Anyone would be furious if they were on the wrong side of a $US500 million lawsuit. But while losing is bad enough, that’s not as annoying as an expert witness who misrepresents the facts.
That’s the base assertion laid out by John Carmack, one of the central figures in the lawsuit between Zenimax and Oculus, in a post on Facebook early this morning. According to the Id software co-founder and veteran developer, Zenimax’s expert witness lacked so much credibility that “the internet would have viciously mocked” their analysis, if their full report was allowed to go on the public record.
“The exception was the plaintiff’s expert that said Oculus’s implementations of the techniques at issue were ‘non-literally copied’ from the source code I wrote while at Id Software,” Carmack wrote. “This is just not true. The authors at Oculus never had access to the Id C++ VR code, only a tiny bit of plaintext shader code from the demo. I was genuinely interested in hearing how the paid expert would spin a web of code DNA between completely unrelated codebases.”
Carmack went on to criticise the alleged assertions of the expert witness. It’s seemingly pretty thorough, although one-sided: since the expert witness’s report isn’t part of the public record, it’s a bit of a one-sided argument.
Nonetheless, the legendary Doom and Quake programmer’s demolition of this analogy gives you an idea of how angry Carmack is:
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.
Carmack finished by saying that while he didn’t have any issue with the principle of the “expert witness circuit”, he argued that expert witness testimony should be “as much a part of your permanent public record” as academic journal papers. “There should be a danger to your reputation if you are imprudent,” he concluded. Carmack also added that he never hid or wiped any evidence and that “all of my data is accounted for, contrary to some stories being spread”.