The final Reader Submission of the weekend wishes to remain anonymous, but nonetheless has given us a nice write-up of the legal proceedings that transpired while iRacing was still on the drawing board. The backstory is simple to understand, yet absolutely ridiculous when you realize how greedy one developer team could be. Believing that free community mods for NASCAR Racing 2003 Season would be of a higher quality than what Papyrus could produce with their upcoming sim iRacing, Papyrus sued those attempting to turn NR2003 into an rFactor-like sim; one which would be heavily reliant on complete physics and executable overhauls to achieve the desired vehicle performance.
While sims like rFactor allowed easy text file editing to change vehicle dynamics, NR2003 encrypted everything and forced you to directly edit the executable file in order to accommodate cars outside of the Stock Car spectrum, most notoriously Group C prototypes and IndyCars.
Even worse, as the details of the lawsuit and legal proceedings got muddled on the various message boards in which it was discussed, no one was left with a clear picture as to what they were allowed to do with NASCAR Racing 2003 Season in terms of modding. As a result, NR2003 features millions of add-on liveries, as well as visual mods to replicate past and present stock car leagues, but the game’s physics are locked to how a 2003 Winston Cup, Craftsman Truck, and Busch Grand National Stock Car drove.
Links to EXE files, such as the NASCAR Racing 5 beta, are explicitly disallowed on most NR2003 community sites, even though these are actually perfectly acceptable as determined in a court of law, and this anonymous submission is about to tell you why:
NASCAR Racing 2003 Season is widely regarded as the greatest NASCAR-based simulation that was ever made, made by a group that had that same accolade put on all of its previous titles dating back to 1992 with Indycar Racing; Papyrus.
In late 2002, NASCAR and EA Sports announced an exclusive contract that made EA Sports the sole developer allowed to create licensed NASCAR titles, and prevented any other publisher from putting out any other game starting in 2004. Papyrus finished their magnum opus in February of 2003, and announced that they would allow the game to be moddable and allow different physics. They also released some of their tools they used to make tracks, like Sandbox.
Project Wildfire became the torch bearer, putting out Grand National, Craftsman Truck and Trans-Am physics sets throughout 2003, so good in fact that they were basically sanctioned and released by Papyrus as well. Brian Ring started working on a 2004 physics set that took in account the new aerodynamic changes that would be implemented in the 2004 Cup Series, the first season to be run under the Nextel sponsorship. Tim Robinson began to work on bringing the Open Wheel world back to the Papyrus games for the first time since 1995 with Indycar Racing II, and Redline Designs (you now know them as Team Redline) began working on a GTP mod based on the golden era of sports car racing in the 1980’s. Things were looking great for the future of NR2003 – it would be rFactor before rFactor.
In 2004, Project Wildfire displayed a new logo, FIRST-Racing and announced that they would be working on a new project. Rumors were abound, but excitement was in the air. Then several prominent leagues began displaying the FIRST logo as well such as SASCAR. Everyone was hoping for a new “NASCAR” game being developed. And in part, they were right.
But FIRST Racing had other ideas, and began to attempt to completely shut down the NR2003 community. They began making threats to many major sites, stating that they were no longer allowed to produce after-market tracks and paints as it was copyright infringement, and then later sent cease-and-desist letters to Redline Developments and Torn8alley to stop releasing after-market code that infringed on their intellectual property.FIRST did back off attempting to sue painters and track makers eventually, but the mid-2000’s were extremely tense in the community and left it very much in flux.
Redline Developments worked out a deal, which saw them remove any “official” liveries from their GTP mod, and change their mod to require a CD present in the disc drive, but they were allowed to continue. T8 did not. They were not given the same sweetheart deal with FIRST. Instead they were taken to court and sued for copyright infringement which shook the community to the core. Many prominent members began leaving the game and moving on to rFactor which came out in 2005.
The lawsuit, which is widely available to this day for viewing, was skimmed over by many in the community and without the legal background many found the jargon hard to understand. Most bought into the FIRST propaganda that was spouted, or found other games to mod for without the headache of fighting what would now be the company known as iRacing.
Robinson lost on two counts against iRacing.
1) Violating the End-User License Agreement. In source documents, Robinsons’ attorneys used a previous court ruling, Davidson, regarding contract disputes. This is extremely important when we talk about Count #3. Robinson was found guilty of contract breach, which worked in his favor and future modders.
2) Violating the DMCA by circumventing the SecureROM protection placed on the device. In other words, releasing a new exe that did not require the game to be purchased. In 2009, the DMCA Fair Use Act was updated with Article 6: Circumvention for Preservation purposes, which allows for No-CD patches to be distributed if it preserves the works and does not seek profit.
But won on the most important count.
3) iRacing claimed that they used over 90% of the NR2003 code in their game, then recanted that statement and stated “They were unsure of how much code they used, but probably over 50%”. Straight from the legal document. Because iRacing would not prove how much code was used to develop iRacing, Robinson was found not guilty on Reverse-Engineering NR2003. Robinson was able to use a Fair-Use defense and won on the most major count against him.
A quote from the legal document itself:
“Thus, even if Robinson contractually agreed in the EULA not to reverse engineer, modify or distribute the NASCAR 2003 code, that fact would go only to breach of contract, not to fair use.”
So in the post-2007 world of NR2003, many modders and groups became scared of iRacing, and did not want to go down the same road as some others had before. It is important to note that iRacing is a marketing machine first, and a simulation second. In legal documents from the court case, Dave Kaemmer admitted that many of the drivers that had testimonials about the service had not used it and were paid. Lately iRacing has taken some pretty harsh criticisms around the net for its heavy handed rules enforcement, and have pushed out a few engineers that questioned the direction of the physics, especially on the oval side.
But the most important thing about iRacing vs. Robinson is that it is not illegal to modify the executable code and distribute it, thanks to the fair-use act, if it is for preservation purposes. Thanks to members of the community, the executable editor was finally released, and hopefully this article can shed some light and ease some fears about modding the game. It is not illegal to edit the exe, nor is it illegal to have a copy of it as long as its for personal use, see Article 3 of the DMCA Fair Use Act for further details.
NR2003 is still the best, most affordable way to sim race even today, and its preservation is extremely important to the community. Hopefully a new mod will come out and a renaissance will begin within the community again.
So to recap:
- EA Sports secured the exclusive NASCAR license, turning NASCAR Racing 2003 Season into the last game made by Papyrus.
- Upon the release and subsequent popularity of NR2003, Papyrus released all of their official mod tools to the community, encouraging them to mod the absolute shit out of the game.
- A few years later, Papyrus, now under a different name and working on a new game, threatened to sue anybody modding NR2003.
- Those who didn’t play within their extremely tight modding restrictions, actually did get sued.
- Tim Robinson was found not guilty of reverse-engineering the game’s physics, as iRacing refused to state how much of NR2003’s code carried over to iRacing, in fear of the userbase finding out iRacing was only a marginal upgrade and not worth the extreme subscription and content costs.
- During legal proceedings, iRacing also admitted all of the testimonials featured on the site aren’t legitimate.
So there you have it. iRacing sued a modder and lost because they were afraid to admit iRacing was designed to print money first and be a competent racing simulator second. This has resulted in a game that has horribly broken setups, poor physics, and a staff that will IP ban you if you suggest a competitor’s game is better.