Gearbox and Valve Sued by Duke Nukem 3D Composer for Copyright Infringement

Sep 30, 2019
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Gearbox, its president Randy Pitchford and Valve have all been sued by Robert 'Bobby' Prince, a music composer who's also a lawyer, for copyright infringement.

Prince made the original Duke Nukem 3D music and, according to his complaint, Gearbox used the music in the recent Duke Nukem 3D World Tour without compensating him. They didn't remove the music from the game, either, when Prince requested this. Below you can find an excerpt from the complaints, which was filed in Tennessee.

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In October 2016, Mr. Prince learned that Gearbox was about to release a game called Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.

Incredibly, the electronic files for the music within Duke Nukem 3D World Tour include text specifically stating that Mr. Prince owns the copyright to the music and has reserved all rights to the music’s use. Yet Gearbox incorporated the music into the game without ever contacting Mr. Prince and without clearing the rights expressly mentioned in the electronic files.

On October 6, 2016, before Gearbox released Duke Nukem 3D World Tour, Mr. Prince provided his address to Mr. Pitchford and informed him that Gearbox would need to send him royalties if it wanted to use Mr. Prince’s music. Mr. Pitchford said Mr. Prince would be “taken care of.” Mr. Pitchford’s promise was false when made.

Before Mr. Prince contacted Mr. Pitchford, no one from Gearbox had attempted to contact Mr. Prince regarding the use of his music, sound effects, or edited dialog.

Mr. Pitchford began stringing Mr. Prince along with promises that he would “do right” by Mr. Prince and that Mr. Prince would be “taken care of.” The promises were false when made.

Before Gearbox Software and Gearbox Publishing released the game, Mr. Pitchford received a copy of the 1996 license between Apogee and Mr. Prince. He thus knew that Mr. Prince owned the rights to the music and that Apogee had to pay Mr. Prince for its use of the music in prior versions of Duke Nukem games.

Gearbox Software and Gearbox Publishing released Duke Nukem 3D World Tour on October 11, 2016. The game included music composed by Mr. Prince that is covered by his copyright registration and sound effects and edited dialog created by Mr. Prince. The electronic files for the music within Duke Nukem 3D World Tour include text specifically stating that Mr. Prince owns the copyright to the music.

Eventually, Mr. Pitchford directed Steve Gibson, the Head of Publishing at Gearbox Publishing, to make sure that Gearbox was “doing right” by Mr. Prince.

Despite receiving a direct order to “do right” by Mr. Prince, Gearbox proceeded to distribute infringing copies of Duke Nukem 3D World Tour without obtaining a license and without compensating Mr. Prince.

During discussions with Mr. Prince, Mr. Pitchford and Mr. Gibson acknowledged that Mr. Prince owned the music he had composed for Duke Nukem 3D and that Gearbox used in Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.

Mr. Pitchford adopted the position that Gearbox had no license to use Mr. Prince’s music.

Mr. Gibson acknowledged that Gearbox had no license to use Mr. Prince’s music.

Upon information and belief, Gearbox did nothing to clear the rights to Mr. Prince’s music before incorporating it into Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.

Eventually, it became evident that Gearbox had no intention of paying Mr. Prince for its use of his music. Mr. Prince advised Gearbox that it could either pay him according to the terms of the original license for the music or remove his music from the game. Mr. Pitchford and Gearbox did neither.

As to Valve, they were sued because they are distributing the game's digital copies via Steam and continued to do so after Prince asked them to take Duke Nukem 3D World Tour down due to copyright infringement.

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