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legal

Over at Halo.fr there's an item that says a company called Exequo, that does localization work for Microsoft, has denied responsibility for the Halo 2 leak, saying that they never actually put a hand on a copy of Halo 2. Editor's Note: That story, and the rest of that site, are in French. Thanks to KP and Lacrimosa in #hbo for help translating the text.

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The Bungie community reaction to the Halo 2 leak continues. Today there's an article at The Junkyard by Jake "Evergreen98" Billo titled Leaky Pipes.

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Major Nelson's blog, Random Thoughts, today says that Microsoft is getting reports that XBL users with modded Xboxes are using them to cheat at certain online games, notably in Project Gotham Racing 2, where they are driving modified cars to gain an advantage.

Nelson promises that "additional security measures" have been initiated to keep these users off XBL.

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The response of the Bungie fan community, and indeed much of the online gaming community, has been one of sympathy and support for those at Bungie affected by the French-language copies of Halo 2 that are now circling the world ahead of their official release date, in defiance of international copyright laws, and allowing users to consume expensively-produced entertainment content without paying anything to get it.

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The response of the Bungie fan community, and indeed much of the online gaming community, has been one of sympathy and support for those at Bungie affected by the French-language copies of Halo 2 that are now circling the world ahead of their official release date, in defiance of international copyright laws, and allowing users to consume expensively-produced entertainment content without paying anything to get it.

However, some, of course, have expressed slightly different sentiments, which is desireable and understandable. Such an outpouring of support for Bungie would mean nothing were it not sincere and well-considered, something impossible to generate if the possibility of differing opinions did not exist.

Unfortunately, many of these expressions of doubt, anger, jubilation and skepticism-- as well as some of the expressions of support-- are not based on careful consideration, knowledge of the market or the law, or any basic insights into human behavior; and many are just appeals to humanity's baser instincts, or to rank paranoia.

So I thought I'd take a moment to address some of them.

The leak helps Microsoft. There have been a number of reasons used to justify this conclusion; some call the leak a kind of unofficial demonstration.

However, the bottom line is that Halo 2 is already one of the most-hyped console games ever, and certainly the most hyped on the Xbox. It had advertisements in movie theaters, for goodness' sake. And if it weren't for Doom 3, it'd probably be the most hyped game coming out in 2004. Some may argue that it still is.

In short, the pirated copies of Halo 2 don't, and cannot, benefit Microsoft. The download is so large, and the hurdles-- namely, modchipping an Xbox-- so high, that nobody who can successfully use it is someone who didn't already know about Halo 2, enough to decide whether or not to purchase it. If they're purchasing it anyway, then they are breaking the law out of sheer impatience; if they were not, then they are doing so with an intent to steal.

And if we rule out the ludicrous idea that someone who doesn't already own an Xbox would purchase one to play a game they got for free, we have to admit that every illegal copy of Halo 2 out there is, at least, a potential loss of a sale for Microsoft.

Piracy is good because it builds mindshare/marketshare. This is actually a more reasonable concept; the only problem is, it's being applied to the wrong market. There are markets in which Microsoft, like other companies, either ignores, tolerates, or takes a slightly more conciliatory than usual attitude towards the piracy of their products; mainly emerging markets with developing economies, where the usual retail prices of such essential tools as Microsoft Office are simply out of reach of most businesses and individuals, and illegal copies are freely available. Such is the case in much of the Former Soviet Union, for instance, and much of the Far East. In those markets, it affects not just operating systems and applications, but games and movies as well.

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Today's new Halo Babies strip reminds us there are very few shopping days left before Halo 2 is released. mrsmiley also writes to let us know about their Halo Gamers Against Piracy campaign; read all about it and perhaps use their banner (as we have) to proclaim your site a supporter of Bungie against software piracy.

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XboxSolution is reporting the same story as everyone else-- that a French language version of Halo 2 has hit the Internet. However, they've chosen to headline the story Halo 2 Source Code Leaked on the Web, which, as far as we know, is NOT true; Shishka's FAQ denies that anyone has broken into Bungie, and that the leaked copy is the binary version of the shipping game, most likely lifted from a manufacturing plant.

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SketchFactor has posted at Bungie.net, asking fans with information regarding the leak to email piracy@microsoft.com and to help minimizing spoilers by not publicly posting screens, links, information about the story, or descriptions.

UPDATE: Shishka has written a Piracy FAQ for Bungie.net as well. Seems like Shishka was born to FAQ.

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Slashdot today discusses a Washington Post article on teens coping with video game addiction.

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When Halo hits Xbox Live later this year, will somebody else be listening to the sound of your cyborg's metal skin clanking on the faceplate of your fallen opponent besides you and your fellow players?

Could be. Gamer Feed's Mike Viscel has posted a story that the FBI's request to the FCC to require ISPs to rewire their networks to make wiretapping easier applies to services like Xbox Live, which would have 15 months to comply with the request.

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Spenser posted in the HBO forum that the answer to a FAQ item on the website of Infinium Labs, the company currently purporting to be developing a driveless gaming console called the Phantom, will have a shooter similar to our favorite game available at launch: reportedly a two chapter "Halo-like" FPS game.

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Corey Tamas posted an editorial at MacGamer at the end of last month that commented on the software piracy issue underlined by MacSoft's decision to require the Halo CD to be in the drive in order for Mac Halo to launch. It's entitled Back When I Stole Games, although "back when" seems to be not that long ago, as the most recently-copied game Tamas cites is the original Unreal.

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MacCentral's editor Peter Cohen has put up an article at MacCentral on piracy in the Mac games market, drawing on give-and-take from MacSoft's Peter Tamte, Aspyr Media's Michael Rogers and MacPlay's Mark Cottam.

The thrust of the article is poking holes in the arguments that pirates use to explain why they steal software, and explaining why all future MacSoft titles will have copy protection.

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[image:6655 left hspace=5 vspace=5 border=0]The 'net has been all abuzz of late about the so-called "release" of Half-Life 2 in parts of the former Soviet Union; it has been spotted for sale in Ukraine and Siberia. Most of these reports have drawn attention because Half-Life 2 is hotly anticipated, and because this game is not yet near an official release, and the source of these copies for sale is a leaked beta.

However, the average gamer may or may not be aware that piracy of computer software, music and movies isn't limited to Internet-based peer-to-peer schemes and shady chat rooms in CIS countries; it's right out there on apparently legitimate store shelves for everyone to see.

Case in point: Halo for the PC. Shortly after the release of PC Halo in the US (and long before we got our copies here at Rampancy, which arrived in a package with Mac Halo and First Strike) there were CDs on store shelves in former Soviet countries that purported to be Halo for the PC-- version 1.5, no less. (Perhaps that's where the rumors came from.) This applies not just to games, but operating systems, application suites like Microsoft Office, even enterprise level software like Oracle 8i.

The jewel case art itself is an interesting study; while the cover art appears to be based on screenshots from the shipping game, the back of the box features screens as old as E3 2000 and older.

Of course, trends are in place to reverse this state of affairs. Microsoft has opened representative offices in some (not all) former Soviet countries, and has been lobbying their governments to enact (and enforce) protection for intellectual property rights, as well as urging local computer resellers to cease practices like selling cracked copies of Microsoft operating systems and applications with new computers, or selling OEM copies over the counter that are clearly marked "for sale only with a new PC".

However, the real "gotcha" for anyone who plonked down hard currency (or its nearest equivalent) for "Halo 1.5" in any of the CIS countries-- and the going price is about two U.S. dollars-- is the system requirements. The only words in English on the back of the CD case are for the system requirements, and they read:

Pentium-2 233 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 4 MB 3D Card

If anyone actually tried to play Halo on that system, that's almost punishment enough for warezing the game... almost.

In summary, piracy is something that affects not only Half-Life 2, or even just Halo-- but just about every piece of software you can imagine. And before anybody asks, no, I am not going to tell you exactly where you can get this. Buy Halo.

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Just a follow-up to the earlier story on the EEL debacle, prompted b PrplPplEater's post in our forum. Disclosure: he's an admin at Mariusnet.)

After the modified EEL file, which contained Marius.net's new IP address so that the Mariusnet plugin would work again with Myth 1.4-- which was produced by a third party, Blades apparently sent a cease and desist email threatening action under the DCMA.

Marius posted in the forum that it was against an agreement between Magma/Marius and PlayMyth/Mythdev to post any information about the EEL file, and although it came from a third-party, Mariusnet and Project Magma had to remove the EEL file and all information about it from their servers.

Other sites, however, have taken up the slack, posting the information as well as copies of the modified EEL file; including Myth Forums.

The long and short of this is, although Blades now says that EEL files are no longer "necessary", at this moment you still need one to use the Marius.net server. While Doobie has posted that they're trying to get a new one, at the moment the only one that exists and will work on the Marius.net server right now is the one hosted at Myth Forums.

Having said that, we hope that the messiness of this whole situation doesn't persuade people that one of these servers is inherently better than the other. For myself, I've recently rediscovered Myth in its OS X native 1.4 form, and used the PlayMyth site and metaserver without problem or incident.

As for the lawsuit-- it's really interesting. Violation of a separate agreement or NDA, as far as I know, might be actionable, but not under the DMCA. Besides that, the entity that would need to bring suit under the DMCA would be the owners of the copyright-- in this case, Take Two, and not MythDev, as far as we know.

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