I saw this at the Firearms site and knowing that not everyone will visit their site I thought I should post it here. Firearms was a great mod, wasn't it? Here was the final news post and all the content of what remains of the site:
This is an official public service announcement.
If someone wants to steal or take over your mod and use its name, there is nothing you can do.
The Short Version ...
When Source was out and FA was still in production, a Source mod started up under the name “Firearms: Revival.” We, the FA Team, spoke with them and came to an agreement. They could recreate FA from scratch, but they agreed to not use our name.
The same can't be said for the Firearms 2 Team, who kicked off their mod in August 2005 by hijacking the Firearms Forums, FTP, and servers using back-door access supplied by our server provider, ReconGamer. Every single team member and most of the forum admin/mod staff were banned, and we lost all of our art source and personal files stored on the server. As a result, this website was rebuilt from archived sites. The server takeover didn't affect the domain names, so the FA Team still controls those. For a while, they redirected to the site of our follow-up mod, World at War.
The FA Team argued with the FA2 Team for quite awhile, to no avail. Valve also refused to get involved. Eventually, the FA Team prevailed upon former FA Team Leader Eric “Zerk” Smith to intervene. When he found there was no legal ground to stop the FA2 Team, he lent them his conditional support. Thus ended the FA Team's quest to stop the FA2 Team from making Firearms 2.
However, a year later, the FA Team (now the World at War Team) is still angry. Firearms 2 continues to capitalize on the good name of a mod that they neither created nor stewarded. They wish to sweep the hijacking incident under the rug, as if it weren't relevant to who they are and what they've done. For us, the aftermath of this was like being kicked in the groin and others telling us to just forget about it, that the crushing pain was in the past.
At this point, we accept that these people will continue trying to make FA 2. We can't stop them. But for the players out there, remember that this is a mod started by fellow players who perpetrated this against us. For fellow modders out there, remember: this could happen to you. And if it does… may God have mercy on you, because you can't do anything about it.
The Long Version ...
In the summer of 2005, I gained leadership of Firearms for HL1 from then-leader Ben Irwin, who had already disappeared from public internet life and needed a sabbatical from the pressures of leading a mod. I also became team leader of World at War, the FA Team's follow-up mod to FA. I worked on and off with several others to shepherd the release of FA 3.0. As most of the FA Team was already working on WaW, the general consensus had been to stop development on FA after 3.0 was released. Agree or disagree, that right was the Team's prerogative. However, we kept the webpage up and the forums running after 3.0 was released, allowing for feedback and the possibility of a few minor updates.
We did not set a date for Firearms to “die.” We did not wish to stifle any and all access to FA. When the time was to come, we were going to write a final news post on the FA site and give links to the WaW site, where FA discussion would continue in our subforum and would include download links.
Before any of this could happen, I came home from a party in early August of 2005 to see PMs splashed all across my IRC screen and my inbox flooded. All of my fellow FA Team members and all of my forum admin staff had been banned from our own forums during a hostile takeover. Furthermore, my Team members and I did not have FTP access anymore. (My own FTP access had died a week or two earlier, and I'd pestered ReconGamer, our host, to fix it by email. They didn't.)
So, we were locked out of our own system, with a resultant loss of control over our forums (and Ben Irwin's VBB license) and the use of our domain name. After some deft maneuvering by my friends on the FA/WaW staff, the VBB license was yanked and the domain name was redirected (as it continued to be until today). At this point, the hijackers had nothing under their control except for the FTP.
Investigation and confrontation revealed the hijackers to be, at least: “Jonjon”, Dean “Sgossard34” Gagnon (who was eventually removed from the Firearms 2 Team by Jonjon), and “Snap.” Although the rationale is murky and inconclusive, it seemed that they'd hijacked the server and forums to prevent the FA Team from killing off FA and/or to use the hijacking as leverage to convince Ben Irwin to grant them permission to create (drumroll…) Firearms 2 for Source. The FA Team had already declined to make FA2 (again, our prerogative) and had even confronted another mod called “Firearms: Revival” that sought to use the name. After some negotiation with those mod leaders, we reached a consensus: an FA remake was okay, so long as it didn't use the name “Firearms.” The FA:R Team agreed and was reborn as Fireteam: Incursion, now the Incursion mod.
But I digress. Whatever the case, the FA website was now down, pretty much for good. The redirect sent visitors to World at War. The VBB license was back in our hands too, used by Ben and our administrator, Lucky, to host the WaW forums. The WaW forums became a pseudo-lifeboat for the remnants of the FA community. We gave them a home there and opened up our forums and, shortly, our website to the public, months ahead of schedule.
Here's where things continue to go downhill. Despite the hijack attempt being thwarted, Jonjon, Sgoss, and their ilk had renamed themselves “the FA2 Team” and were pressing ahead with the mod, our objections be damned. It turned out that by talking with ReconGamer (who, as I noted, were less-than-cooperative with me) Jonjon had gotten control of our server and FTP. This was to be the basis for the FA2 website and mod effort. I feel the need to point out that when the FA Team lost control of the FTP and server, we also lost everything we'd ever stored on the server. Art source for FA, personal photos and writings, the website, all gone. We haven't had these returned to us, and really don't expect to see them again.
Still aggravated and upset by what had transpired, the FA Team sought to take action against FA2. Various lawyers recommended a cease-and-desist letter or, at worse, a civil action, but those were serious and unnerving steps to take. In the end, I approached a former FA Team Leader, Eric “Zerk” Smith of DICE Canada , who had run the mod before Ben and had a signed a contract to have Firearms 2.4 published by Valve on their Platinum Pack.
I didn't approach Zerk because of some weighty position he still held with the Firearms Team. Zerk had relinquished leadership to Ben five years ago during the development of 2.5. He left the team shortly thereafter. I approached him because I thought his contract would be important to our case were he to side with us.
He agreed that the FA2 Team's actions were egregious and warranted a reaction. Despite my hesitance on stepping into legal matters, Zerk shot them a cease-and-desist letter. The FA2 Team quickly got in contact with Zerk to try and reach an accommodation. During this period, Zerk consulted with the DICE legal team and learned that, despite having signed a contract, no legal action could be taken against the theft of intellectual property online. So, Zerk cut his losses and sided with the FA2 Team. The deal: Zerk would give them his approval, provided that they treated the intellectual property properly and behaved themselves.
That was pretty much the end of our last option against the FA2 Team, and the end of our efforts to have FA2 stopped. It wasn't because of Zerk's approval, which certainly stung… it was because he proved that there was no legal course to take.
If there's nothing more that we can do, why am I writing this? Isn't this all in the past?
• The FA2 Team continues to capitalize on the “Firearms” name. Supporters and developers continue to flock to them on the merit of something they did not create.
• In carving out their own personal niche on their webspace and through their PR releases, the FA2 Team has been able to control the discourse on FA2. No mention is made of the website hijacking. And for good reason! It doesn't look good.
• FA2 revolves around our intellectual property. Some will try to pick apart the factualness of that statement, so let me do it for them: the FA Team at the time of the hijacking hadn't created FA; the closest thing resembling legal rights over the intellectual property lies with the contract that Zerk signed; the WaW Team isn't the real FA Team, after all. To which I would respond:
• No, we didn't, but we ran and led FA for five long, bittersweet years. The former leaders ended their leadership and entrusted us with FA. It was ours to mod as we pleased.
• Zerk does have the closest thing to legal rights, which, as noted above, have nothing to do with
the fact that he left the FA Team half a decade earlier.
• We are the real FA Team. Just because Ben left the public's view doesn't mean that he surrendered the IP. Just because there wasn't a grand changing-of-the-guard ceremony doesn't mean that I didn't become team leader. Just because certain team members (such as Tim Rice and Chaz) left both FA and WaW after this incident doesn't mean that the Team itself was compromised. Just because Sgossard was a guest-coder (actual team member, he argues) of FA doesn't mean that he had any power over what should be done with it. Just because Zerk approves doesn't mean that the FA Team does.
As stated, we have no action to take against the FA2 Team. If you want to point fingers at us and say, “You lost, they won, get over it,” you can. But we will not get over it. These are not the right people to continue the Firearms legacy. Some of us spent over six years building the mod up from nothing, only to have it torn away by people who had no right to do so.
This post is a moral protest. Up until this point, they've been able to sweep the hijacking incident under the rug and get away with walking over the FA Team's wishes for the Firearms legacy. And they may continue to do so. But the world should know how the Firearms Team lost control of the “Firearms” name and the ability to rest on our laurels. We can still tout WaW as the follow-up mod to FA, and we still do… when people listen. Modding the “successor” to FA isn't very glamorous when there's a bright-and-shiny “Firearms 2” out there to capitalize on our good name, with no hint of the scandal that went on in the background.
This boils down to the treatment of the FA Team and Firearms as a game. Sure, I know that working on FA after version 2.6 has made us downright reviled in some circles. We're no strangers to having some of our fans pissed at us. But let everyone take note of the time in modding history when these “fans” hijacked a mod team's intellectual property and trod all over them in the process.
They did this because, to them, they had more rights as players than we had as developers. And now that they have forcibly taken the “Firearms” name, they try to justify their behavior by saying that they are developers… after the fact, mind you.
For the players out there who are still reading, do yourself a favor. Think long and hard about what modding is about, and ask yourself two questions: why should modders continue to create free games if they cannot control what they create? And, how do you treat modders?
If your answer to the last two questions is apathetic or nonchalant, be sure to let the modders know your opinion (or lack thereof). And I guess if those modders do something you don't like, you could always take over their website and hijack their intellectual property so you can have your own way at their expense.
- Alejandrodaj (Alex Jordan), Ben (Ben Irwin), Sulsa (Stephen Jackson), Prowl (Alex Fenton), Lucky (Jeff McMurray), ScAvenger001 (Stephen Simon), Apathy (Jarret DeLude), marty4286 (Martin Olson), Evil Superstar (Joris Jamroziak), StandingCow (John Young), Somedude (Zac Mertens), Wallrod (Ben Woodthorpe), Velvety (Graham Davis), SWATJester_os (Dan Rosenthal), Will Mackey (BDH), KnightOwl (Patrik Wallin)
The above named people were either FA team members or FA forum administration team members at the time of these events and agree that this is what happened...
Guns, and lot's of 'em.
(Sorry I couldn't post the image they had at their site.)
I thought it would be seen more if it was posted here.