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Updated Games developer 3D Realms looks set to impose restrictions on the use of screenshots from its next game, Duke Nukem Forever, writes Andrew Smith.

During an impromptu chat at the PlanetCrap.com forum, 3D Realms owner/producer George Broussard said that use of screenshots in printed strategy guides would be prohibited. This will block publication of unofficial guides, which rely heavily on screenshots, leaving the market clear for 3D Realms' own offering.

"We do not like unofficial strategy guides that come out and try to profit (from) our work," Broussard said, although he added that the company isn't likely to go after online guides: "As long as they aren't doing an entire 200 page hint book online that is... then that cuts into (our) book sales."

He also revealed his opposition to Web sites using un-approved screenshots.

"I don't like reviewers taking shitass ugly shots and using them in reviews," he explained. "Use the official ones. I don't think [reviewers] should have the power to cost me money by taking lame shots, or over-exposing the game, or giving away weapons, bosses etc to the point the users says 'Nah, I've seen enough'."

Talking to one reviewer, he said: "I don't give a rat's ass about a Web site's exclusive shots. Use ours. You don't wanna review the game because you can't take shots? Don't."

Broussard's comments awaken concerns that 3D Realms may interfere with reviews of the long-overdue Duke Nukem Forever. In May last year, the company introduced a controversial licensing policy for people wishing to use screenshots and trademarks on Web sites.

One of the more alarming clauses stated that trademarks, such as the name of the game, could not be used "in a derogatory or defamatory manner, or in any negative context". Co-owner Scott Miller insisted that the clause would not be used to censor critical reviews.

Pokélawyer

The issue of unofficial strategy books has also hit a nerve with Nintendo, which last month filed suit against Imagine Media over a Pokémon training guide. It is alleged that Imagine "is willfully and intentionally infringing Nintendo's copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property rights".

Nintendo claims that the publishing giant "has engaged in wholesale copying of copyrighted and trademarked materials by reproducing, apparently in a 'cut and paste' fashion, copyrighted artwork, graphic material and audio-visual material from a variety of Nintendo sources, hundreds of screen shots from the copyrighted Pokémon Gold and Silver game, and dozens of copyrighted Pokémon Trading Cards."

As expected, Imagine reached straight for the 'fair use' defence: "We feel that The 100% Unofficial Pokémon Trainer's Guide was no different from countless guides Imagine Media - and other companies - have published in the past without drawing lawsuits from Nintendo or other publishers.

"Traditionally, use of screenshots like that in the Trainer's Guide has fallen within what is known as the 'fair use' doctrine, meaning we are allowed to use such images in the course of our coverage. But Nintendo has suddenly turned our regular coverage of its products into grounds for litigation."

Under US law, copyrighted material can be lawfully used by a third-party "for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching... scholarship, or research". Imagine's lawyer will presumably argue that the Pokémon guide is a form of teaching. But can he say it with a straight face?

Imagine Media is the US wing of the global Future Network, publisher of such esteemed organs as PC Format, PC Gamer and .Net magazine, along with Web sites such as Daily Radar and Maximum PC.

Lock up your cutlery

Meanwhile, Nintendo has Pokémon-related legal troubles of its own, as it is being sued by orange-fixated cutlery tormenter Uri Geller.

The infamously litigious "psychic entertainer" (his own words) claims that a Pokémon character, Kadabra, is based on him and uses his signature image of a bent spoon. The character, called "Yun Geller" in the original Japanese, also has a star on its forehead and lighting bolts on its chest, which Geller claims is a reference to Nazis.

"Nintendo turned me into an evil, occult Pokémon character," he said. "Nintendo stole my identity by using my name and my signature image. I want to tell the world... that I have nothing whatsoever to do with these violent characters."

To help tell the world, he's claiming "hundreds of millions" of dollars in damages.

Uri Geller can bend metal objects using only the power of his mind. Oh yes he can. In a curious twist, he once set his lawyers on a computer magazine for suggesting otherwise. The mag? PC Format, owned by Future, which owns Imagine Media. ®

Related stories

Duke Nukem fans bite back
Uri Geller bent on legal action over Pokémon likenesses
UK shop fined £1000 for selling Duke Nukem to kid

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