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Activision, Double Fine reach legal agreement
by Jacob Forrest

The belaboured legal feud between Activision and Double Fine Productions over the rights to release the guitar-toting action game, Brutal Legend, reached what seems like a conclusion on Thursday with Activision's lawyers announcing an out-of-court settlement at a Los Angeles hearing. As you'd expect, the details of said settlement are being kept under wraps (for now).

The who-owns-what tangle originally began when Vivendi (Brutal Legend's original publisher) merged with Activision in 2007, in turn prompting Activision to abandon releasing the game. Double Fine then took up the project.

As a result, Activision sued Double Fine in order to halt Brutal Legend's scheduled October 2009 release date. In its suit, Activision alleged that the rights to Brutal Legend still belonged them despite stopping its prior release.

To further complicate matters, Double Fine counter sued, stating that Activision wasn't trying to protect the rights to Brutal Legend but merely trying to eliminate competition for the long-running Guitar Hero franchise. Double Fine also claimed faulty business practices in its suit. Apparently, EA failed to follow up on Brutal Legend's standing as what was supposed to be a sequel to Guitar Hero.

For the most part, publisher Electronic Arts has played a sidelines role in this battle. EA adopted Double Fine into its EA Partners program in 2008 to publish the then-rejected Brutal Legend, which CEO of EA John Ricitiellio called "a creative risk." A risk indeed: if Activision's suit had been successful, EA would have lost the publishing rights, and the Jack Black shred-fest would be propelled further out of reach for gamers once again.

Hopefully, more details regarding the settlement will be made available in the coming weeks. But I'm pretty confident that Brutal Legend's fiery trail through courthouses over the last two years will make its rightful diversion soon enough: into gamers' consoles.


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- Jacob Forrest

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