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IP Thief


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#1 NathanRunge   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 07:07 PM

G'day All I was recently on an independent project whose team boasted a member of a professional studio. While I was understandably sceptical about this, the entire team assured me it was true. This person also produced legal documentation testifying to her employment at this company. Nevertheless, I did my research when she started attempting to recruit some of the team as freelancers on a project for said company. It all seemed too good to be true. Eventually I managed to uncover a vast web of lies. She was good, she was well practiced it seems. She made a few critical mistakes, however, and I now have a large dossier detailing her fraud. Trouble is, she has access to hundreds, if not thousands of pieces of artwork, hundreds of pages of written work, models, designs and ideas. While she obviously does not have legal rights to use them, enforcing those rights is difficult. I believe I have enough evidence to prosecute her for fraud and shall shortly have her contact details from her ISP. The trouble is, the company she claimed to work for is not interested, and she resides in a foreign country to most of the team, making prosecution economically infeasible. So legal advice is not really what I need. What I was wondering is whether there is a body that may be able to assist with this matter? In addition, is there a way I can distribute this information in a manner that will ensure she will no longer plague independent teams? So far I am aware of 5 different projects she has defrauded. I thank you for any advice you may be able to offer.

Sponsor:

#2 EdR   Members   -  Reputation: 117

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 07:29 PM

Legal advice is what you need. Now. The more you talk about it, the worse off you could conceivably be.

You don't want to screw the pooch.

#3 NathanRunge   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 07:41 PM

I have separately sought legal advice. Legal advice is, thus far, not much you can do about it.

#4 kiwibonga   Members   -  Reputation: 183

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 07:43 PM

How are you going to "enforce" anything if you're not the owner of the stolen IP?

And have you or your team members suffered any losses as a result of this person's actions? Has a contract been breached?

#5 NathanRunge   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 09:17 PM

I am the owner of some of the stolen IP. The reason I am the one making the enquiries is that I am the one who uncovered the fraud, and am most aware of its extent.

No-one has, strictly, sustained any direct financial losses. Estimated value of the work one person contributed to a fraudulent project, however, was in the range of thousands of US dollars [based on his other freelance work]. There is the possibility of large financial loss if she uses the work she's collected, which I have evidence she will, but until such time legal options are limited.

A contract has, most certainly, been breached. The contract appears to be signed under a false name, however. In addition to which, it was not signed properly. The fact she was still given access and a position of privilege is a failure on the part of the project leader. Regardless, she did sign the contract and would most certainly be held accountable if it was proven to be her in a court of law. No-one on the team has the financial resources to travel internationally to pursue the issue, however.

If someone CAN offer legal advice, it would of course be appreciated. I have spoken to two lawyers so far though, and they both say that legal action would not be feasible unless there's proof she's released the information or has produced a product from the illegally attained IP.

Edit: In addition, no-one on the team can really afford to hire a lawyer for too long either. So far the consultations have been free.

#6 Stani R.   Members   -  Reputation: 1004

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 12:31 AM

IANAL and this is not legal advice.

Generally speaking, copyright violations are brought to court in the country in which they occur. Now, this is based on EU law, but if she publishes a product with your IP in it, and if that product is made available in your country (Canada? a website offering the product in English and allowing or not explicitly forbidding shipping to Canada would be enough for the most part), then you at that point should be able to sue her in Canada for violating Canadian copyright law. At least, that's how it would work between two EU countries - your lawyers probably already told you of such a possibility if it's there.

Contract violations are a separate and complex story. You'll need your lawyers to tell you which country will have jurisdiction (and which country's law will apply - those are separate issues).

It's understandable that you are angry and want to prevent that person from causing further harm, but what you propose sounds a lot like defamation, which could easily result in you yourself getting sued. If you get sued "over there", and if we're talking about the USA the long arm principle makes it likely to happen, then there's a question of whether that country's court verdicts are enforceable in your own country. It would be better, however, to avoid such a situation in the first place.

The last point also applies to you suing her in Canada. At the worst, you would win but the verdict would not be enforceable, and you'd have to go to her country and sue her again to enforce it. (Operation successful. Patient dead.)

#7 NathanRunge   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 12:46 AM

That is, indeed, why I am attempting to be careful and am not mentioning any names at this point. In Australia I know that defamation laws would not apply, as it is in the public interest to know, and it's truthful. What's in the public interest can often be contested though, and then I'd have to pay for a lawyer anyway.

If I can find a lawyer willing to offer advice for free, haha yeah right, then I'll see what would be the best course of action. In the mean time I may be stuck with nothing.

#8 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 13910

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 03:53 AM

Nathan, you wrote:

>I have separately sought legal advice. Legal advice is, thus far, not much you can do about it.

If that's what Tom B told you, then that's the truth.

>I may be stuck with nothing.

I hope you are able to find the serenity to accept the things you can't change, then.

-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#9 monalaw   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1065

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 12:38 PM

Quote:
Original post by NathanRunge
That is, indeed, why I am attempting to be careful and am not mentioning any names at this point. In Australia I know that defamation laws would not apply, as it is in the public interest to know, and it's truthful. What's in the public interest can often be contested though, and then I'd have to pay for a lawyer anyway.

If I can find a lawyer willing to offer advice for free, haha yeah right, then I'll see what would be the best course of action. In the mean time I may be stuck with nothing.


IANAL and this is strictly business, not legal, advice.

1) You can still be sued for defamation, which is costly. However, the truth is an absolute defense to defamation. If you can support your claims with actual evidence that what you say is true, then a suit brought against you for defamation would probably fail. Please note that you'd still have to retain an attorney to defend that kind of action.

2) If you plan on doing anything (such as disseminating information or prohibiting infringement), expect to incur legal fees. If you're not willing to incur legal fees, you may not have a choice but to let this go. In the US, the FBI DOES have a unit that pursues criminal copyright infringement. You may want to see if there is an entity in your government that enforces similar rights. Please review your country's IP site for further assistance in this matter. You may also want to call or contact the CIPO office with regard to this issue.

3) If you can show that this woman is planning on using your work, you may be able to obtain an injunction. Unless she actually infringes on your copyright by using your work, however, your remedies are limited. I'm not familiar with Canadian copyright law, and I suggest you retain an attorney who is.

4) You may also want to ask any lawyers you've spoken to about the requisite elements for criminal fraud, embezzlement, and conversion. Another agency you may want to contact: If this occurred in Canada. Even if it didn't occur in Canada, you should look through the site and see if there's anything there that can help you.

[Edited by - madelelaw on April 19, 2008 7:38:41 PM]
~Mona Ibrahim, Esq.
J.D., LL.M.
Trademark & Entertainment Attorney


MAI Entertainment Law

#10 kiwibonga   Members   -  Reputation: 183

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 12:38 PM

What were the payment clauses on the contract like? Was it a "work now, get paid when we're successful" kind of thing?

#11 NathanRunge   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:33 PM

Thankyou all for you advice. It was indeed Tom B who said that, until she actually does something, it's not really worth going after. Regarding an injunction, that may be an avenue I could pursue.

I think I shall probably have to accept she got away with it, but I shall definitely continue to monitor the situation closely over the long term in case the situation changes.

The contract she breached, most particularly, is the NDA and assignment of rights document that she signed. She never submitted any of her own work, and as such was not under the effect of a work contract. (again, poor project management)

#12 cbenoi1   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 480

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 04:23 AM

> No-one has, strictly, sustained any direct financial losses.
> Estimated value of the work one person contributed to a
> fraudulent project, however, was in the range of thousands
> of US dollars

What's the market value of your IP? (Hint: it's not the sum of efforts you and your contributors have put into it).

The sad story here is that proving contract breach is one thing, but proving damages is an other. And getting a dollar figure on said damages is something else entirely.

If I were you, I'd simply gather all the evidence I could and wait for her to make boatloads of money; once (and if) she reaches that point, offer her the choice between signing a proper IP licensing contract or a face-off in court.

-cb

#13 NathanRunge   Members   -  Reputation: 721

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 04:50 AM

I think I shall follow that course of action in the end. Considering that all the work going into any of her projects seems to be 'appropriated' I doubt she will be very successful though.

Thanks everyone for the advice.




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