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3dfx wraps up wrapper Web sites

Legal muscle used to prevent its graphics language being ported to other 3D hardware

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3dfx has launched a series of legal strikes to prevent Web sites posting 'wrappers' -- software utilities that map calls to 3dfx's Glide 3D graphics API onto the APIs of other vendors' accelerator cards. The company claims that wrappers developed using its own Glide software development kit (SDK) cannot be distributed without its permission since that violates its intellectual property rights. And since the wrappers allow games that normally require Glide and 3dfx's Voodoo technology for acceleration to be played with, say, cards based on nVidia's Riva TNT, 3dfx refuses to give its permission. And recently 3dfx's lawyers, San Francisco-based Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May, began emailing owners of sites offering wrapper downloads to remove the utilities and other Glide-related files -- or else. One site, Glide Underground, received the following: "We represent 3Dfx Interactive in its intellectual property matters. We are contacting you because [your] site... links to several files stored on your server... 3Dfx's analysis has determined that the... files were developed using the Software Developer's Kit for Glide(R) 2.x. "Each of these files allow software written with 3Dfx's proprietary graphics language, Glide, to be run on third-party graphics hardware. 3Dfx Interactive reserves the rights in its intellectual property, and considers the use of the SDK to prepare emulators for third party graphics hardware an infringement of those rights. "Accordingly, 3Dfx Interactive notifies you that the above identified files infringe its intellectual property rights and requests your help in removing these files from your site." Glide Underground was, in some respects, lucky -- one wrapper writer, Scott Cutler, found 3dfx had forced his Web host, Webjump, to pull his site without his consent in order to remove his XGL200 wrapper. Cutler is believed to be considering his legal options, but it's clear that few if any other rapper writers will be able to mount a legal challenge to 3dfx. "Being a high school student, I don't have the financial resources to fight any claims by 3dfx," said one. 3dfx's concern over the availability of wrappers is understandable. After all, a game that can only be accelerated using Glide and a Voodoo-based card could provide a major boost for 3dfx's business. That said, the company has acted rather heavy-handedly this time since the non-commercial nature of the utilties' development has ensured few if any are finished products. None yet appear to match the performance and quality of Glide itself. Interestingly, one wrapper, Clide, was developed without recourse to the SDK, according to its developer, known only as Clideman. "I read the legal disclaimer that was required to download the Glide SDK. I saw that eventually if I released Clide, I would be in a bad position, so I instead looked to other Glide programming resources on the web. I found a huge number of useful samples and Web pages to use instead. This is one reason why the graphic quality of my wrapper was inferior to that of others," he claimed in an email posted on Glide Underground. "Even though I took these precautions, 3dfx may not accept this, so Clide may also be removed. As of yet 3dfx has not contacted me," he added. It will be interesting to see whether 3dfx takes an equally dim view of such 'clean room' development. Update 3dfx tech support says yes to Wrappers ®

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