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Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Four years in the planning Damnatus, made by German fans of the Warhammer 40,000 game, cost more than 10,000 euros, took months to film, employs 11 principal actors, dozens of extras and sophisticated post-production special effects. Now finished the film runs to 110 minutes.
But Huan Vu, director and producer of the movie, said Damnatus' creators have now given up trying to get the film in front of an audience.
Nottingham-based Games Workshop created Warhammer 40,000 - a science fiction wargame which revolves around battles fought between factions and races that populate the universe in the 41st century. It is an outgrowth of the Warhammer tabletop game created by Games Workshop in 1983.
Mr Vu said that, despite lengthy negotiations with Games Workshop, the company has refused to give permission for the film to be shown.
"It's really horrible for an artist not being able to show off their own work," Mr Vu told the BBC News website.
German copyright law lies at the heart of the dispute between Games Workshop and the Damnatus creators.
This means that the creators of Damnatus cannot assign their rights to Games Workshop even if they wanted to.
But by sanctioning the release of the film without this "assignment" Games Workshop would essentially be giving up the title to the Warhammer 40,000 intellectual property.
In a lengthy response explaining the ban on Damnatus Mr Jones wrote: "To lose control of Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 is simply unthinkable.
"So we must be vigilant, and perhaps sometimes seemingly heartless in our decisions to safeguard the IP for the future success of the business and the hobby."
A misunderstanding meant that filming on Damnatus continued after Games Workshop had asked Mr Vu and his colleagues to stop.
"I imagined that in the end I would be forced to sign some more or less 'fair' contract in which I'd have to give them all rights bar the unalienable ones, but to get this film out I'd underwritten everything," he said.
Dr Guido Westkamp, a lecturer on intellectual property law at the University of London, said copyright cases were always tricky to resolve.
"It's very much a question of looking in total at the work in question and then perhaps to look at the technical features in that work," he said.
But, he added, a question like the dispute between the Damnatus creators and Games Workshop was unprecedented.
"It's not come before German courts before at all," he said.
"But," he added, "it's one that really affects new technology."
This also meant that it would be unclear what would happen if the case did come before the courts.
Mr Vu said the Damnatus creators have tried everything to reach a deal with Games Workshop including setting up online petitions and asking other Warhammer players to let the game maker know how they feel at the fan events it runs around the world.
The Damnatus team have also explored releasing the film in a different format or changing it to see if this would escape the copyright problems.
"But," said Mr Vu, "we do not really want to get away from the 40k universe - the film is meant as a dedication to it after all."
Mr Jones said despite Games Workshop's "admiration" for Damnatus it could not change its policy and allow the film to be shown.
He said Games Workshop was not acting "malevolently" but that this was a case where an agreement has "failed to be reached".
Said Mr Jones: "This is perhaps to be regretted, nonetheless in the final analysis we simply have no choice but to say 'no'.
Yahoo's senior officers say the firm has to comply with local laws
Yahoo had been "at best inexcusably negligent" and at worst "deceptive" in evidence given to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year, it said.
Yahoo's Michael Callahan originally told Congress he did not know why China wanted the reporter's details.
Shi Tao was jailed after Yahoo helped Chinese officials identify him.
Chief executive Jerry Yang said his firm had always been open with Congress and that it was "fully committed to protecting human rights".
Yahoo has previously said it had to comply with Chinese laws to operate in the country.
Democratic Representative Tom Lantos, chairman of the House committee, issued a stinging rebuke to the US-based internet giant at Tuesday's hearing.
House Foreign Affairs Committee
At issue is whether Michael Callahan, Yahoo's executive vice-president and general counsel, gave false information to the panel during an investigation in February 2006.
Mr Callahan said then that he did not know why the Chinese authorities wanted to trace Shi Tao - who was jailed for 10 years - but it has since emerged that other Yahoo employees had a document stating it was to do with the "suspected illegal provision of state secrets".
Mr Callahan wrote a letter to Congress last week to apologise and stating that the pertinent information only came to his attention months after he gave testimony.
Mr Lantos said any big company operating in China should have been aware of the authorities' repression of free speech.
He also questioned how Mr Callahan could not have known of the document referring to "state secrets" - a charge commonly used to prosecute dissidents and pro-democracy activists.
"Yahoo claims that this is just one big misunderstanding," Mr Lantos said.
"Let me be clear - this was no misunderstanding. This was inexcusably negligent behaviour at best, and deliberately deceptive behaviour at worst."
Mr Callahan responded that there had been confusion over the information Yahoo had about the demand made by Chinese authorities.
He apologised for the "misunderstanding" and for not letting the House committee know when the additional information came to his attention.
Urged by Mr Lantos to "beg the forgiveness" of Shi Tao's mother, who was present at the hearing, both Mr Callahan and Mr Yang turned and nodded silently to her.
Mr Lantos added: "I do not believe America's brightest and best companies should be playing integral roles in China's notorious and brutal political repression apparatus."
Shi Tao was jailed for sending on to foreign websites an e-mail from the ruling Communist Party warning journalists not to cover the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 2004.
Last month, the House committee backed legislation which would prevent internet companies such as Yahoo from co-operating with authorities in China and elsewhere.
Under the legislation, companies would also have to reveal terms and phrases they filtered in certain countries.
The bill, introduced by Republican representative Chris Smith, still needs approval from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
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