar Hero: Afrika Bambaataa. It wouldn't work, but everyone seems to buy GH even though 95% of the songs don't belong in the game. They don't even rehash, they make the games worse. "Wait, so you're telling me people like good songs in GH? That's it, put in songs that don't belong like La Bamba and put it songs that people could FC on expert with their tv off like What I've Done from Linkin Park"

Sergsky
Sergsky

I hate stupid lawyers!

nappan
nappan

"Ruh Roh!"... Well, this is going to make it really clear one way or the other won't it? Either the source code is going to be a ripoff, or two companies arrived at a similar idea through different methods. Now I'm just curious to see which is the case.

Sumotaii
Sumotaii

I remember the good old days of going on game sites or buying game magazines and reading about....games....Now it seems i hardly do anymore prob. cause i'm older but also everytime i seem to check them out its stories about lawsuits and companies buying out companies instead of doing what matters most to gamers...Making games. Listen i seen it all from the start and Atari were no saints and Nintendo during the 8 bit days were not good boys either...but maybe with todays access to everything...i'd take them back in a second compared to the stuff now.

tu2pac
tu2pac

To be honest ... I don't see this making a lot of money. I like rap ... I'm black ... and I wouldn't buy it ... well ... I guess I should factor in the 13 - 15 year white kids in suburbs that want to be street ... Hmm .. perhaps they'll have decent sales after all.

BigC43
BigC43

Yey for Genius! I just don't like Activision and am thrilled to see the little guy defeat the giant. Hopefully they will find a new developer to pick up the pieces left from Scratch and make it really good, hopefully toppling DJ Hero...

conan6980
conan6980

Ah, Activision. Like a hungry shark smelling blood in the water. Get a taste of the big money and do anything you can to make sure you get more, even if it's illegal. Kinda like a Meth addict. If only you focused on making great games instead of worrying about what the competition might be doing before you....ahhh, that would be paradise. But noooo!!! We must crush all who oppose us!!! The streets will run with the blood of the non-believer!!!

Generic_Dude
Generic_Dude

There's a whole lot of money at stake for a game certain to be a dud.

armyofrobots
armyofrobots

Blizzard needs to gtfo before something happens with them....

kaliban
kaliban

That's pretty low that after all that Activision would go out of their way to make a public half truth statement. why not just keep their mouths shut? That probably just made it more necessary for Genius to make clear how things actually turned out via a public statement. And that publicity Activision attempted to unleash turned around and bit them in the

afrosud12
afrosud12

no we CANNOT get along, this is capitalism, when two companies are willing to fight this hard for a product, it is going to be good, and the loser will work even harder to maker a better one. we win. this is very good for us consumers

morgos15
morgos15

Bleeding hearts unite... It's business... capitalism... whatever. If things like this didn't happen every single day, where most of the time people will never hear about it - there would be no games. Competition is vital in our society, without it you end up churning out shoddy product time and time again. Reference? Soviet Union... smart people - stupid system.