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Gaming NewsJul 24, 2017 at 2:34p PSTby luckie

BattleTech and MechWarrior Online facing legal problems

Harmony Gold strikes again. The owner of Robotech and several other anime series in the US has filed a lawsuit against BattleTech and MechWarrior Online developers, Harebrained Schemes and Piranha Games.

Harmony Gold, owner of the Robotech anime in the US, has filed a lawsuit over copyright infringement against both Piranha Games (MechWarrior Online) and Harebrained Schemes (BattleTech). The filing is dated March 1, 2017 and has just recently been spotted by a fan over at the BattleTech game’s forums.

The entire lawsuit can be found online in United States Courts Archive. In it Harmony Gold makes an accusation specifically against Jordan Weisman (owner of the BattleTech franchise), regarding his upcoming BattleTech game, claiming that the game’s website displays several robot warriors that infringe the former’s copyrights. In February 2017 Harebrained Schemes held a Kickstarter campaign, in which it raised $2,785,537.13 for the development of BattleTech. The question is, should the 41,733 backers worry about the game’s future?

These are some exemplary pictures of mechs used in BattleTech’s promo materials that Harmony Gold claims to be derivative of their copyrighted images:

Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint - 2017-07-25
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint - 2017-07-25
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint

A similar accusation was made against Piranha Games’ president Russ Bullock, who, Harmony Gold claims, deliberately infringed some copyrighted images:

Despite Mr. Bullock’s admission that Piranha Games does not have the right to use Harmony Gold’s copyrighted Robotech designs, Piranha Games is doing exactly that without Harmony Gold’s permission. Piranha Games operates a website for its MechWarrior Online game at www.mwomercs.com. On this site, Piranha Games displays the following images of robot warriors that infringe Harmony Gold’s copyrights and that appear to be used in the MechWarrior Online game.

Here are some comparison pictures:

Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint - 2017-07-25
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint - 2017-07-25
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint - 2017-07-25
Source: Harmony Gold’s complaint

In the Prayer for Relief section Harmony Gold demands the infringemnent to stop and monetary damages be paid to them.

A look back

This is actually yet another chapter in a story that goes back to 1990s, when Harmony Gold first went to court with the franchise’s original creators, FASA Corporation. Back then, the claim was that the visual design of the original line of BattleMechs was stolen from Macross (Robotech’s original name in Japan) and other anime licensed by Harmony Gold. As a result, FASA stopped using images owned by other parties and called the BattleMechs taken from other sources the Unseen.

In 2009, after another intervention by Harmony Gold, Catalyst Games Labs, who then handled the publishing of the BattleTech franchise, announced that they had secured the rights to the Unseen, excluding the ones originating from Macross. However, in 2011, the remaining Unseen images were withdrew again, due to continuing legal problems.