“War”? (And why still care)

January 14, 2009 · Posted in Copycats · Comment 

Frequently Asked Question #56:

I understand that you guys are upset about the wholesale theft of your databases and other material, and justly so. However I don’t understand what you hope to accomplish at this point by still complaining about it. AGSI/Matrix have been dismissing your whole argument all along and presenting your case as a “war in the community” that of course benefits no-one. Meanwhile Herman Hum has drained everything valuable from your material and has moved on to “be inspired” by other sources of information (e.g. HUD). Even if he were to publicly acknowledge his acts tomorrow, the results of his behavior cannot be undone. What do you guys aim for by now?

Response:

That is a fair question.

A fitting analogy is a murder trial. Does throwing the murderer to prison do anything to bring back the victim(s)? No, but it provides closure to the victim’s friends/relatives, defuses any thoughts of vigilantism / vendetta, and serves the entire society by making a firm statement that similar acts will not be tolerated in the future.

Which is exactly what AGSI/Matrix should have done long ago. (Not the jail part, but all the rest).

Herman & crew’s actions have been the single biggest reason that content creators (DB & scen designers) have left the game in droves. After all, having your work ripped off down the road is not a great incentive to do stuff.
We warned about this happening long ago. Our warnings were ignored and ridiculed. Shortly after that, content creators started pulling out in numbers.

The powers-that-be would very much like to propagate the image of our scenario author and Herman being two of a kind (and thus in a “war”). They are not. Herman would very much like to have accomplished 1/100th of the scenario author’s work.

It is very convenient for certain “representatives” to lump them together because:
(a) it allows them to present the whole matter as "two kids arguing about something" (ie. something unimportant, and everyone should get over it and move on) rather than a very serious case of plagiarism that has destroyed the content creators’ faith in the IP protection of their creations, and thus driven them away from the game.
(b) it allows them to avoid having to answer some very awkward questions about heir own responsibility/complicity in the matter (AGSI’s president had personally guaranteed IP protection to the scenario author’s works back in 2002. When push came to shove, this commitment was thrown away).

OTOH Herman of course doesn’t mind being put on the same boat as the scenario author. It’s like a 3-man software company being mentioned in the same breath as Microsoft – it makes the small dog feel bigger. It also allows him to brush off the accusations & evidence as mere "hate-filled ramblings" (part of the "war against him", naturally) rather than have to actually respond to them in a reasonable, fact-based & convincing manner. Timeless tactic: where logic may not serve you, use emotion.

So evidently, quite a few people have a vested interest in perpetuating the "war" myth.

Presenting the whole affair as a "community civil war" is very much akin to describing a rape trial as "a war between the victim and the defendant". It’s not. Anyone who is trying to frame it as such has an agenda to hide.

“Yes, it happened. No, we’re not going to do anything about it.”

March 2, 2007 · Posted in Copycats · Comment 

WashHandsSo AGSI has finally come to publicly admit that the DB2000 plagiarism was not a figment of someone’s imagination but an actual fact:

It is the belief of several published database developers I have talked to that plagiarism has occurred. There were enough unique items to the source database that appeared in the plagiarized database (and some Scenarios) that there is little likelihood of co-incidence.

A little background here: In 2002, AGSI made an informal agreement with the crew of the then-HarpoonHQ that the creations (DBs and scenarios) of any third-party author were his sole intellectual property (IP) and that AGSI was to guarantee this against copycats etc. by any means necessary. This peace of mind was instrumental in allowing the community content to flourish in the early years of Harpoon 3, dramatically boosting its popularity and sales.

So, one might be excused for expecting ASGI to honor this commitment by making an example out of the perpetrator and demonstrating that such acts will not be tolerated in the future. So, what are the “any means necessary”? Taking the offender to court? (This is, after all, a matter of IP theft). Asking the multitude of sites hosting his material to remove it, as it is the product of theft? Perma-banning the perpetrator from every forum it can? At the very least, publicly denouncing him by name and instructing everyone of his actions?

Nope. In this community, the punishment for blatantly ripping off the work of others is… you don’t get to be a member of yet another “AGSI insider” group of questionable value:

Due to the realities of the internet, and international parties there is little we can do about the situation except ensure that those we suspect of such behavior do not bear the mark of "Team Harpoon Content Provider" If they were to come clean, apologize, and make amends, the Membership Committee will reconsider.

Phew. That will show them.

In retrospect, it is fortunate that AGSI had no members on the board of judges in the Nuremberg trials. Fine folks like Goering or Kaltenbrunner might have walked off with a pat in the hand and a stern warning.

In the dictionary, under the word “plagiarism”

December 27, 2006 · Posted in Copycats, Uncategorized · Comment 

The Harpoon HeadQuarters crew is justly proud for a lot of its creations, chief among them the DB2000 database for the H2/3 simulation. A dataset 10+ years in the making (1996-2006) and the product of untold man-hours of work, as well as significant expense (quality reference books are not cheap).

During 2005-2006, a supposedly “new” database called the PlayersDB emerged in the Harpoon community. Herman Hum, the creator of this DB, claims that he has not copied anything from the DB2000 or any other HarpoonHQ database, and that his starting point is Darren Buckley’s obsolete HUD-2.

Let us examine how this claim holds under scrutiny. The following data is from a side-by-side comparison of the DB2000, the PDB and the HUD-2 databases as they stood in mid-2006. Time-stamped copies of the databases have been kept by the DB2000 author as evidence and are available upon request.

(click to enlarge)

DatabaseComparison003DatabaseComparison004DatabaseComparison005DatabaseComparison006DatabaseComparison007_Nasams1DatabaseComparison008_scrambled1DatabaseComparison009_loadouts1DatabaseComparison010_loadouts2DatabaseComparison011_loadouts3

As I wrote elsewhere,

Any DB-experienced IT pro worth his salt will tell you the odds of two datasets (of such schematic complexity) growing _in total separation without any cross-transfer_ and ending up with these kind of similarities. Suffice to say, it’s not the kind of odds you want at the casino or lottery.

As the saying goes, for those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

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