Bobby Prince, the veteran composer responsible for the soundtracks to iconic games such as Doom, Doom II, and Duke Nukem II, has filed suit against video game development studio Gearbox Software, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford, and video game publisher Valve, claiming that the cited parties used music he had composed for Duke Nukem 3D in the 2016 release of Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour without obtaining permission or providing compensation.
In his initial complaint, filed with the Eastern District Court of Tennessee on September 27th, Prince, whose SR221-908 Certificate of Registration lists himself as the copyright holder for the compositions, alleges that Gearbox and Pitchford used his original compositions “without obtaining a license and without compensating Mr. Prince,” while Valve “distributed infringing copies of the music” by selling Duke Nukem 3D: 20th Anniversary World Tour on the Steam storefront:
2. Defendants, Gearbox Software, L.L.C. (“Gearbox Software”) and Gearbox Publishing, LLC (“Gearbox Publishing”) (together “Gearbox”), used Mr. Prince’s music in Duke Nukem 3D World Tour without obtaining a license and without compensating Mr. Prince. Defendant, Randy Pitchford, the Chief Executive Officer of Gearbox, admitted that Mr. Prince created and owns the music and that Gearbox had no license. Incredibly, Mr. Pitchford proceeded to use the music without compensation and refused to remove the music from the game.
3. Defendant, Valve Corporation (“Valve”), distributed infringing copies of Mr. Prince’s music. Valve ignored a takedown notice, thus waiving any immunity under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), and continued distributing infringing copies of the music despite knowing that Mr. Prince owned the copyrights in the music.
According to Prince, when Apogee Software sold the rights to Duke Nukem to Gearbox in 2009, “Neither Apogee nor Gearbox advised Mr. Prince about the transaction, nor inquired about his intellectual property,” and when Prince took charge and approached Pitchford to inform him that “Gearbox would need to send him royalties if it wanted to use Mr. Prince’s music,” Pitchford told Prince that he would be “taken care of” and that Gearbox would be “doing right” by Prince. However, Prince alleges that Pitchford never followed through on his promises and eventually found it “evident that Gearbox had no intention of paying Mr. Prince for its use of music.” (Related: Dragonpunk Warns About Politically-Motivated Hiring Practices at AAA Gaming Companies Like Gearbox)
19. Upon information and belief, in approximately 2010, Gearbox Software acquired certain rights to the Duke Nukem games from Apogee. Neither Apogee nor Gearbox advised Mr. Prince about the transaction, nor inquired about his intellectual property.
20. In October 2016, Mr. Prince learned that Gearbox was about to release a game called Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.
21. Incredibly, the electronic files for the music within Duke Nukem 3D World Tour include text specifically stating that Mr. Prince owns the copyright to the music and has reserved all rights to the music’s use. Yet Gearbox incorporated the music into the game without ever contacting Mr. Prince and without clearing the rights expressly mentioned in the electronic files.
22. On October 6, 2016, before Gearbox released the game, Mr. Prince provided his address to Mr. Pitchford and informed him that Gearbox would need to send him royalties if it wanted to use Mr. Prince’s music.
23. Mr. Pitchford said Mr. Prince would be “taken care of.” Mr. Pitchford’s promise was false when made.
24. Before Mr. Prince contacted Mr. Pitchford, no one from Gearbox had attempted to contact Mr. Prince regarding the use of his music, sound effects, or edited dialog.
25. Mr. Pitchford began stringing Mr. Prince along with promises that he would “do right” by Mr. Prince and that Mr. Prince would be “taken care of.” The promises were false when made.
28. Eventually, Mr. Pitchford directed Steve Gibson, the Head of Publishing at Gearbox Publishing, to make sure that Gearbox was “doing right” by Mr. Prince.
29. Despite receiving a direct order to “do right” by Mr. Prince, Gearbox proceeded to distribute infringing copies of Duke Nukem 3D World Tour without obtaining a license and without compensating Mr. Prince.
30. 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.
31. Mr. Pitchford adopted the position that Gearbox had no license to use Mr. Prince’s music.
32. Mr. Gibson acknowledged that Gearbox had no license to use Mr. Prince’s music
33. Upon information and belief, Gearbox did nothing to clear the rights to Mr. Prince’s music before incorporating it into Duke Nukem 3D World Tour.
34. Eventually, it became evident that Gearbox had no intention of paying Mr. Prince for its use of his music. Mr. Prince advised Gearbox that it could either pay him according to the terms of the original license for the music or remove his music from the game. Mr. Pitchford and Gearbox did neither.
Prince later states that Pitchford’s “conduct was willful, knowing, or at least reckless.” (Related: Former Claptrap Voice Actor David Eddings Claims He Was Physically Assaulted By Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford)
Valve is named by Prince in the lawsuit due to the video game publisher’s apparent refusal to comply with a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice, which led Prince to assert that “Valve knowingly distributed infringing copies” of Duke Nukem: 20th Anniversary World Tour which used his music without permission:
36. In January 2018, Mr. Prince sent a Notice of Exclusive Right Infringement to Valve, notifying Valve of his copyright, his address in Tennessee, and Gearbox’s infringement.
37. The United States Postal Service delivered the Notice of Exclusive Right Infringement to Valve on February 8, 2018.
38. Valve did not respond to the Notice.
39. Valve continued distributing copies of Duke Nukem 3D World Tour after February 8, 2018.
40. The copies of Duke Nukem 3D World Tour that Valve distributed after February 8, 2018, contained Mr. Prince’s copyrighted music.
Prince is seeking “an award of maximum statutory damages per infringement or, alternatively, actual damages and Defendants’ profits, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as an injunction prohibiting Defendants from infringing his copyrights.” As of writing, neither Gearbox, Randy Pitchford, nor Valve have publicly commented on Prince’s lawsuit.