The IGDA vs. Tim Langdell

i recently received an email from some “concerned members” of the International Game Developers Association:

Dear Ryan Creighton,

The actions of IGDA board member Tim Langdell since his election in March 2009 have raised questions regarding his suitability as our elected representative. As you no doubt know, the IGDA’s mission is: To advance the careers and enhance the lives of game developers by connecting members with their peers, promoting professional development, and advocating on issues that affect the developer community.

Tim Langdell’s company, Edge Games, has trademarked the word “edge” and they leverage this trademark against any media that contains this word–threatening legal action should their target not enter into a licensing arrangement with the studio. Such targets have included David Mamet’s film The Edge, Marvel’s comic book Edge, EA’s Mirror’s Edge, and Namco’s Soul Edge, which was released as Soul Blade and later, Soulcalibur in the west as a direct result of Edge Games’ actions. Most recently their actions have resulted in the removal of the indie game hit, Edge, from the iPhone app store.

Meanwhile, Edge Games has not been associated with the direct production of an original video game in the last fifteen years.

After his election to the IGDA board, in a lawsuit against Cybernet regarding Edge of Extinction, Tim Langdell presented himself to the court like this: “Dr. Tim Langdell is considered to be a pioneer in the field of computer gaming and is widely publicized on the Internet and has been engaged as a legal expert in the field of computer gamin.” He adds “He presently serves on the Board of Directors of the International Game Developers Association, which is the largest game association worldwide”.

Many of us believe that this is a gross misrepresentation and feel that Tim Langdell is able to use his position on the board of the IGDA to work directly against the mission of the organization. As IGDA members with voting rights, it is our responsibility to elect a board that we can trust to represent us. But no election system is perfect and sometimes corrections need to be made.

We are asking that you take some time to consider this issue, do a little research online, make up your mind how you feel about it, and take action.

Under the IGDA bylaws, we are able to call for a special meeting of the membership to vote on the removal of Tim Langdell from the board of directors. In order to do this, we need 10% of the membership to request the board call the special meeting.

Thank you for your consideration,

Concerned Members of the IGDA

The Plot Can’t Get Any Thicker

Mirrors: A Game From EDGE

Srsly?

It’s definitely an interesting and currently-evolving story. If your interest is piqued, here’s some additional reading:

There are two ways we could go here –

  1. Is the IGDA a relevant, effective organization?
  2. As with America’s 2nd Amendment granting citizens the right to bear arms, is current copyright law an inflexible artifact of history that needs to change with the times, or is it effective in protecting the financial and creative interests of content creators?

If you feel passionate about either of these questions, let’s get a discussion going!

6 thoughts on “The IGDA vs. Tim Langdell

  1. wazoo

    Just for completeness, here’s the other link: http://corvus.zakelro.com/2009/07/its-fun-to-stay-at-the-igda/

    It’s a slippery slope to be sure IMHO.

    I quit the IGDA years ago, because at that time they were pushing the message that the only “TRUE” purpose of Indie game development was to use it for resume building to get into a AAA company. It was completely alien that someone might actually want to succeed as their own Indie game business! *gasp*

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Wazoo – thanks for the link. There are so many people chiming in that it’s difficult to be completist when you list links.

      i’ve had very, very limited involvement with the IGDA, but what involvement i’ve had has left a bad taste in my mouth. i am a big advocate of local community. The link you posted mentions this, but it also notes that in some far-flung areas of the globe (really, anywhere outside a major urban center), there *is* no local scene. And i’m sure even some urban centers (like Cincinatti?) don’t have much going on. So i’m very spoiled by things like the Rich Media Institute, interactive ontario, the Hand Eye Society, and especially the TOJam here in Toronto.

      Truth be told, i’ve only held a membership for a few years, and it was mostly to get into their GDC party. But beyond that, what is it? A bare-bones site with a labyrinthine wiki. Maybe i haven’t given it a fair shake, but the organization isn’t exactly blowing my mind with its usefulness.

      Reply
  2. Scarybug

    1. While I can’t remark as to the effectiveness of the IGDA, this event makes me want to join just so I can vote Langdell off of the board.

    2. This isn’t a copyright issue, it’s a trademark issue, which is a whole different kettle of fish.
    I think that for the most part, copyright law is ok. There need to be some real changes in protections for fair use, journalism, parody, and criticism. Too often lawsuits or takedown notices are filed for “copyright infringement” that are actually about silencing critics. This is abuse of copyright law and should be punished. Copyright also lasts WAY too long, thanks to lobbying by Disney.

    I actually think that copyright law and trade secret law should supplant software patents. Doing the same thing with original code should be encouraged, because it encourages innovation. Patents exists to encourage and reward innovation, but in the world of software, patents have the opposite effect, and large companies are forced to take out patents to protect themselves, wasting money that could be put towards innovation. Plus, image if early computer science pioneers had patented their sorting algorithms! Again, another kettle of fish. (mmm fish)

    Landgell is abusing trademark law, and he should be punished for it. The thing about trademarking a name like “The Edge” is that you can only hold a trademark within a particular sphere. For instance, I have applied for a trademark in the United States for the word “Chronotron”, but ONLY as it applies to computer games and entertainment software. There is a sound tool also called Chronotron, and I think they have a trademark as it applies to utility software. I hope our two fields don’t cross, and it doesn’t look like they do. We’ll see if the mark finally gets through.

    This means I can’t sue someone for calling a movie or TV show or even a board-game “Chronotron”. Of course I wouldn’t try. Really the only reason I applied for a trademark was to make sure my use of the term was all legal and cool.

    For some reason, Langdell was allowed to file trademarks for “Edge” or “The Edge” for things other than computer games. We know he forced the computer manufacturer to license the name, and we suspect he did the same for the comic, the movie, and the gaming magazine. He claims to have “spawned” them on his website. But I seriously doubt he did anything more than settle out of court where they paid him a sum of money not to have to bother with a trademark suit just because it would be cheaper. Considering he has never made any of these things with the name “Edge” it is baffling that he was allowed to trademark them. One wonders if he only did so after hearing about the ventures.

    Then there are the actual video games. He has no claim to “Soul Edge” and I find it baffling that Namco caved on that one. (A lot about this story is baffling, you see) He has a trademark for “The Edge” as a development studio, and possibly for computer games, that does not cover every singe combination of words containing “Edge”. I’m surprised he didn’t try to bully Armor Games into licensing “Edge” when they released “Hedgehog Launch”. Mirror’s Edge obviously told him to piss off when he undoubtedly sent them a letter about the “edge” in “Mirror’s Edge”. The cute little “MIRRORS, a game by EDGE” has been speculated to be bait for them to sue him so he can countersue. Or maybe it’s just a big middle finger. Either way, EA is smart to ignore it, because it just makes him look like a nutter.

    He may ACTUALLY have one legitimate claim for the iPhone game known as “Edge”. But he lost all credibility when he applied for a trademark to the term “Edgy” AFTER the developers offered to change the name of their game to it. It seems obvious that he just wants to force another creative person to license “Edge” from him so he can claim some kind of creative input. That is shitty and I hope he loses his trademarks for doing that. The iPhone game should be allowed to throw another word into the title or use “Edgy” and get back up on the store.

    I seriously suspect he is mentally unwell. Some kind of borderline personality, paranoia, or narcissism. A person with a realistic view of themselves would not create that obviously inflated list of all the games he’s worked on, or claim to have “spawned” everything with the word “Edge” in it. That, and accounts of the people he employed who actually made the games he uses to pad his resume make me think he’s not all there.

    He definitely should get kicked out of video games. He’s done nothing to contribute to the industry in 15 years, and done plenty to hurt it.

    Reply
    1. Ryan

      Scarybug – there i go again, confusing copyright with trademark.

      i haven’t gone through the US process (how much did it cost you?), but i’ve done the Canadian bit. Here in Canada, when you register your mark, you list all of the things you want to associate with it – teevee, board games, bumper stickers, etc – but the more you list, the more you risk stepping on an existing mark. The process here was $1500 (incl legal fees) for a “deep search” indicating whether or not the mark was claimed, and another $750 (again, incl legal fees) to register. Your mileage may vary depending on your lawyer, or lack of one. i opted to skip the search, because i figured it was cheaper to register the mark and have someone oppose it than it was to do the search and the registration. Fingers are crossed. :)

      i agree with you that Langdell’s supposed methods are questionable at this point. Check out the claims that have him registering multiple forum accounts so that he can agree with himself, or the claim that his wife wrote his Wikipedia article. There’s also the point in the Eurogamer article where he responds anonymously to make his organization appear larger and more important than it actually is. (We here at Untold Entertainment, from our accounting department to our fleet mechanic team, have been guilty of this from time to time.)

      But the whole “Mirrors – (a game from) Edge” just smells of batshit insanity. i dunno.

      The IGDA, like any other human-run organization, is fallible. These board members are not perfect people. Tim Langdell is just an imperfect person behaving badly. And this business about him not upholding the principles of the IGDA … well, another of the IGDA’s stated goals is concerned with the quality of life for game developers, and from the stories i hear from folks in the triple-A trenches, there’s not a whole lot of change on that front.

      Reply
    1. Ryan

      MJW – As usual, an excellent link.

      Here’s the quote i think you were referring to, from Bill Gates:

      If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete stand-still today.
      The solution … is patenting as much as we can … A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future comptetitors.

      Reply

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