Friday Curse.com said that Games Workshop has filed a lawsuit against Curse for operating and maintaining a Warhammer Online-based fansite, WarhammerAlliance.com (WA). According to this forum post, the lawsuit cites trademark infringement, cybesquatting of the WA domain name, dilution and unfair competition.
Shelby Cardozo, the site's founder, claims that the allegations are bogus. In the forum post, Cardozo briefly goes over the WA's history, dating back to 2004 when it was a forum for Climax Entertainment's canceled version of Warhammer Online. Apparently sometime in 2005 Cardozo worked with Mythic and Games Workshop over the legal disclaimer on the website, clarifying that WA is unofficial. In 2006 Games Workshop Licensing Manager Erik Mogensen even helped promote the site through various interviews.
All seemed well for WA for the next four years.
Now according to the legal documents filed Friday, Games Workshop recently stumbled across the website. "Now, I'm not a Rocket Surgeon, but this lawsuit smells like Greenskin dung to me," Cardozo said. "In the suit they allege that they just became aware of the site. But they were promoting it in 2006, 4 years ago?" Yep, something stinks.
One forum member points out that WA is ad-supported, and Cardozo even states this in a previous post. Games Workshop may be going after parent network Curse and WA because revenue is earned from using the Warhammer name. "This is Standard Operating Procedure for GW," the forum member said. "They like to protect their intellectual properties as well as their trademarks. They have allowed other sites to stay open as long as they receive permission from GW legal AND they do not make any profit on the site."
So what defines a fan-based website? Does it mean that site owners can't use ad revenue to pay for the domain name renewal, or to pay for the need for additional servers due to increased traffic? This development will be interesting, as it may open the door for additional lawsuits against fans who just want to promote a product.
If Games Workshop does actually win its case against Curse, the result may be really bad news for fan sites using ads to pay the server and domain name bills.
Read the full complaint in a lovely PDF format here.