Or, Why Mens Reppola Lied (Maybe)
In EVE I roleplay a secessionist trying to gain independence for Intaki and its associated colonies, for a variety of reasons. My character is particularly fond of and patriotic to her homeworld.
Recently, an in-character news story (edit: the official link is unfortunately dead now due to changes CCP made to their website. A mirror posting of the story can be found here) was released that touched on events happening in Intaki. When originally published, this news story had CEO Mens Reppola saying:
“The Intaki solar system is the exclusive property of the Ishukone corporation.”
CEO Mens Reppola’s comment in the news article is significant because Intaki is one system of many where an unending war is being fought. Three years ago, one side, the Caldari State, was able to take and temporarily hold all the territory sanctioned for this war from the opposing side, the Gallente Federation. During this time of occupation, the leader of the State decided he would auction “development and exploration rights” of the occupied territories to the leading megacorporations in the State.
The megacorporation which won rights to Intaki was Ishukone.
Around the time all of this happened in the game, CCP published a piece of fiction called Blind Auction which showed some of the (private) ‘behind the scenes’ dealings between three unnamed characters to “secure the safety of Intaki”, since the system is the homeworld of one of the Federation’s founding members.
Fast forward three years. The war goes on. At times, the State occupies Intaki (and any number of other systems included in the war zone), while at other times, the Federation holds occupancy. Fine.
Now here comes this news article with the CEO of Ishukone stating his company “exclusively owns” the Intaki system. It’s bad enough that the State felt it could auction off economic development rights without consulting the indigenous inhabitants of those systems, but ownership? From an out-of-character perspective, I’m reminded of all the moral and ethical problems the Europeans created when they landed in North America, swept aside the Natives, and called this land their own. In EVE, the idea is complicated by the fact the war allows occupancy to change frequently.
Of course, the idea that a star system and its people can be “owned” by a corporation is abhorrent. As a patriotic secessionist, my character couldn’t let the comment go by, especially when it seemed no one else had noticed. I wrote this in-character post pointing it out:
Since the concerning events of the weekend, I have been in discussion with members of the IPI Council. The Intaki Prosperity Initiative will be making a formal statement in the next few hours.
But first, I want to confirm that, just as how our allies in I-RED have supported us in the past, the Intaki Prosperity Initiative stands by them and offers its support should they wish it.
We are reassured by I-RED’s measured response. Theirs is a clear desire to avoid unnecessary violence and we support them fully in their request for caution. We empathize with the servicemen and women of Ishukone Watch who must be so eager to defend Ishukone assets yet are denied this right by contractual limitations. That they continue to wait is a reflection of their professionalism.
However, I would like to call upon I-RED to confirm as many details as they are able through secure channels with their parent megacorporation, as the article linked above presents one item of major concern that appears thus far to have been overlooked by others.
CEO Mens Reppola is quoted as claiming the Intaki system is “the exclusive property of Ishukone”. I would like to remind everyone that Ishukone’s presence is actually limited to that of economic development and investment regarding shipping and security—not dominion. The Intaki Assembly’s authority and rights of governance remain whole, and thus the system belongs to no one but its indigenous people. It is a disservice to this forum, the residents of Intaki, and the employees of Ishukone to confuse the actions of other State megacorporations in Placid with those of Ishukone in Intaki.
As a CEO, Mr Reppola should, and would, be well aware of the responsibilities and boundaries which Ishukone negotiated and agreed to with the Intaki Assembly. I hesitate to speculate that Mr Reppola now wishes to breach or exaggerate the terms of said contract, or manipulate the media by spreading propaganda to fan the flames and encourage further open conflict. We have trusted that Ishukone’s negotiations were made in good faith, so I rather prefer to question the authenticity of the quote. If Mr Reppola has been misrepresented, the quality of work by the original reporter is severely lacking.
It is our hope that any conflict in Intaki is brought to a swift end. Our sympathy and support goes out to those harmed or otherwise affected by these unfortunate events.
I then pointed out this mistake to CCP Eterne, an employee who works on content and originally published the news article. The link shows his reply.
I was not at all satisfied. His response demonstrated he was unaware of what the Blind Auction chronicle actually stated, which meant the canon was contradicting itself. This is a problem for roleplayers.
When I got home after that exchange on Twitter, I wrote the following detailed analysis and posted it on a temporary page to my site, because replying via Twitter to Eterne would have been too cumbersome.
Thankfully, Eterne agreed with my points and the news article was retconned to properly represent canon. \o/
I’m moving the analysis here for long-term storage.
Blind Auction includes the following statements:
Heth has decided to auction exclusive economic rights…
Obtaining rights to influence or direct a local economy is a far cry from obtaining ownership of a geographic area.
…the corporation with the highest bid is granted a transferrable and sub-divisible license to regulate economic activity.
A license grants the license holder permission to take any number of actions outlined by the terms of said license. Just having a license to operate in a certain way in a given geographic area doesn’t confer ownership of that area to the license holder.
The licenses are only enforceable under Caldari law, which we don’t expect the Federation to recognize. If the FDU manages to push the State out – in ten years or ten days – then the licenses will reactivate if and when the systems are reconquered.
The mechanics of Faction Warfare are ICly sanctioned by the Emergency Militia War Powers Act and its amendments (game patches). The Empyrean War by its unending nature undermines and thus invalidates any empire’s attempted claim of permanent “ownership” of a FW system since the empire gains/loses it at a whim, unless CCP Eterne means to imply that Ishukone has “joint custody” of Intaki with the Federation (but that would be absurd). If neither the State nor the Federation can consistently apply their overarching laws due to changes in FW occupancy, then the only ownership which can legally apply is that of a local, persistent governing authority. In this case: the Intaki Assembly.
If the license conferring rights to engage in economic development and exploration is only valid when the State holds occupancy in Intaki, that’s fine. But that also means, by the very letter of the blind auction agreement under Caldari law, Ishukone’s license is invalid when the State is kicked out.
All the license allows Ishukone to do under State law is initiate their “economic development” activity during occupancy, and when occupancy is lost, Ishukone must cease and desist. If they do not cease and desist, they are continuing to operate in violation of the license. Usually, when a license holder violates the terms of the license, the license is revoked and all agreements are null and void. Last I checked, the State takes its laws pretty seriously, and Ishukone isn’t the kind of corporation to snub their noses at the law just “because they can”.
Even though the specific dialogue spoken between the characters in the Blind Auction chronicle is not public knowledge, any binding contract, including its terms and limits, resulting from the auction itself would be known by those it affects. Any part of society impacted by foreign “economic development” would necessarily need to understand the legal ramifications of the auction for practical business continuity, and from there, the general population will become aware of the details over time.
So he gets shipping rights – say, for ten years, renewable – to pacify his shareholders, you get paid to police things, and we have the safety of one of our most important systems secured.
Ishukone gets shipping rights. Shipping rights are a business privilege and do not confer ownership of the geographic area.
…they become corporate fiefs.
A fief is a territory held in fee or granted to a vassal for his maintenance. This doesn’t imply ownership either when taking the above statements into account, regardless of how the Gallente representative characterized it later.
Additionally, from this news article:
…“development and exploration rights” for all Federation systems occupied by Caldari militias are to be auctioned off to the highest bidders.
…the bidder to hold title over all ‘resources, property, and opportunities’ developed within the system.
If resources, property, and opportunities have to be developed within the system for the bidder to hold title over it, they have no title over anything that existed before they were granted their license to begin said development.
Other than sticking some transport ships outside the Intaki V-5 station and “developing” the security and shipping agreement between themselves, the Assembly, and Mordu’s Legion, Ishukone hasn’t actually “developed” anything of public note. Sure, they probably rented some office space in the V-5 Astral station to properly coordinate the transport ships outside the station and maybe they’ve built some of their own infrastructure on the surface but none of that is noteworthy. They don’t even have a station in Intaki. So other than their S&S agreement, what, exactly, have they “developed” that means they “own” the entire system?
Furthermore, if actual territorial ownership was intended by the blind auction, the media (read: CCP) would (or should) have done a heck of a lot more to highlight it. Auctioning off economic rights without the input of the local residents of those systems was a pretty lousy move by the State in the first place, but to imply the State could simply “sell” actual ownership of these systems in war that CONCORD does not allow a conclusion to is, honestly, stupid. You can’t reasonably own a geographic area that is impossible for you to retain permanent possession of.
If actual permanent ownership was up for grabs, the Gallente government would/should have cried foul a lot more loudly than they did. People would be outraged far beyond the panic and rioting that occurred at silently having their citizenship handed over to a foreign power given the war is unending and occupancy in FW systems changes more often than some capsuleers don clean underwear.
Instead, the media only highlights “development and exploration rights” which inherently presents this to the public as a business transaction, not an exchange of citizenry. It’s a dick move on CCP’s part to say all of this actually means “X” when it blatantly states “Y”, implying that anyone who took it at face value has been suckered by the canon. Trying to retcon Ishukone’s involvement in Intaki with an obviously easily overlooked one-liner comment like Reppola’s to be anything other than what it was originally presented as is equally a dick move.
Reppola, as a diligent CEO, must know he’s lying through his teeth and overstepping the bounds of the license. But, given how the public would have reasonably become aware of the terms and limits of Ishukone’s presence in Intaki in the last three years, and how Reppola is responsible to his shareholders for not fucking over the company, he’s not going to make a reckless comment like “We own Intaki” when he must know that isn’t the case. Such a statement isn’t “sticking” anything to Tibus Heth as CCP Eterne said; rather, Reppola’s comment spits on the residents of Intaki and the Assembly which retains full rights to govern. That’s just bad for business, so I have a hard time believing Reppola would be that incredibly stupid. More likely, then, the news reporter is an idiot.
This leads me back to my original assertion: the comment by Reppola is a mistake OOCly and both CCP and Mercury did not properly vet that news story despite CCP Eterne’s claims.