Consumer news site GameSpot has uncovered details of a previously unreported legal action between Half-Life 2
developer Valve and publisher Vivendi Universal Games. The dispute has been ongoing for two years now, and centers around a lawsuit which Valve originally served against Sierra On-Line, a brand subsequently bought out by Vivendi. The complaint was that Sierra was placing copies of Valve games in Internet cafes across the globe – a practice that Valve claim was not covered by the publisher’s license.
Over two hundred documents and exhibits later, and Vivendi has inherited the lawsuit, which remains unresolved. On top of the original complaint, Valve has also claimed that Vivendi has refused to pay the developer royalties owed and unreasonably delayed Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
so that it missed the Christmas 2003 retail period.
Around six months ago, Vivendi lawyers made a counter-claim that they hoped would invalidate their publishing agreement with Valve and grant them ownership of the Half-Life intellectual property. Both sides have now submitted motions for summary judgment on minor details, with a final court date not scheduled until March 2005 – which is expected to be long after Half-Life 2
’s release date. Indeed, the delivery of source code to Vivendi, which was widely reported last week, may in fact have been timed to comply with a legal demand from the publisher.
With Vivendi also attempting to prevent Valve from distributing Half-Life 2
via its online delivery system Steam, it is a supreme irony they are also trying to force the developer into working with them on future projects. Whoever wins the varied legal battles, and the overall war, it is likely to have profound implications on future developer/publisher relations throughout the industry.