Last September, you may remember when 90s video game composer Robert “Bobby” Prince sued Gearbox Software and Valve over the sale of Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour, which contained his music from the original game that, allegedly, Gearbox hadn’t bothered to license. (You may not actually remember last September, which is fine — I certainly didn’t. Who can be expected to remember little details from 12 years ago?) Well now Gearbox has sued Apogee Software, the parent company of 3D Realms (whomst originally sold the Duke Nukem license to Gearbox in 2010), alleging that hey, those jerks said this wouldn’t happen.
“Prince … asserts that the use of Prince’s music in earlier Duke Nukem video games published by 3D Realms was subject to a license agreement between Prince and 3D Realms,” according to the lawsuit (per Digital Trends). “Thus, contrary to the representations and warranties made by 3D Realms in the [asset purchase agreement], Prince alleges that Gearbox does not own the rights to certain music transferred to Gearbox.”
Essentially, Gearbox says that its deal with 3D Realms was for all of Duke Nukem, music included, and that 3D Realms gave no indication that it didn’t own the rights to Prince’s score, which means that Apogee should be on the hook to Prince for back royalties from World Tour sales, and not Gearbox.
“We’re literally in the middle,” Gearbox Software CEO and thumb drive full of porno carrier-arounder Randy Pitchford told Digital Trends. “Either Bobby is right and deserves to be paid, in which case 3D Realms is wrong, or 3D Realms is right and Bobby’s wrong. And we don’t know. So, we need to bring a judge in and have a look at things from both sides.”
Considering that Prince can prove he has sole ownership over Duke Nukem‘s score, and that World Tour included “text specifically stating that Mr. Prince owns the copyright to the music and has reserved all rights to the music’s use” according to his original lawsuit, it seems pretty cut and dry that Prince deserves to get paid by somebody. Regardless, Pitchford went on to say that “if 3D Realms is wrong here, they’re kind of shitheads,” and that “part of what the court is supposed to do is disincentivize shitheads.”
According to Prince’s original lawsuit, Pitchford and Gearbox head of publishing Steve Gibson knew about the licensing situation before World Tour even came out, but did nothing to resolve the situation and sold the game anyway. From our original coverage:
In October of 2016, Prince contacted Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford about World Tour‘s pending release, providing him with a copy of the original Apogee licensing agreement, as well as his home address, so that new royalty payments could be furnished by Gearbox. Pitchford then “began stringing Mr. Prince along with promises that he would ‘do right’ by Mr. Prince and that Mr. Prince would be ‘taken care of,’” according to the lawsuit.
The game went ahead and released on October 11, 2016, allegedly with no agreement in place for licensing Prince’s soundtrack. Gearbox Head of Publishing Steve Gibson was reportedly brought into the discussions at some later date, at which point he was instructed to “do right” by Prince, the suit says. “During discussions with Mr. Prince, Mr. Pitchford and Mr. Gibson acknowledged that Mr. Prince owned the music he had composed for Duke Nukem 3D and that Gearbox used in Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.”
I’ll be genuinely surprised if this is the last lawsuit that comes out of this mess. I’m no lawyer, but I assume that Apogee could counter-sue Gearbox for some reason, or maybe Gearbox and Apogee will team up and sue Prince for, I dunno, having too sound an argument, and then eventually all of this will get settled out of court under undisclosed terms after everyone has wasted years of their lives and hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars in attorney fees. That’s how things go in Pitchfordville, baby!