Oculus CTO Denies Stealing VR Tech



/ 2 years ago

Oculus CTO Denies Stealing VR Tech

Earlier this week, Oculus was found by a Dallas court to have stolen virtual reality tech from ZeniMax and was forced to pay $500 million to the plaintiff. Now, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Oculus, John Carmack – the former lead programmer at id Software, where he was responsible for such games as DOOM, Quake, and Wolfenstein 3D – has taken to Facebook to deny the charge, accusing the plaintiff’s expert witness of lying about the charge of “non-literal copying” on behalf of Oculus. “Being sued sucks,” Carmack said.

“[T]he plaintiff’s expert […] said Oculus’s implementations of the techniques at issue were “non-literally copied” from the source code I wrote while at Id Software,” he explained. “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.”

“Early on in his testimony, I wanted to stand up say “Sir! As a man of (computer) science, I challenge you to defend the efficacy of your methodology with data, including false positive and negative rates.”,” Carmack declared. “After he had said he was “Absolutely certain there was non-literal copying” in several cases, I just wanted to shout “You lie!”. By the end, after seven cases of “absolutely certain”, I was wondering if gangsters had kidnapped his grandchildren and were holding them for ransom.”

“If he had said “this supports a determination of”, or dozens of other possible phrases, then it would have fit in with everything else, but I am offended that a distinguished academic would say that his ad-hoc textual analysis makes him “absolutely certain” of anything. That isn’t the language of scientific inquiry,” the Oculus CTO added.

Carmack – dangerously for a man who has already been part of a massive lawsuit – then starts to question the integrity of the expert witness, suggesting that he may have lied for money.

“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,” Carmack accuses. “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.”

While the above quotes express the gist of Carmack’s point, his screed goes on a bit, so check out the original Facebook post if you want to read all of his his potentially libellous remarks.

ZeniMax has dismissed Carmack’s claims, telling Polygon:

“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.”

While the lawsuit may be over, more legal action could be forthcoming; Oculus may appeal the decision, while ZeniMax could attempt to block further sales of the Oculus Rift VR headset.

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