Digital Homicide's $10 Million Lawsuit Against Game Critic Gone

from the bang-bang dept

Update: We've made some corrections to this piece to clarify that, while this is a victory for Jim Sterling, it's a result of Digital Homicide agreeing to a settlement, rather than the court tossing the lawsuit, as the original suggested.

The saga of game developer Digital Homicide whipped through our pages like an idiotic windstorm. This gust of blustery nonsense started with the company's lawsuit against a game critic, Jim Sterling, then moved on to it suing Steam users over reviews they wrote, before twirling into the stage where Valve banned Digital Homicide games from Steam entirely and the company stated it planned to shut down operations. All of that happened in the span of six months, which would be impressive if it weren't so sad.

Still, the resolution of the threats against Steam users wasn't the end of the story. The lawsuit against Sterling was still out there, a $10 million dollar anvil hanging over the game critic's head. Until this week, that is, when the court in which the suit had been filed dismissed it with prejudice as part of a settlement agreement between the two parties.

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), the parties hereby stipulate and agree to the dismissal of all claims in this action, including the claims raised in the Amended Complaint of February 3, 2017, with prejudice with each party to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

Plaintiff agrees to forever refrain from directly or indirectly filing against Defendant any cause of action arising from the same facts or circumstances alleged in the Amended Complaint. Plaintiff also agrees to refrain from taking action against Defendant’s business, such as sending DMCA takedown notices, without first considering whether Defendant is engaged in fair use of a copyright under 17 U.S.C. § 107, as required under federal law and Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., 801 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2015).

And that will be the end of that. But Sterling wasn't the only one casting a wary glance at this lawsuit. Many in the game-critiquing world watched on, wondering whether or not a court was going to allow a critic to be punished for doing his job. Were it to have happened, that would have sent a chilling effect through the gaming industry. Fortunately, it didn't.

Which isn't to say that this all ends without any blood being drawn.

What’s particularly disturbing about lawsuits like this is that, even in cases where they are clearly frivolous, as this was, they can force critics to spend significant amounts of money on legal defenses. Sterling had to hire a lawyer, Bradley Hartman, who helped convince the court to dismiss this case, which, in Sterling’s words, involved “series of allegations that were difficult to comprehend even for the one accused of them.”

“Not all threats from the Internet are idle ones, and I wouldn’t recommend anybody brush them off,” Sterling concluded.

Which is again why this country is desperately crying out for strong Anti-SLAPP laws at the federal level. Having to fend off these vacuous lawsuits with no recourse at the end is a burden without justification.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2017 @ 5:43pm

    Mr. Sterling also talked about a comment he caught shortly before it was deleted of an anonymous person claiming that this was only the start and that they and other independent developers were going to band together to bring multiple similar lawsuits against him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2017 @ 6:10pm

      Re:

      I wonder if a certain so-called "inventor of email" is one of them. I mean, technically, he is an independent developer, and he has filed multiple lawsuits, so…

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2017 @ 6:22pm

      Re:

      Well, hopefully this failure to succeed against him acts as a sufficient deterrent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2017 @ 1:12am

        Re: Re:

        Why should it, it has cost Jim Sterling a significant sum of money, and reinforces the idea that the way to avoid those costs is to keep silent, rather than give an honest opinion.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2017 @ 11:23am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It may have cost him money, but not nearly as much as he would have lost if he had gone to court — or if he had somehow, against all odds, actually lost the case.

          Romine was acting no better than a schoolyard bully. Sterling gave Romine a metaphorical punch in the face. That should be enough to not only keep Romine from repeating his mistake with anyone else, but to warn other would-be bullies that Sterling is not about take anyone's shit.

          Your rights mean nothing if you are not willing to stand up for them. Sterling stood up for his and came out the victor in this ridiculous conflict. If anything, his example might embolden others to speak up for their own rights (and the rights of others).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Mar 2017 @ 6:54pm

      Re:

      A barrage of lawsuits designed to silence someone that you don't like? Now where have I run across that tactic before...

      In the comment section where someone asked why he didn't countersue he noted that he was 'nice' this time around in letting the lawsuit die 'amicably', and that anyone who tries the same will not get the same treatment. As such, if anyone tries it I imagine the gloves will come off immediately, and there will be no 'nice' to be seen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Mar 2017 @ 6:01am

        Re: Re:

        "I now know what I need to do. It's going to be lawsuits for the rest of their lives." -paraphrased quote from Brett Kimberlin

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2017 @ 6:27pm

    each party to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

    ".... each party to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees."

    This is the hard part, when Digital H should be responsible for paying ALL expenses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Mar 2017 @ 7:00pm

      Re: each party to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

      DH struggled to pay his own legal fees, and in fact as far as I know he went entirely pro-se(one of the 'claims' that he demanded money for was the 'thousand'-ish hours spent looking up the laws) after not one but two attempts to crowd-fund his defense utterly failed(no-one was interested in funding the lawsuit of someone who attacks people who are 'mean' to him, go figure).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Karl (profile), 3 Mar 2017 @ 3:56pm

      Re: each party to bear its own costs and attorneys’ fees.

      > Digital H should be responsible for paying ALL expenses.

      Probably, but James Romine filed pro se (without a lawyer). In fact, this is one of the reasons he was forced to re-file (LLC's like Digital Homicide can't file pro se).

      Let's be honest here, even if the court found in Sterling's failure and faced Romine to pay, there's no way he would have been able to get the attorney's fees. Can't get blood from a stone, and Digital Homicide didn't even have enough money for their *own* attorney.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Mar 2017 @ 7:15pm

    For the curious

    Jim Sterling has several videos covering the whole thing, with a final forty minute long video covering the whole epic tale, from the original 'review the reviewer' tantrum, clearly bogus copyright strike, the 'damages'(and oh are some of them gems), all the way up to how it wrapped up by Sterling's lawyer basically informing the other party just how bad things would go if it actually went to court.

    It's a lengthy video, but it gives you a good idea of just how completely and utterly insane the whole thing was.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mat (profile), 3 Mar 2017 @ 3:13am

      Re: For the curious

      I'm of the personal opinion that the average person declared legally incompetent likely could have put together a more coherent narrative to defend a point, myself...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wow, 2 Mar 2017 @ 8:21pm

    Wut?

    Have you lost your mind? A stipulation is not a court order. It is an agreement between/among the parties. They have stipulated = they have agreed. The court part is just approving of the fact that they've said it (not even what they said).

    This was not tossed, this was a settlement (of sorts). An agreement.

    You guys are better than this. I think you need to refresh your law learnings.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 2 Mar 2017 @ 10:29pm

      Re: Wut?

      This was not tossed, this was a settlement (of sorts). An agreement.

      You're right. I've added a correction to the post, and have reminded both the writing and editorial staff to be much more careful in writing about lawsuits like this. In the end, I should have caught this myself before it was published, though, and unfortunately missed it. My apologies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Lurker Keith, 3 Mar 2017 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re: Wut?

        After I had originally submitted this, the day the paperwork was made public, (doubt I'm the only one who did), I did a follow up submission, explaining that it was some kind of agreement & not the judge's decision, once I had a clearer understanding after having watched Sterling's summary video a few days later.

        Might want to look into why THAT was ignored. I even included links to the videos.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Mar 2017 @ 10:41pm

    gee, whole day without mentioning djt!

    propaganda fatigue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    4n0nym0u5 C0w4rd, 4 Mar 2017 @ 12:11am

    Digital Suicide maybe?

    Some lawsuits don't work out well

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2017 @ 9:57am

    THIS is why everytime someone from Digital Homicide tries to get a job with EA or Bethesda or another games studio, they should be immediately outed before they destroy ANOTHER bunch of programmers/artists careers with legal bullshit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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