Thursday, 8 October 2009
|0634 - I don't know what to think about this...|
A startup, Cloudmach, is developing a 3D world along the lines of Second Life that requires nothing more than a web browser to use. Their initial launch is via a pair of Facebook apps, CloudChat and CloudCards.
This seems reasonable enough. By doing the rendering on their servers, rather than the user's computer, they can deliver the service to anything with a reasonable web browser (and that's pretty loosely defined, as their marketing video shows them targeting Chrome, Safari, and Opera as well as IE and Firefox). I do find myself wondering just how much compute power they're going to have available, though, and just how well their service will scale as the user base grows. Rendering is one of the more compute-heavy things you can do, after all.
What has me concerned about the whole thing is that they have a selection of default avatars, and one of them is the Tron Guy. I'm pleased and flattered on the one hand, but there's this voice that whispers in the back of my mind about control of my own likeness and royalties. Do I need to just smile and accept it, or do I need to try to have a lawyer say, "Hey, wait a minute here. You're going to make money off this guy, and he deserves a cut."?
Take a look at the marketing video and decide for yourself:
current mood: pensive
I'm not sure if it is specifically Tron Guy, but instead the Tron "geek" as done by Scott Johnson from his 56 Geeks project: http://myextralife.com/56geeks/big_poster.php
You can see 3D-ized versions of "Rock" and "Potter" (and possibly "Cosplay") Geek in that video, and the Tron one bears more resemblance there (Of course, I'm pretty sure that the Tron "geek" drawing is based on Tron Guy, so it's twice removed).
I have no idea how that affects things legally. A not-deep search doesn't show any connection between Johnson and Cloudmach. Since the video suggests they can pull content from other 3D worlds, it may be that someone on Second Life made up each of those avatars (possibly w/ Johnson's permission) and Cloudmach pulled them (they certainly aren't worried about trademarks in that video with Sonic shilling for them).
Yes, the Tron Geek is taken from me. I even own the original, having purchased it on eBay.
It's still quite recognizably me, and that's what counts.
having a lawyer on your side is always a good idea
You might be the original "Tron guy", Jay, but how much of that (in terms of marketing "rights") is owned by Disney (who has the rights to the movie)? If money isn't being made, likely Disney isn't gonna want to get involved, but once it's about who gets a cut of what, they will likely wade in. Do you want to chance court time alongside or against Eisner & co, against this Cloudmach? Indeed, were I you, I would tread very lightly. Is there an ownership connection between Cloudmach and Disney?
Of course, Disney owns "Jimmy Kimmel Live", from where you gained broad recognition, which throws in another twist.
You may well need real legal advice.
The first thing that I think is that yeah, you should at least have some control over this unless you're really willing to give up -everything- and forget it. I'd suggest a lawyer, but I'm the last one to know about these things.
I'm also for at least talking to a lawyer. It'd help to speak with someone who works with/specializes in intellectual property. The worst case the lawyer says 'nope, don't have a case.'
I have a feeling if it were to come to blows, they would probably just alter the image enough to make it not look like you, rather then pay you royalties. I'm usually not one to say 'OMG SUE' but you are that image.
That being said, if it doesn't work out, the makers of Tron haven't given you a hard time about what you've done, haha.
Given that they're also using Mario, I suspect there's going to be a line at their door to deliver subpoenas if anyone manages to get them to pay up.
Instead of taking the typically American first-approach of throwing lawyers at the problem, maybe what you need, instead, is a showbiz agent.
He can prolly get you other gigs, as well as try to collect from this theft.
BTW: Ever get paid for the South Park appearance? Precedence helps in legal cases.
that's you. Suggest at least getting legal advice. With attention to which can of worms you may want to open...
I'd definitely talk to a lawyer... and as someone else pointed out, these folks could have Disney and Nintendo on them like ugly on an ape.
Other folks have made noises about a virtual world with rendering all done "in the cloud"; it appeals to some because it keeps user-created content in the cloud as well. OTOH, as you say, that's a HUGE amount of work in the cloud, and either a LOT of bandwidth or serious on-the-fly video compression in the cloud as well--and as much as SL residents kvetch about the low quality of the SL avatars, they look like Michelangelo's David in comparison with what the marketing video shows.