August 27, 2009 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili
British video games marketer Bruce Everiss has enjoyed much attention lately for his criticisms of UMGE (United Multiplayer Gaming Entertainment), the developer behind browser-based MMO Evony.
In addition to critizing the game's online ads for displaying scantily clad women, Everiss has accused UMGE of a number of other more allegations that can be read on his website.
Everiss's attacks have attracted attention from more than just gamers fascinated by Evony's ads and alleged practices; Warren McKeon Dickson Lawyers, an Australian law firm representing UMGE, sent notice that it would sue the marketer for damages and defamation unless he removed the articles from his site, published a form apology, and offered to "pay compensation for loss suffered by Evony."
UK newspaper The Guardian has also put a note in its online posting "Has Evony become the most despised game on the web?" posted last July, disclosing that its article is also "the subject of a legal complaint from Evony LLC".
While it seems odd that a company based in China would hire an Australian firm to file suit against a British writer and newspaper for defamation, Everiss speculates that libel can be considered committed in any region where his blog is read, including Australia. He claims:
"By using an Australian solicitor, Evony make it very difficult for me to defend myself. I have to fly myself and my legal team halfway round the world for every hearing and bringing witnesses in would be extremely expensive.
Also Australia has a very old fashioned libel law where the person who thinks they are libeled doesn’t have to prove anything. They can make all the accusations they want and the onus is on me to bring evidence to disprove every one. This is why Warren McKeon Dickson have listed so many silly and obvious things which everyone knows aren’t libel in their letter."
While the games industry marketer admits that he likely could not afford to defend this potential libel case in court, he insists that his criticisms were fair and says backing down in the face of "the expensive steamroller of the Australian legal system" would be "a blow for human freedom".
Everiss says his only hope is to rely on "the Streisand effect", in which someone's attempt to censor or suppress information/media backfires, bringing more attention to the subject. He believes increased negative publicity toward UMGE, Evony, and Warren McKeon Dickson will somehow help his cause.
You can read Warren McKeon Dickson's full notice, which lists a total of 35 defamatory imputations against Evony, on Everiss's site.
[UPDATE: Everiss has published another response from Warren McKeon Dickson in which the lawyer insists that Evony is "a small new business operating as an independent video game developer and publisher that has no wish to suppress fair criticism on the Internet." However, it repeats the claim that many of Everiss' statements are defamatory, and "recommends that you seek your own legal advice."]