Wargaming World Limited (“Wargaming”), an international video game development company headquartered in Nicosia, Cyprus and with subsidiary studios in many parts of the world including Belarus, has initiated legal proceedings against a group of its former employees alleging that they unlawfully disclosed proprietary information by updating code previously posted online under an Open Source license during the course of their employment, despite the fact that Wargaming had officially supported the project as Open Source until the spring of 2018.
On December 17, 2019, the Judicial Collegium for Intellectual Property of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus notified five employees of BlitzTeam LLC, a small independent development company based in Minsk, Belarus, of the initiation of civil cases by Wargaming against them filed by the “Stepanovsky, Papakul & Partners” Belarusian Law Office. The BlitzTeam employees who have been sued previously worked at Game Stream, a Wargaming development studio based in Minsk, and were directly involved in the development of the mobile game World of Tanks Blitz and the underlying engine known as the DAVA Framework or the DAVA Engine.
The Complaints allege, among other things, that the former Wargaming employees posted copies of the DAVA Framework source code to GitHub subject to a BSD 3-clause Open Source license without permission during the course of their employment at Game Stream, and that they unlawfully created forks from these postings to personal accounts on GitHub.
Surprisingly, in the past Wargaming had officially declared its support of the Open Source project involving the DAVA Engine at many conferences, and in articles, interviews, and other sources, and has more than once publicly stated that the DAVA Engine is freely available under the BSD3 Open Source license. GDC 2015 talk https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1022376/World-of-Tanks-Blitz-Postmortem is an example. And much more is available in the Russian speaking part of the Net.
Postings of the DAVA Engine forks still available on GitHub show that the Engine was posted under a BDS license in 2011, prior to Wargaming’s acquisition of the Engine. This is easily verifiable by opening any source from the current public root of the repository. For example, the https://github.com/dheerendra1/dava.framework/blob/master/Sources/Internal/DAVAConfig.h file was created on June 29, 2011, and contains a BSD license. Further posts following Wargaming’s acquisition of the Engine show that the copyright holder was changed to Wargaming, an acknowledgment of those making later commits of this change in ownership. As an evidence for the trial we will to provide a 2016 correspondence confirming that this change and BSD 3-clause Open Source license was known and approved by responsible Wargaming staff.
It was not until May of 2018 that Wargaming removed the main repository of the DAVA Engine on GitHub. However, other forks still remain available.
In total, Wargaming is demanding damages from its five former employees in the amount of 3,570,000 Belarusian rubles (about US $1,690,000).
We do not know whether lawsuits were filed solely against former Game Stream employees who now work at BlitzTeam LLC, or if other developers and owners of forks (including current employees of Game Stream JLLC) have also been sued. We are also not aware of whether or not Wargaming plans to withdraw other Open Source libraries from the company's public GitHub repository.
Open Source code is code that is released by the copyright holder under a license which grants users the right to study, modify and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. The legal treatment of Open Source material in Belarus is a fundamental issue, as Open Source materials are the foundation required to build an environment friendly to IT companies and a healthy modern IT community. Almost every large and medium-sized company in Belarus uses or develops Open Source products. It is extremely important to establish clear principles and laws relating to Open Source materials, so that Belarusian treatment of Open Source materials follows the same principles of the global IT community.
We intend to protect the interests of the employees of BlitzTeam LLC and to take an active role in defining Open Source and ensuring the legality of the use of Open Source materials in our country.
On December 9, 2019, the mobile shooter “Battle Prime” was released. The game was developed and released by the BlitzTeam LLC. “Battle Prime” is the first project of the independent game developing studio. The game is available on iOS and Android devices.
Battle Prime was created on the Blitz Engine, new technology that was independently developed by the BlitzTeam studio over the past a year and a half. More details about the development process: https://medium.com/@BlitzTeam/how-we-made-the-engine-and-the-best-game-e59d59595454