John Carmack Vents About the Verdict of ZeniMax v Oculus Case [Update]

The id Software co-founder and Oculus CTO picked apart the expert witness's testimony.


Update: 4:01pm Pacific

A spokesperson from ZeniMax issued the following statement in response to John Carmack's comments on Facebook.

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.

As for the denial of wiping, the Court’s independent expert found 92% 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.

Those are the hard facts.

Original Story

Following the jury's verdict that Oculus pay $500 million to ZeniMax, John Carmack took to Facebook to air his frustration with the litigation and the situation as a whole (via Facebook).

"I disagreed with their characterization, misdirection, and selective omissions," wrote Carmack, who left the ZeniMax-owned id Software in 2013 to assume the role of CTO at Oculus later in 2014.

"I never tried to hide or wipe any evidence, and all of my data is accounted for, contrary to some stories being spread," he continued. His contention that he never erased data after learning of ZeniMax's lawsuit against Oculus flies in the face of accusations made by ZeniMax's legal counsel during Carmack's testimony.

However, Carmack's main point of aggravation concerned testimony given by an expert witness. "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," he 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."

Another issue for Carmack's was the experts proclivity to speak in absolutes regarding non-literal copying. "By the end, after seven cases of 'absolutely certain,' I was wondering if gangsters had kidnapped his grandchildren and were holding them for ransom."

Carmack went on to say that he was not allowed to read the expert's full report; his knowledge of the expert's findings was limited to material brought up during the trial. "This is surely intentional--if the code examples were released publicly, the internet would have viciously mocked the analysis. I still have a level of morbid curiosity about the several hundred-page report."

Continuing, he wrote that "The expert witness circuit is surely tempting for many academics, since a distinguished expert can get paid $600+ an hour to prepare a weighty report that supports a lawyer's case. I don't have any issue with that, but testifying in court as an expert should be as much a part of your permanent public record as the journal papers you publish. In many cases, the consequences are significant. There should be a danger to your reputation if you are imprudent."

Following the jury's decision, both Oculus and ZeniMax issued statements. Oculus PR pointed out that the issue at the heart of the lawsuit was whether or not Carmack had stolen trade secrets, which the jury concluded had not occurred. Oculus plans to seek an appeal to the jury's decision to award ZeniMax with $500 million, but ZeniMax was out for $4 billion in punitive damages and, in its statements said that it may "restrain Oculus and Facebook from their ongoing use of computer code that the jury found infringed ZeniMax's copyrights."

Long Reads Editor

David L. Craddock writes fiction, nonfiction, and grocery lists. He is the author of the Stay Awhile and Listen series, and the Gairden Chronicles series of fantasy novels for young adults. Outside of writing, he enjoys playing Mario, Zelda, and Dark Souls games, and will be happy to discuss at length the myriad reasons why Dark Souls 2 is the best in the series. Follow him online at and @davidlcraddock.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 2, 2017 1:20 PM

    David Craddock posted a new article, John Carmack Vents About the Verdict of ZeniMax v Oculus Case

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      February 2, 2017 5:42 PM


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        February 2, 2017 6:51 PM

        It's only gonna get uglier. :(

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          February 2, 2017 7:43 PM

          His comments on expert witnesses matched everything I've ever seen in patent and copyright cases, though.

          Even SCO was able to trot out experts to side with them on their unix case which everyone could tell was patently absurd.

          There's obviously a need for actual expert testimony in complex cases, but the setup we have now really doesn't work. Has to be a better way to hold experts accountable, even though yes I clearly see how that could also be abused.

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            February 2, 2017 11:36 PM

            it's better in europe where the (i'm talking patents) the judges themselves all have a technical background.

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              February 2, 2017 11:46 PM

              That would definitely be better than the situation here. I like jury trials in theory, but when you're talking about very technical subject matter pretending you don't need people versed in the material simply isn't helpful.

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                February 2, 2017 11:47 PM

                yeah, with jury trials I don't see the point in all honesty.

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        February 2, 2017 7:10 PM


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      February 2, 2017 7:42 PM

      KNowing bethesda, I don't believe what they say to be accurate.

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        February 2, 2017 9:25 PM

        The Creation engine is the pinnacle of gaming tech. It allows us to have bugs, and mods to fix those bugs!

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      February 2, 2017 11:34 PM

      It pretty unbelievable to me that the expert's opinion is not public record.
      I mean, pretty much anyone that's even learned a minute bit of coding can make a connecting between two pieces of code no matter how unrelated.

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      February 3, 2017 6:00 AM

      I'm finding it more and more difficult to separate the actions of Zenimax with my love of Bethesda and it's games.

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