Doom’s Fan-Made “The Roguelike” Receives Legal Take-Down Notice

If there’s one thing major companies don’t like, it’s when they think their brand is being used without permission. Whether it is in relation to a trademark, copyright, some sort of branding, or blatant infringement, companies tend to all respond the same. Kornel Kisielewicz, co-creator of the game Doom: The Roguelike, found this out the hard way when they received a cease and desist notice from parent company and trademark owner ZeniMax.

Before we go any deeper, you may be wondering what “The Roguelike” means. If you’ve never heard the term, you might think it’s an odd title and the player character is playable to a rogue class, that would be false. In the sub-genre world of RPG’s, Roguelike is simply a turn based dungeon crawler set with tile graphics that sets death as permanent for the player. Meaning, if you made it to level 99 and died, you’re back to square one. The early NES had plenty of games like these, and Doom: The Roguelike is no exception to the style.

Roguelike

The letter details the ownership of the game’s trademarks, and a request to take any association with said trademarks down immediately. ZeniMax takes a pretty firm stance, noting that the representation is false and infringes on intellectual property rights. The alternative is facing legal action that could get quite expensive. You can read the full letter below.

Dear Website Owner:

ZeniMax Media Inc. ando/ro its affiliates (collectively, “ZeniMax”) is the owner of some of the most famous trademarks in the video game industry, including The Elder Scrolls®, Fallout®, DOOM®, and The Evil Within® trademarks. These trademarks are used to identify, advertise, and promote ZeniMax’s products and activities. They are protected around the world under U.S. and international trademark law.

You are using ZeniMax trademark(s) as a meta tag, keyword, media, or other visible or concealed text in connection with your website located at doom.chaosforge.org. By doing so you intentionally seek to attract Internet users to your website. This unauthorized use of ZeniMax’s intellectual property falsely suggests ZeniMax’s sponsorship or endorsement of your website. The practice infringes on ZeniMax’s exclusive intellectual property rights.

We demand you immediately remove all ZeniMax trademarks from your meta tags, keywords, media, and other visible or concealed text that are connected to your website located at
http://doom.chaosforge.org/
http://doom.chaosforge.org/downloads

Further legal action may be pursued if this situation is not immediately resolved.

Sincerely,

ZeniMax Media Inc.

So far, Kornel hasn’t complied with ZeniMax’s request, as the website is still up and Doom: The Roguelike can still be downloaded. Instead, they took the issue to Twitter, posting a screen captured image of the letter along with a short message. Given that the game has been up since 2007 (if not earlier), it is understandable that the creator might be a little upset about the sudden interest in having it removed.

This spurred a conversation on Twitter about the support of a different fan project at the recent Game Awards that ZeniMax has not pursued (the Doom Twitter encouraged fans to support it), and the fact that Doom: The Roguelike was developed before ZeniMax had rights to the Doom trademark. Regardless of when the game was made, trademark law still stands and ZeniMax is within their right to pursue the issue.

The interesting thing is that ZeniMax didn’t take notice until the creators started a Kickstarter funding a new game, the “spiritual successor” to Doom: The Roguelike, called “Jupiter Hell“. The sudden request for money is the likely culprit for the notice. ZeniMax may feel that the Doom trademark is being indirectly used to fund the project, and would not want to be affiliated without expressed permission. Kisielewicz had this to say about the overall situation:

“12 years modders/fangames kept Doom alive in gamer hearts, kept people waiting for a good Doom to come. This is the day. You’re welcome, Z[eniMax].”

It is uncertain what the next move will be, but as it stands legal action is likely on the horizon for these developers. This does bring up the interesting question of what is fair on long standing fan-made games when it comes to copy right, but ultimately it rests on the company to decided if action is necessary. For now, you can still support the Kickstarter and download the game, but as they like to say on the “DoomRL” forum, “get it while it’s hot”.

Do you think ZeniMax should let this slide? Would it be better for the developers of Doom: The Roguelike to just drop the issue and change the names after having such a long standing establishment? Sound off in the comments below!

Charles Douglas734 Posts

Deep in the mountains of the south west lives a man who writes game editorials, makes YouTube Videos, and is an overall mega nerd. An avid believer in Unicorns, and your new all star line backer, Number 34, CHARLES DOUGLAAAAAAASSSS!!!!

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