If you're a fan of video game books then chances are you'll already be familiar with the work of Bitmap Books, a company which has produced several excellent tomes focused on classic games (full disclosure: some of which have even featured the words of your humble scribe).
Projects like The Unofficial SNES Visual Compendium and Game Boy: The Box Art Collection have found their way onto coffee tables all over the globe – but sadly, Bitmap's next project has had a rather less happy ending.
The next in the 'Visual Compendium' series – which includes Master System, NES, SNES and Amiga – was supposed to be focused on the Mega Drive / Genesis. However, Bitmap Books owner Sam Dyer has today stated that the book will not be published due to the threat of legal action from Sega:
I'm afraid to say that we have been asked by SEGA to remove the listing or face potential legal action. As a small business, this is not something we can risk. After discussions, their position is non-negotiable. It is, of course, their right to protect their IP as they see fit.
Dyer admits that he had his doubts about the project some time ago but assumed the 'unofficial' nature of the book – combined with the fact that several other similar books and magazines exist – would ensure that the compendium escaped any kind of legal action. "In hindsight, this was a mistake, and I should have shelved the project," he adds.
He concludes the statement with the following:
As of today, I must admit defeat. I'm not prepared to risk everything I've worked for, and jeopardise the amazing projects we have in the works. As a small business, we cannot fight something like this legally.
I wanted to personally apologise to our fans that were looking forward to the book, and for our lack of clarity around the situation.
Dyer adds that if there's a way the book can be released as a PDF for free, he will explore that possibility.
What makes this situation all the more disappointing is that Bitmap Books has previously worked closely with Sega on its projects:
It's also worth noting that previous Visual Compendium books feature bespoke screenshots and specially-commissioned hardware photography rather than box artwork and existing imagery, which – one would imagine – would make it very hard for Sega to argue was an infringement of copyright.
This isn't the first time that Bitmap Books has fallen foul of legal pressure from platform holders; its NES Visual Compendium was challenged by Nintendo, but it would appear that the Japanese giant was more willing to compromise than its erstwhile rival Sega, as the book was eventually published with the word 'unofficial' in its title.
Sega has so far refused to comment on the statement.