Marvel sues NCsoft over City of Heroes

Lawsuit against NCsoft raises concerns over legal status of player-created content.

Comic book giant Marvel has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Korean publisher NCsoft, alleging that players in the firm's MMORPG City of Heroes are creating characters in the likeness of Marvel heroes.

The lawsuit names both NCsoft and developer Cryptic Studios, and singles out player characters which, Marvel claims, are almost identical to its Wolverine and Hulk characters.

If Marvel is successful with its day in court, the repercussions for the videogame industry are potentially severe, as this is the first time that a publisher has been sued over content created by its customers in a game, and as such it would set a worrying legal precedent.

It could lead to publishers being forced to severely restrict the functionality of character customisation tools and other game modification tools to avoid similar lawsuits in future.

Marvel itself has been very successful in licensing its comic franchises - such as X-Men and Spider-Man 2 - into the videogame market, and some in the industry have suggested that its lawsuit against NCsoft has more to do with a planned Marvel superheroes MMORPG than it does with genuine copyright infringement concerns.

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