This is why we can't have nice things. An independent game developer, who is already suing a popular YouTube personality for slander has apparently now increased their scope to include any Steam user who has criticized them. Digital Homicide, the developer of infamous Steam Greenlight titles like The Slaughtering Grounds have filed a lawsuit against 100 anonymous Steam users in Arizona district court claiming personal injury.
If you are a frequent visitor to Steam's message boards or a viewer of video game-related YouTube videos, then you may already be familiar with Digital Homicide. The independent game studio, founded by the Romine Brothers, became a frequent target of online personality Jim Sterling, among others, who took the company to task for games that were said to be little more the asset flips, taking existing content created within the Unity engine, and placing it in their own game without so much as minor modification. The situation got so heated that brothers have filed a lawsuit against Sterling, claiming slander, libel, and assault. Now, [vg247] has brought to our attention, via YouTuber Sid Alpha, that James Romine has subpoenaed Valve to learn the identities of 100 members of the Steam community, with the intention apparently being to sue them for personal injury.
: http://This why we can't have nice things. An independent game developer, who is already suing a popular YouTubre personality for slander has apparently now increased their scope to include any Steam user who has criticized them.
Sid Alpha made some of these public court documents available. The supporting documentation is essentially pages and pages of screenshots from message boards from numerous Steam usernames taking Digitial Homicide to task for what the comments say are terrible games. The legal argument here would seem to be that the barrage of negative statements about Digital Homicide caused damage to the company's reputation. Defamation is, legally speaking, a form of personal injury, so if Digital Homicide can prove that the comments are defamation, they, at least in a technical reading of the law, have a case.
Having said that, it's going to be an uphill battle for such a case to be made. Not everything somebody says, even in a public forum like the Steam message boards, can be considered defamation. Individuals do have the freedom to state their opinions without facing legal consequences.
Of course, for this strategy to even progress, Valve has to respond to the subpoena by turning over the identity information. While it's difficult to guess what Valve's response will be, we're guessing it's unlikely that thy will do this without at least a bit of legal wrangling themselves. While Valve has tried to take a "hands-off" approach to things like Steam Greenlight, trying to let the community police itself, it's unlikely they included developers suing users in that equation. Steam recently made some changes to their review policy specifically to deal with developers who were involved in some potentially shady practices in order to boost review scores. Filing lawsuits, which could potentially frighten the community into not posting negative comments, would seem to be an extreme example of exactly that.
We'll certainly be keeping an eye on this story as it progresses. The ramifications promise to be interesting, or at the very least entertaining.