Things are looking bad for Harmony Gold, and good for our BattleTech heroes!
Piranha Games (not to be confused with the Piranha ‘Mech), makers of the successful MechWarrior Online game, have recently filed court documents that would dismiss the case brought against them by the much-reviled Harmony Gold.
If you recall from our last update on the case, there was some confusion on the part of Harmony Gold as they had entered into arbitration against the very company they said gave them the copyrights to the Unseen ‘Mechs, Tatsunoko Productions. At the time it appeared that Tatsunoko never actually owned the copyrights in the first place, which meant that Harmony Gold couldn’t have bought them and thus can’t sue anybody over them.
It looks like PGI found out how that case went since they’ve filed a request for summary judgment to dismiss the case entirely on the grounds that Harmony Gold doesn’t have the standing to bring any case of infringement to the courts.
PGI’s lawyers make three compelling arguments that the judge should dismiss the case with prejudice:
- Harmony Gold does not own the copyrights for the Unseen ‘Mechs. Those copyrights are actually owned by a Japanese company called Big West Co. Ltd., a company I have literally never heard of.
- The Unseen copyrights were never licensed to Harmony Gold, and the licensing agreement actually excludes the copyrights they’re suing over. Which, by the way, they never owned in the first place since Harmony Gold licensed from Tatsunoko, not Big West.
- And here’s the big deal, and should be the nail in Harmony Gold’s coffin. That arbitration that took place between Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko in US District Court found a judgment that shows Harmony Gold officially does not have the license to the copyrights they’re trying to sue over.
That last bit is huge. If there’s a previous court case that a lawyer can point to that says Harmony Gold doesn’t legally own the copyrights, then it torpedoes their whole case. Not that it was a particularly strong case to begin with, if you remember the arguments they made when filing their suit originally.
I know that BattleTech has had some bad luck with judges in the past, but you’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to think that Harmony Gold has any legal standing to enforce a copyright they don’t even own. Here’s hoping the judge throws their case, and them, flat out on their asses.
And this time let’s hope they stay gone for good.
Chickens and hatching and all of that. There are some things to keep in mind
1) if the judge declines this motion, it does not tank the case for PGI, just means it will proceed to trial
2) this motion is only made on behalf of PGI, Harebrained and Catalyst are not involved., so the two will have to make thier own affirmative defense.. harebrained will be more likely to piggyback off PGI since they liscence off of PGI’s assets. CGL meanwhile is on it’s own, which makes thier lack of lawyers in the case troubling
Will be fascinating to see how this turns out.
They really should counter sue for damages.
Big west Co mtd is the company that owns and produces all of the macross titles save macross ii.
They are a very big anime production company in japan.
Was gonna say, Big West is…well…big.
Im not sure what type of defense Catalyst will be able to make at this point
Docket Item # 39
MOTION for Default Against InMediaRes Productions, LLC, filed by Plaintiff Harmony Gold U.S.A., Inc.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit A, # 2 Proposed Order) Noting Date 6/16/2017, (Hughes, Andrew) (Entered: 06/16/2017)
Docket Item # 42
ORDER signed by Clerk William M. McCool granting 39 Motion for Default by Harmony Gold U.S.A., Inc. Default entered against InMediaRes Productions, LLC. (KD) (Entered: 06/28/2017)
From your lips to the Fanged God’s ears.
Ah, no… Piranha’s pissing into the wind on this one and it’ll be rejected by the presiding judge. FASA tried a similar series of petitions when they were sued by Harmony Gold USA for infringement back in 1996 and it most assuredly didn’t work for them then.
You see, Piranha Games filed this petition on the basis of a single sentence taken out of context from that binding arbitration settlement between Harmony Gold USA and Tatsunoko Production Co. Ltd. of Japan. There are two statements pertaining to copyright in the arbitration document: the first was the simple statement that Harmony Gold USA holds, under license, all rights pertaining to copyright which are held by Tatsunoko Production Co. Ltd. in Japan; the second is a qualifying statement about designs from Super Dimension Fortress Macross to which the rights relating to copyright ownership were split back when the show was first made. Big West Frontier Co. Ltd. – formerly Big West Advertising Co. Ltd. – is the company that bankrolled the development of the original SDF Macross TV series and is owner of the Macross franchise. They own the intellectual property rights to those designs, and merchandising rights to them in the Japanese domestic market. Tatsunoko Production Co. Ltd. was the company that Big West hired to animate the original SDF Macross TV series, and since that was Big West’s first major experiment with animation sponsorship and they didn’t want to sink a ton of money into it, they gave Tatsunoko Production the merchandising rights to the designs outside Japan and distribution rights to the SDF Macross TV series outside of Japan.
* Big West is the primary registered copyright owner on the SDF Macross designs, and has the exclusive right to use those designs in new film works and create new designs based on those designs.
* Tatsunoko Production has delegated/shared partial ownership of the copyrights on those designs for markets outside Japan, and the exclusive right to create merchandise (toys, games, comic books, novels, and so on) based on those designs for sale outside of Japan.
* Harmony Gold USA’s license agreement with Tatsunoko Production grants them all rights to the series that Tatsunoko owns, giving Harmony Gold USA partial copyright ownership of those designs, and thus the standing necessary to bring a lawsuit against BattleTech/MechWarrior for using those designs in its game without a license.
The disposition of rights between Big West and Tatsunoko is a well-understood situation thanks to the series of court filings exchanged between the companies in the wake of Harmony Gold’s efforts to stop importation of Macross toys by incorrectly claiming their exclusive license to the original series also extended to its sequels. The list of 41 designs mentioned in the binding settlement between Tatsunoko and Harmony Gold is a document that Big West compiled for the first of those court sessions back in 2001.
BattleTech has had some seriously bad luck in court, due to the seriously poor judgement of those who own it. Unfortunately, that streak is dead certain to continue because Harmony Gold USA DOES hold the copyrights it claims to, BattleTech is violating the terms of the binding settlement between FASA and HG from 1996, and because Harmony Gold proved back in 1996 that FASA’s claims to have licensed the right to use those designs from Twentieth Century Imports was a load and couldn’t possibly be true (and FASA never did manage to produce a copy of said license in court).
Macross fans and BattleTech fans can both agree that Harmony Gold are a pack of worthless knob jockeys, but unfortunately Harmony Gold has this one in the bag just like they did in ’96.
Quite frankly, HG arbitrated themselves out of a Law Suit against PGI and Harebrained Schemes, by admitting they don’t own the license, but another company is the true owner, that being Big West, Co. Which in turns means, Harmony Gold doesn’t have a leg to dance or even stand on. I’m taking a wait and see on this, but I’m quite of what I say is true, and I’m with Sean. Harmony Gold shot themselves in the ass and the foot and all at the same damn time. Good-bye, E-Harmony Bold. You lose!
Does it not compute that Harmony Gold has the exclusive right to use those designs in merchandise OUTSIDE Japan? Those rights were part of Tatsunoko’s payment for ponying up the cash for making Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Those rights, in turn, were licensed to Harmony Gold in January of 1984, months on end before FASA’s Battledroids was published. FASA (and subsequently Catalyst, PGI and all the associated companies including Microsoft) are ENJOINED from using those designs or making derivatives of them because of the 1996 agreement.
I’m sorry, and a few days late to the party…but you’re wrong here.
Harmony Gold has the exclusive rights to distribute, market, etc the Big West designs outside of Japan as part of their license. This part you’re correct about.
The problem you’re running into is that this is for literal copies of the mecha in question. If anything is changed, it’s either a completely unrelated original work, or it is derivative. This is the reason for Harmony Golds most recent amendment changing their complaint from creating derivative works to literal copying. It’s the only thing they can sue over.
Since Harmony Gold explicitly agrees that they have NO rights to create derivative works based on those 41 Big West designs, and US law says you must have EXCLUSIVE rights to create derivative works to sue over someone else making them….
Harmony Gold, having been found by arbitration, and US federal court ruling, to have no rights to create derivative works of the 41 Big West designs, have no grounds to sue over the creation of derivative works based on the 41 Big West designs. They do have grounds to sue over a literal copy of the designs, since they have the exclusive right to distribute, etc.
However, they’ve gone from having to prove that the works of PGI/HBS/CGL are derivative (a case they “might” have won), to having to prove that someone literally smacked the designs on a photo copier and ran with them. Good luck with that.
This also assumes the judge doesn’t toss the entire case into a dumpster fire if they decide to take Harmony Gold at it’s word that this is a suit over infringing “derivative works”, as alleged in the original complaint, amended complaint (but not the amended amended complaint), and emails between themselves and PGI.
Big West Co. Ltd. is one the major movers of titles from Japan and nearly in credits, all US released show from the late 60’s and 70’s and 80’s If I remember right so some hasn’t seen their name before you did read the credits. The issues many see to forget How Harmony Gold came to be. The Late Carl Macek Owned the rights to Macross and was putting the series out by direct mail subscriptions. It didn’t work. He then found some other help bring in 2 other shows to create Robotech they redubbed some the Macross that was done and fused all together with new store line. Carl did have issues mechs in the game but only due to his idea all belonged to his copyright he bought. (a perception he talked about a lot) I know many will say I don’t know what talking about but I was there at the convention not as just fan but some who worked the convention. I sat and talked to Carl Macek on the Anime he did with Harmony Gold and with later productions Streamline production. Knowing Carl’s habits he made a side deal with Big West Co. Ltd and never told anyone. He was about the $$ more but after time I think got to understand the fans and what they wanted and came enjoy the work. Big West Co. Ltd I am not even sure about but go look at the credit of some classics you’ll see them listed.
Well also I am not sure what will happen between Harmony Gold and In Media Res (Parent of Catalyst Game Labs) because In Media Res did not respond to the lawsuit there has now been a default judgement entered against them.
The motion for the default is Docket Item 39, and the Clerk entering default judgement is Docket Item 42
Gonna call BS on you MacrossMike, and for good reason.
Harmony Gold, DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHTS TO THE LISTED CHARACTERS.
IE the Unseen, do not full under Harmony Gold USA’s licensing rights… they belong to Big West.
Sorry m8, but HG, doesn’t have this one in the bag, they’re holding a bag of angry cats.
I would be very interested in how you know this, given that the settlement between HG and fasa was and still is secret.
Simply because HG claims they are does not mean that they are – it … uh … means that HG claims they are, and given that we don’t have access to said secret settlement, we can’t know if said claim is true or not.
Actually, the terms of the agreement were released when HG brought the suit. Its in the document dump pulled from the court records.
Harmony Gold has moved to amend the complaint. I’d be interested to know whether this motion for summary judgment is why.
I’m with you guys… waiting and seeing.
~Col. Wolf (AU, Retired)
Sounds a little bit like the CBS/Axanar case did for a while; for a bit nobody knew exactly who owned what. or how much of any of it because rights had been bought, sold, or transferred a lot over the years.
This is the list of Images that are NOT owned by HG:
SDF-1 BATTLE SHIP
Hikaru ichijo 1
Hikaru ichijo 2
Lynn Minmay 1
Lynn Minmay 2
Lynn Minmay 3
Lynn Minmay 4
Claudia La Salle
Milia Fallyuna Jenius
It would have been awesome if HG was not so shitty and simply requested modest royalties or some other agreement for questionable use of the ip.
Macross got me into Battletech, frankly, and I enjoyed both.
I read this on Christmas Day and grinned a schadenfreudly Grinch Grin.
Oh, more lawsuits involving Harmony Gold?
It must be Tuesday.
The legal status of Harmony Gold’s license to Macross was dubious. Harmony Gold’s license for Macross came from Tatsunoko Production, but Japanese courts ruled that it was Studio Nue (creators of the series) that controls the Macross intellectual property. The license Tatsunoko was given was for international distribution outside Japan only, and does not allow them to control the intellectual property. According to the US Copyright Office, Harmony Gold is the Co-Copyright owner until 2021.
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