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Carmack fires back after Oculus verdict, says he did not copy VR source code

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Oculus CTO’s long Facebook post questions expert witnesses’ credibility

John Carmack QuakeCon 2009 (Flickr: QuakeCon) 1920 QuakeCon/Flickr

Oculus chief technology officer John Carmack voiced his opposition to the $500 million judgment found against his company yesterday by a Dallas, Texas, jury, saying it was “just not true” that Oculus copied source code from some of Carmack’s virtual reality work at id Software.

Oculus was found guilty on several counts, including violating a non-disclosure agreement between it and plaintiff ZeniMax and false designation, but $50 million of that $500 million pie was awarded specifically for copyright infringement. Carmack, in a post on Facebook, disagreed with that finding, saying ZeniMax’s expert witness who explained the code copying to the jury called it “not literally copied” — a copy of an idea instead of letter-by-letter code.

The Zenimax vs Oculus trial is over. I disagreed with their characterization, misdirection, and selective omissions. I...

Posted by John Carmack on Thursday, February 2, 2017

“This is just not true,” Carmack wrote. “The authors at Oculus never had access to the Id C++ VR code, only a tiny bit of plaintext shader code from the demo.

“The analogy that the expert gave to the jury was that if someone wrote a book that was basically Harry Potter with the names changed, it would still be copyright infringement. I agree; that is the literary equivalent of changing the variable names when you copy source code. However, if you abstract Harry Potter up a notch or two, you get Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which also maps well onto Star Wars and hundreds of other stories. These are not copyright infringement.”

Zenimax did not agree with Carmack’s assessment, in a statement mailed to Polygon:

In addition to expert testimony finding both literal and non-literal copying, Oculus programmers themselves admitted using ZeniMax’s copyrighted code (one saying he cut and pasted it into the Oculus SDK), and Brendan Iribe, in writing, requested a license for the ‘source code shared by Carmack’ they needed for the Oculus Rift. Not surprisingly, the jury found ZeniMax code copyrights were infringed. The Oculus Rift was built on a foundation of ZeniMax technology.

Carmack also wrote that he never “tried to hide or wipe any evidence,” referring to claims by court experts that information found on one of his hard drives lead to their belief “statements and representations that have been sworn to and are before the court are factually inaccurate.” That could be due to the drive being tampered with, but much of that court record remains sealed.

ZeniMax also denounced this claim, saying “the Court’s independent expert found 92 percent of Carmack’s hard drive was wiped — all data was permanently destroyed, right after Carmack got notice of the lawsuit, and that his affidavit denying the wiping was false.”

The lawsuit still could continue as Oculus appeals the judgment, or as ZeniMax attempts to halt the sale of Oculus Rift headsets.