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EA Sues Zynga For Copying Sims Game

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the your-uppance-will-come dept.

Businesses 197

Social game developer Zynga has been on the receiving end of complaints in the past for releasing games that look a bit too much like games from indie developers, and for other shady business practices. Now, they've run afoul of somebody with sharper teeth. Today Electronic Arts and Maxis filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Zynga claiming that The Ville is "blatant mimicry" of The Sims Social. "'This is a case of principle,' says EA Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw. 'Maxis isn't the first studio to claim that Zynga copied its creative product. But we are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it. Infringing a developer's copyright is not an acceptable practice in game development.' In its complaint, EA argues that Zynga willfully and intentionally copied ideas from The Sims Social, the Facebook edition of the EA/Maxis franchise that released in August 2011. When Zynga released The Ville last June, consumers and the press immediately pointed out that the title resembled The Sims more than a little."

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197 comments

Rules (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873701)

Since when could you copyright game rules?

Re:Rules (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873713)

Capcom sued SNK over World Heroes being a rip off of Street Fighter 2

Nintendo sued Data East for Karnov being a ripoff of Super Mario Bros, and also sued the makers of Gianna sisters.

Wizards of the Coast sue anybody and everybody in sight.

There's plenty of precedent.

Re:Rules (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873771)

What exactly did they sue over? According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an authorâ(TM)s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

It seems to me a reimplementation of the same game should be legal. Change the words, art, and music, and you're good to go.

Re:Rules (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873895)

What exactly did they sue over? According to the U.S. Copyright Office:

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an authorâ(TM)s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

It seems to me a reimplementation of the same game should be legal. Change the words, art, and music, and you're good to go.

Yeah, but the example on one of the links definitely looks like they didn't stray very far when copying the villain/scoundrel character. If there's too many examples where the character types are protrayed too similarly Zynga may find itself burned.

Re:Rules (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874129)

Yeah, but the example on one of the links definitely looks like they didn't stray very far when copying the villain/scoundrel character

Just how far could they have strayed?

We are talking about a visual clue to a type of behavior. The wringing of the hands is very popular. A few others I can think of may be the western style villain playing with his mustache, or the exaggerated smile of the Grinch, or perhaps the head thrown back laughing. The last one could be misconstrued as mental instability without being a scoundrel though.

There are only so many ways to convey this type of information, in an appropriate time period and context, and I would argue that you should not be able to copyright someone wringing their hands. It's too fundamental to human communication to be allowed exclusivity.

I think copyrights have gone too far as it is and the last thing we need is precedent like this. To have such a thing would truly stifle innovation and raise the barrier to entry to high that only mega corporations could dare play the game.

Re:Rules (5, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874659)

Bah! You want to show they are evil you pet the kitty. Haven't you ever played Evil genius?

Lets face it folks, Zynga has been royally buttfucking indie games devs for a loooong while now, and it looks like its time they got screwed back. Zynga doesn't just borrow ideas, they make the most blatant rips they can, copying the characters, icons, I mean we don't allow this in other media as far as i know, you can't take the movie almost word for word and just change the name to "Florist Frump" so why should you be allowed to do that to a game? Hell even the "Mockbusters" only make a sound alike title while changing the characters and situations enough its not the same movie!

Now don't get me wrong, i think most copyrights ARE bullshit, and there are certain situations where you just can't help it. For example if a game has marines in it? Well everyone knows what marines look like so if you have those characters in your game they are gonna look like just about every other marine in a game because you are basing it on a real life subject. But with these games they aren't just ripping off the gameplay, they are ripping off the characters, the artwork, hell I've seen ROM hacks that are less off a ripoff of the source material than a Zynga game!

If Zynga wins i could see this seriously hurting indie devs, because who in the hell is gonna want to buy your new iPhone game if the next week Zynga or some other social group has spammed out a copy from the cheap Chinese coder factory? Why should i pay for "Plants VS Zombies" when i can play "Flowers against the undead" for free and it looks and plays the same? Why should I pay for Angry Birds when I can play "ticked off turkeys" for free and side by side shots can't tell the difference between the two?

Ultimately this doesn't hurt the big guys, who can spam the networks and radio with ads and get people to buy, it hurts the little guys who hope to get enough from their little game to keep their doors open and make the next one, because it is those guys that Zynga has been ripping off hard. The only difference between then and now is Zynga got ballsy and decided to steal from someone that can fight back.

Re:Rules (0)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874191)

On those grounds the publishers of Doom should sue every other first person shooter that has a barrel that explodes. I believe such a lawsuit was even attempted. I can't remember if it was thrown out of court or not.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874345)

On those grounds the publishers of Doom should sue every other first person shooter that has a barrel that explodes. I believe such a lawsuit was even attempted. I can't remember if it was thrown out of court or not.

Any citations for this? I've been searching google and have found no mention of such a lawsuit.

Re:Rules (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874395)

On those grounds the publishers of Doom should sue every other first person shooter that has a barrel that explodes.

The makers of Doom? They'd probably just send them some barrels by mail.

Re:Rules (-1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874179)

Exactly. So long as they didn't decompile the binaries for "The Sims" and recompile them in their own box, or somehow get their hands on "The Sims" source code and copy-pasted it, they should be good to go. Otherwise hey, checkers manufacturers should start suing chess manufacturers since they look pretty similar, played on a board made of 64 squares of one color or the other.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873919)

Wizards of the Coast sue anybody and everybody in sight.

There's plenty of precedent.

Since when?

Sure, they've sued people who made copies of their Magic Cards (as in meant to appear to be Magic Cards), they've sued people who distributed their copyrighted D&D books, they've even sued people who leaked their internal information...but no, just stick with your unfounded claims.

Re:Rules (5, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873759)

Erm they didn't just copy the rules. They blatantly ripped off the interface design and artwork too. Go have a look at their various titles. It's not simply a case of copying the concept or the engine. It's basically trying to make a very close clone artwork and all. The Tetris ruling [gametrailers.com] should make it quite clear that they are in violation, and also that the rules aren't the copyrightable bit.

I hate EA and the copyright laws as much as the next person. But I hate Zynga more and I really hope they get their asses kicked for this.

Re:Rules (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873809)

>>>They blatantly ripped off the interface design and artwork too.

Definitely a no-no.
Zynga will lose.

Re:Rules (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874051)

Seeing as how the EA filing also references the other (non-EA) games zynga copied, I hope the indie devs finally get some justice too.

Why would anybody want to work at zynga? Would any other game company hire a guy that willingly worked at zynga? It seems like a career-killer to me.

Re:Rules (-1, Offtopic)

EdIII (1114411) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874185)

Are you kidding? In this economy?

I don't think a lot of people are caring right now about the next 5-10 years, when they can only see a few months ahead with less than 2 weeks of savings left. I don't see things getting any better, and everyone I know is adapting to less and just trying to survive with little hope for a brighter future.

While I may be able to turn down a job at Zynga right now, I have to be honest. If things were to get much worse and I could not pay bills with no reliable work in sight, I might take a job at a place like Zynga. I would hold it out as long as possible and search for options, but still.....

I'm lucky to have a steady job at a nice place. I know some people who have not had steady work for a year or more. If you have kids you bet you would be lined up at Zynga for an offer of a decent paying job in such a situation.

That's assuming the developers are in the US. If they are outsourcing it to India, which is a pit, I don't blame those guys over there one bit. They have families to feed and 1000 other developers willing to take the work.

Sad, but true.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874543)

Zynga is in San Francisco, CA. If you are a developer *in* San Francisco that Zynga is willing to hire, there are many, many other companies that would love to hire you, too.

Of course, your point re: outsourcing, and remote work in general, is a good one.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874639)

Actually, the market for ActionScript developers here is kinda dying off. I bet they have no trouble finding people who used to do mostly marketing work.

Re:Rules (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874525)

> Seeing as how the EA filing also references the other (non-EA) games zynga copied

Dude... do you have any idea how many games qualify as "copies" of each other? I mean, how many RPGs could be the same if you can just take any random parts of the game and say that enough coincidences constitute a ripoff? Well, see, this other RPG _also_ has HP, MP, gold ....

How long would it take us to find some random coincidental games that EA has "ripped off" in some manner? This is not good for the industry. It ends with everyone suing everyone, and all the money going from making games to paying lawyers. That's not good for anyone.

Re:Rules (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873869)

Didn't they try look & feel lawsuits in the 80's with little success? Why is it different with games?

The Tetris ruling is a pretty bad one. Allowing the Tetris Company to copyright the entire set of tetrominoes is idiotic.

I don't see why you'd hate Zynga more than copyright law. Don't play Zynga games and they don't affect you. You can't opt out of copyright law.

Re:Rules (5, Funny)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874041)

I don't see why you'd hate Zynga more than copyright law. Don't play Zynga games and they don't affect you. You can't opt out of copyright law.

This is the thing, as an indy game developer myself I find it hard to decide which I hate more. I can imagine the anger I would feel if I had a popular game and it was ripped off and all my customers stolen by assholes like zynga who never contributed anything to the gaming world in their life.
On the other hand if zynga loses this case it might set a dangerous precedent. My own work is generally inspired by something else, all artists plagiarise to some degree. It is clear to people who appreciate good games who is bringing new innovation to an old abandoned idea, and who is ripping off other people's ip to milk profit from it. But codifying that in law is not an easy task. The ideal outcome in my opinion is that EA and zynga both put each other out of business with massive legal costs, and then all simultaneously drop dead from heart attacks. I guess the ideal realistic outcome is that zynga wins the court case but the bad publicity damages their reputation to such a degree that they gradually fade away. I know that is also not very realistic, people who like zynga games are not usually smart enough to understand a complex issue like this.

Re:Rules (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874415)

The ideal outcome in my opinion is that EA and zynga both put each other out of business with massive legal costs, and then all simultaneously drop dead from heart attacks

This is the longest, loudest laugh out loud the internets have delivered to me in some time. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Re:Rules (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874407)

Didn't they try look & feel lawsuits in the 80's with little success? Why is it different with games?

The Tetris ruling is a pretty bad one. Allowing the Tetris Company to copyright the entire set of tetrominoes is idiotic.

I don't see why you'd hate Zynga more than copyright law. Don't play Zynga games and they don't affect you. You can't opt out of copyright law.

I'm really thinking that Hatta is Zuckerberg... low 6-digits would probably be about the right time for signing up, too.

Re:Rules (2)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873887)

If they remade the assets and did not copy directly the files it's not copyright infringement in international law. Same thing with game mechanics. If Zynga did not copy/paste the code or texts from EA them there's no ground in international copyright law. But since it's an American court that will judge this I have even less idea of what will happen.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874071)

Believe the US standard is "substantially similar to the ordinary observer", so no it does not need to be a direct copy to infringe.

Re:Rules (4, Informative)

docmordin (2654319) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874497)

If they remade the assets and did not copy directly the files it's not copyright infringement in international law. Same thing with game mechanics. If Zynga did not copy/paste the code or texts from EA them there's no ground in international copyright law.

There is plenty of legal precedence in US law, which pertains as the case is being argued in US, that contradicts some of your statements:

Midway Mfg. Co., v. Dirkschneider et al. 543 F. Supp 466 (D. Neb. 1981)
Nintendo of America, Inc. v. Elcon Industries, 564 F.Supp. 937 (E.D. Mich. 1982)
Atari, Inc. v. North American Philips Consumer Electronics Corp., 672 F.2d 607 (7th Cir. 1982)
Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 547 F. Supp. 999 (N.D. Ill. 1982)
Midway Manufacturing Co. v. Artic International, Inc., 704 F.2d 1009 (7th Cir. 1983)
Team Play, Inc. v. Boyer, 391 F.Supp.2d 695 (N.D. Ill. 2005)
William L Crawford II et al. v. Midway Games, Inc. et al. (W.D. Cal. 2007)
Capcom Co., Ltd. et. al. v. The MKR Group (N.D. Cal. 2008)

To elaborate a bit from those above cases, let alone others, to establish infringement a plaintiff must prove ownership of a valid copyright and "copying" by the defendant. Because direct evidence of copying often is unavailable, copying may be inferred where the defendant had access to the copyrighted work and the accused work is substantially similar to the copyrighted work (Warner Brothers, Inc. v. American Broadcasting Cos., Inc., 654 F.2d 204, 207 (2d Cir. 1981)).

Some courts have expressed the test of substantial similarity in two parts: (1) whether the defendant copied from the plaintiff's work and (2) whether the copying, if proven, went so far as to constitute an improper appropriation (Scott v. WKJG, Inc., 376 F.2d 467, 469 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 832, 88 S.Ct. 101, 19 L.Ed.2d 91 (1967)); Arnstein v. Porter, 154 F.2d 464, 468 (2d Cir. 1946); cf. Sid & Marty Krofft Television Productions, Inc. v. McDonald's Corp., 562 F.2d 1157, 1164 (9th Cir. 1977) (extrinsic-intrinsic test)). In many cases, the courts focus on the second part of that test and the response of the "ordinary observer" (Ideal Toy Corp. v. Fab-Lu Ltd. (Inc.), 360 F.2d 1021, 1023 n.2 (2d Cir. 1966)). Specifically, the test is whether the accused work is so similar to the plaintiff's work that an ordinary reasonable person would conclude that the defendant unlawfully appropriated the plaintiff's protectible expression by taking material of substance and value (Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1164). Judge Learned Hand, in finding infringement, once stated that "the ordinary observer, unless he set out to detect the disparities, would be disposed to overlook them, and regard their aesthetic appeal as the same" (Peter Pan Fabrics, Inc. v. Martin Weiner Corp., 274 F.2d 487, 489 (2d Cir. 1960)). It has been said that this test does not involve "analytic dissection and expert testimony," Arnstein, 154 F.2d at 468, but depends on whether the accused work has captured the "total concept and feel" of the copyrighted work (Roth Greeting Cards v. United Card Co., 429 F.2d 1106, 1110 (9th Cir. 1970)).

While dissection is generally disfavored, the ordinary observer test, in application, must take into account that the copyright laws preclude appropriation of only those elements of the work that are protected by the copyright (Durham Industries, Inc. v. Tomy Corp., 630 F.2d 905, 913 (2d Cir. 1980); Clarke v. G. A. Kayser & Sons, Inc., 472 F.Supp. 481, 482 (W.D.Pa.1979), aff'd without op., 631 F.2d 725 (3d Cir. 1980)). "It is an axiom of copyright law that the protection granted to a copyrightable work extends only to the particular expression of an idea and never to the idea itself" (Reyher v. Children's Television Workshop, 533 F.2d 87, 90 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 980, 97 S.Ct. 492, 50 L.Ed.2d 588 (1976)). "Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the idea-not the idea itself" (Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 217, 74 S.Ct. 460, 470, 98 L.Ed. 630 (1954); see Baker v. Selden, 101 U.S. 99, 102-03, 25 L.Ed. 841 (1879)). The Copyright Act of 1976 codifies this idea-expression dichotomy (17 U.S.C. 102(b); see H.Rep.No. 94-1476, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 57, reprinted in (1976) U.S. Code Cong. and Ad.News 5659, 5670). Thus, "if the only similarity between plaintiff's and defendant's works is that of the abstract idea, there is an absence of substantial similarity and hence no infringement results" (Nimmer 13.03(A)(1), at 13-19 (original emphasis); see Warner Brothers, 654 F.2d at 204, 208; Durham, 630 F.2d at 913).

It follows that copyright protection does not extend to games as such (Chamberlin v. Uris Sales Corp., 150 F.2d 512 (2d Cir. 1945); see also Anti-Monopoly, Inc. v. General Mills Fun Group, 611 F.2d 296, 300 n.1 (9th Cir. 1979)). As Professor Nimmer notes, however, "some limited copyright protection is nevertheless available in connection with games. [...] (a) relatively minimal artistic expression, if original, would render copyrightable [...] the pattern or design of game boards and playing cards as pictorial or graphic works" (1 Nimmer 2.18(H)(3), at 2-212). Recognizing this principle, the Second Circuit has held copyrightable as an audiovisual work, see 17 U.S.C. 102(a)(6), the "repetitive sequence of a substantial portion of the sights and sounds" of a video game called "SCRAMBLE" (Stern Electronics, Inc. v. Kaufman, 669 F.2d 852, 856 (2d Cir. 1982); see also Atari, Inc. v. Amusement World, Inc., Civ. No. Y-81-803, slip op. at 9 (D. Md. 1981); Midway Mfg. Co. v. Dirkschneider, Civ. No. 81-0-243, slip op. at 13-14 (D. Neb. 1981)).

Now, there is no litmus paper test by which to apply the idea-expression distinction; the determination is necessarily subjective. As Judge Learned Hand said, "Obviously, no principle can be stated as to when an imitator has gone beyond copying the 'idea,' and has borrowed its 'expression.' Decisions must therefore inevitably be ad hoc" (Peter Pan Fabrics, 274 F.2d at 489). Courts and commentators nevertheless have developed a few helpful approaches. In Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir. 1930), cert. denied, 282 U.S. 902, 51 S.Ct. 216, 75 L.Ed. 795 (1931), Judge Hand articulated what is now known as the "abstractions test": "Upon any work [...] a great number of patterns of increasing generality will fit equally well, as more and more of the incident is left out. [...] [T]here is a point in this series of abstractions where they are no longer protected, since otherwise the playwright could prevent the use of his "ideas," to which, apart from their expression, his property is never extended. Nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary, and nobody ever can. [...] As respects plays, the controversy chiefly centers upon the characters and sequence of incident, these being the substance.

As an aside, a related concept is that of idea-expression unity: where idea and expression are indistinguishable, the copyright will protect against only identical copying (Krofft, 562 F.2d at 1167-68). Herbert Rosenthal Jewelry Corp. v. Kalpakian, 446 F.2d 738 (9th Cir. 1971), presents a good example and discussion of this limitation. In that case, the plaintiff charged the defendants with copyright infringement of a pin in the shape of a bee encrusted with jewels. The court assumed the validity of plaintiff's copyright, but refused to find substantial similarity: "What is basically at stake is the extent of the copyright owner's monopoly-from how large an area of activity did Congress intend to allow the copyright owner to exclude others? We think the production of jeweled bee pins is a larger private preserve than Congress intended to be set aside in the public market without a patent. A jeweled bee pin is therefore an 'idea' that defendants were free to copy. [The] [p]laintiff seems to agree, for it disavows any claim that [the] defendants cannot manufacture and sell jeweled bee pins and concedes that only plaintiff's particular design or 'expression' of the jeweled bee pin 'idea' is protected under its copyright. The difficulty, as we have noted, is that on this record the 'idea' and its 'expression' appear to be indistinguishable. There is no greater similarity between the pins of plaintiff and defendants than is inevitable from the use of jewel-encrusted bee forms in both."

In any event, although EA's audiovisual work (The Sims Social) is primarily an unprotectible game, unlike the bee pin, to at least a limited extent, the particular form in which it is expressed (shapes, sizes, colors, sequences, arrangements, and sounds) provides something "new or additional over the idea" (see Goodson-Todman Enterprises, Ltd. v. Kellogg Co., 513 F.2d 913 (9th Cir. 1975)). Moreover, based upon an ocular comparison, while not "virtually identical" to The Sims Social, The Ville captures the "total concept and feel" of and is substantially similar to The Sims Social. Consequently, since this case is a far cry from those in which the defendant appropriated only the game idea, but adopted its own unique form of expression (see Durham, 630 F.2d at 914-15) or where minor variations or differences were sufficient to avoid liability because the form of expression was inextricably tied to the game itself (see Affiliated Hospital; Atari, Inc. v. Amusement World, Inc.; Clarke; Freedman v. Grolier Enterprises, Inc., 179 U.S.P.Q. 476, 479 (S.D.N.Y.1973)), I imagine that, like Atari, Inc. v. North American Philips Consumer Electronics Corp., 672 F.2d 607 (7th Cir. 1982), the court will find that Zynga infringed upon EA's work.

Re:Rules (0)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873961)

Why hate Zynga. They wrote their own code, didn't they? Is the artwork a pixel-for-pixel copy, or a stylistic imitation?

Re:Rules (5, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874103)

Why hate Zynga. They wrote their own code, didn't they? Is the artwork a pixel-for-pixel copy, or a stylistic imitation?

Two words...Mark Pincus [consumerist.com]

Re:Rules (1)

Maxmin (921568) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874057)

So you mean Zynga that copied EA's actual art files and exactly reproduced their interface design, correct?

A cursory review of the two games, side-by-side, reveals that this is not the case. Looking at the examples in the lawsuit PDF shows that they're not copies, but at worst reimaginings.

Your hate^H^H^H^H hyperbole has made you powerful.

Re:Rules (1)

dzfoo (772245) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874131)

Oh, you must be a hoot at parties! I bet you also are one of those that responds to annoyed friends with "that's not what I said..." and follows with a pedantic description of the technical and semantic nuances between words.

So the images are not binary equivalent--do you really think that's what a court will consider?

          dZ.

Re:Rules (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874215)

Nah he doesn't get invited to parties. But then again, neither do you.

Re:Rules (3)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874721)

Hey look guys. I'm planning a party in Auckland NZ tonight, and the three of you (parent, GP, and GGP) sound like great fun, I hope you can all come.

If you can't I'll probably cancel, because it's not going to be the same without your awesome debating skills.

Re:Rules (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873893)

They aren't. EA basically ripped off the abilities in SWTOR from WoW (e.g. http://forum.gamebreaker.tv/viewtopic.php?id=3508).

You can't completely copy a game though. In effect it's a similar problem to cover bands, design patents on square corners, and Corporate brands, they all hit on a similar problem from different directions. You can be inspired by, but you can't blatantly copy someone else or their brand features without their permission. Whether this rises to that level I don't know. But Zynga pushes that line as its business model.

Re:Rules (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874029)

RTFA. zynga has gone through quite some effort to try and replicate EA's Sims Social to a point where the two might as well share the same code.
This goes far betond merely using similar game rules.

Thats not what the lawsuit is complaining about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874089)

But reading TFA is hard, innit.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874361)

Since when could you copyright game rules?

Is that you, Zuckerberg?

Re:Rules (1)

jxander (2605655) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874757)

Since about the same time that you could copyright a rectangle, I'd imagine.

Re:Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874807)

You mean patent a rectangle?

I Hate Zynga, But... (0)

deweyhewson (1323623) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873705)

I'm not really seeing what Zynga has done here that is illegal or violating copyright. You can't own copyright on an idea, only on an implementation of that idea; Tolkien's writing of the Lord of the Rings does not prevent anyone else from writing fantasy with orcs and goblins themselves.

I'd enjoy seeing these two companies bloody each other up in a grudge match, but the more pragmatic side of me doesn't want to see a precedent set where an entity implementing an idea suddenly grants them complete control over anything like it which might follow. If that happens, it will be the rest of society which ends up paying the price.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (5, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873793)

They're not in trouble for copying the idea. They are mainly in trouble for copying the expression of that idea. I.e. the games look identical. The artwork is similar, the character graphics are similar, everything about the game is designed to be as close as possible to the original. At least their tiny tower game looked very different graphically to the original, however this one almost looks identical to the original. This is indeed copyrightable [gametrailers.com] according to the Tetris ruling.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873903)

They even copied the plum bob! They could have at least come up with a different "Active" indicator icon.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (-1, Offtopic)

Maxmin (921568) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874145)

'identical' ... 'similar' ... 'close' ... 'almost identical'

Pick one. I'm looking at the lawsuit PDF and seeing many differences. Similar ideas, but different expressions.

That was a terrible ruling, though. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874423)

That Tetris ruling is nonsensical, though. The court came up with a completely arbitrary line between what was protectable and what was not which it made up on the spot. I hope that ruling is abandoned, rather than expanded, though I suspect that it very likely encouraged EA to file this lawsuit.

While things like the exact RGB value might look bad, I can find other explanations: for example, what if that were one of the preselected pink colors in some editor? Frankly, that seems more likely to me than someone having gone out of their way to sample images from the Sims. I'm sure you could compare any two long books and find similar, or even identical, sequences of words. If we start litigating just "how close" any two works can be, we will prevent anyone from advancing the status quo.

I mean, if we were to go back in time to apply this, there would be no Apple UI because of Xerox. I don't want to live in a world where you can't do anything that anyone else has kinda-sorta done just because they can find a bunch of coincidental similarities and claim you "ripped off" their idea. And when you get right down to it, nothing in this world is that original. I mean, how many RPGs are "clones" in some way using that kind of standard, right down to HP, XP, gold, strength, intelligence, swords..... ?

Think of the future. We can't let lawyers kill everything.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873827)

Welcome to the world of software copyright where the end result is protected. Its probably the interface thats been stolen.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873843)

Check out the complaint document and then think again about what you posted:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/101954002/EA-v-Zynga-Complaint-Final [scribd.com]

It's amazing how similar everything is. Wall to floor proportions. The exact same 8 RGB values for character skin tones. The exact same set of character roles, with different names. The exact same character poses in the artwork for these roles. Same contents in starter home. Etc...

Just check out that document.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (5, Interesting)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873909)

Tolkien's writing of the Lord of the Rings does not prevent anyone else from writing fantasy with orcs and goblins themselves.

That's broadly true, but can I write and publish a story about a group of 4 little people, called Hobbins, who team up with people called Argon and Gendelf on a quest to destroy a magic ring sought after by the evil Sarone? They go to Riverdale and meet up with Borowmor (from Gander), Gelmi, and the elf Lagelos, go through the mines of Moira, travel through Fangrow Forest, meet the riders of Rahon, etc? Can I call that my own work and publish it? I haven't played either game, but have you seen the screenshots? A lot more than "the idea" was copied, specific implementation details were copied (such as personality types with different names, character animations, etc). The creativity that Zynga put in was what I did, thinking up new descriptions for the same exact things.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (4, Funny)

dzfoo (772245) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874167)

Your story sounds vaguely familiar... Are there also Nizguls and Ring Wreaths, and a damned creature called Goellum? Because I think I've read it!

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874389)

I think you should be able to do that. Remember, copyright is indefinite. There should be a lot of flexibility to compensate.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874439)

That's broadly true, but can I write and publish a story about a group of 4 little people, called Hobbins, who team up with people called Argon and Gendelf on a quest to destroy a magic ring sought after by the evil Sarone?

You could, probably, but you'd have to face the wrath of geekdom... not something I'd want to bring upon myself.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874723)

That's broadly true, but can I write and publish a story about a group of 4 little people, called Hobbins, who team up with people called Argon and Gendelf on a quest to destroy a magic ring sought after by the evil Sarone? They go to Riverdale and meet up with Borowmor (from Gander), Gelmi, and the elf Lagelos,

Of course you can't. You'll be sued by Archie Comics.

Re:I Hate Zynga, But... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874359)

Tolkien's writing of the Lord of the Rings does not prevent anyone else from writing fantasy with orcs and goblins themselves.

But not hobbits. You should call those halflings.

Only the start (4, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873731)

I, for one, hope that EA doesn't stop at Zynga in its pursuit of game publishers that lazily copy EA's games, instead of coming up with new ideas. That's right, I'm looking at you, EA, you better watch out as EA is coming after you next!

Re:Only the start (3, Interesting)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874063)

You joke, but I seem to recall that has already happened in the past, with one arm of EA suing another arm.... I believe EA Legal arrived at a quick settlement with themselves (they had recently bought a company that they were in a suit with IIRC).

Prior Art (0)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873755)

EA can't claim to be the originator of online People/Life Simulations because of these programs released in the mid-80s (on Commodore 64):

home: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Computer_People [wikipedia.org]
Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_(video_game) [wikipedia.org]
Sequel: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=habitat+club+caribe [bing.com]

Re:Prior Art (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873789)

This is copyright, not patent. Prior art is irrelevant. As much as I hate Zynga I'm not convinced EA has a case, you can copyright a game itself but copyright law doesn't do that much to protect a game concept.

Re:Prior Art (1, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874237)

This is copyright, not patent. Prior art is irrelevant.

Prior art certainly is relevant to show EA is guilty of the very thing they are accusing Zynga of. Or will I suddenly get sued if I write a book involving a young unknown who finds he has mysterious powers and in fact is the son of some very nasty people, gets involved in an epic war and... wait, am I talking about Star Wars or some Greek play? Copyright is just that - you cannot copy the work. Heck if you're a good painter you're more than welcome to paint a very very similar painting to say, the Mona Lisa. You can sell those paintings. You can't claim that they are the Mona Lisa, but you can certainly call them the Mona Laura.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874669)

You can sell those paintings. You can't claim that they are the Mona Lisa,

Actually I think you can, what you can't do, is claim good ol' Leonardo painted your copy of it. Mona Lisa should actually be pretty well out of copyright by now, since Disney wasn't around back then.

Re:Prior Art (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873825)

I believe you're confusing patent and copyright. Prior art is a concept relevant to patent law, but not copyright (which is the sort of claim EA is bringing). In essence, a copyright claim requires an infringing work to be substantially similar to an original.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874079)

copyright claim requires an infringing work to be substantially similar to an original.

You didn't emphasize "substantially " enough. Copyright essentially requires it to be the original image, otherwise derivative works would not be fair use.

Re:Prior Art (4, Funny)

Jahava (946858) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873833)

EA can't claim to be the originator of online People/Life Simulations because of these programs released in the mid-80s (on Commodore 64):

home: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Computer_People [wikipedia.org] Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_(video_game) [wikipedia.org] Sequel: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=habitat+club+caribe [bing.com]

You sneaky jerk! Now I can no longer honestly say I've never used Bing.

Re:Prior Art (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874245)

It's only a sin if you consented to it. Just delete your cache and do 5 backups of your hard drive and you'll be absolved.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873921)

It's not.

It's claiming that Villie is a specific rip off of their sims social product (where they've copied as much as possible the style of basically the entire game at every level, abilities, characters, character behaviours etc.). Not inspired by, but essentially a copy. You can be inspired by a previous work and build on it, (if you couldn't EA would be in very serious trouble with every FPS they've ever released for example), but you can't reproduce the game under a different name and try and sell it.

Hahahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873783)

I guess it's all games until someone gets hurt...

What you can't copyright. (1, Informative)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873785)

You can't copyright game rules. They are functional, not creative. You can copyright the *presentation* of those rules, but not the rules themselves.
You can't copyright isometric projection of a 3 walled house to show the interior. It's functional, not creative.
You can't copyright a genre.
You can't copyright an idea.

As much as I find Zynga offensive, unless EA can show that Zynga copied EA's actual artwork and/or code and not just created their own version of it, then EA should shut up and walk away quietly.

--
BMO

Re:What you can't copyright. (2)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873959)

Taken individually, you're right. But you may be able to make a claim on a game that shows an isometric projection of a 3 walled house, has 6 basic personality types for people (athletes, artists, romantics, socialites, businessmen, villains), uses different traits and animations for the different personalities, has various interactions between different characters, etc. Yeah, you can't really make a claim on any of those. Tetris can't claim that no one else can create a game that has falling blocks. But when you have a specific set of blocks, and they're specific colors, and you show the next block in a certain way, and you clear the board with a rising wall of squares when the game ends, and you can have random garbage rows at the start, etc etc, then that's something that you can stop other people from copying wholesale. It's the entire game that matters, EA isn't suing because Zynga made a game that shows a house from an isometric perspective.

Re:What you can't copyright. (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874265)

Look-and-feel lawsuits are less than a crapshoot. Apple lost theirs against Microsoft, for example.

This is a look-and-feel lawsuit, and when it comes to games, look-and-feel is even harder to enforce than the look-and-feel of a spreadsheet program, for example.

To repeat what Hatta posted up there:

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author's expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html [copyright.gov]

Just because something is visually similar doesn't mean that it's an infringing copy. SCO tried this "nonliteral copying" argument and failed.

--
BMO

Re:What you can't copyright. (0)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874085)

You can't copyright game rules. They are functional, not creative. You can copyright the *presentation* of those rules, but not the rules themselves.
You can't copyright isometric projection of a 3 walled house to show the interior. It's functional, not creative.
You can't copyright a genre.
You can't copyright an idea.

As much as I find Zynga offensive, unless EA can show that Zynga copied EA's actual artwork and/or code and not just created their own version of it, then EA should shut up and walk away quietly!

(See what I did there, I replaced the . at the end with a !. So it's not a copy, clearly not).

Re:What you can't copyright. (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874273)

Dude copyrighting game rules is a no-no. They are like, functional not creative. I mean like you can copyright the "presentation" of that bunch of rules, but you can't copyright the rules themselves. &tc

The difference here is that you copy pasted, I didn't.

Re:What you can't copyright. (0)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874261)

Nah they will throw tons of money at it until Zynga either settles, or until they screw up Zynga's chances of going public enough that the CEO will sell Zynga to EA privately. Because that is what EA does - it buys and destroys game studios.

The irony is that EA copies games all the time! (2)

DishpanMan (2487234) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873805)

It's funny how EA does this all the time. When the UFC wanted them to help make an MMA game they turned them down. So THQ made UFC Undisputed. When that became a success EA made "EA MMA" which was a horrible copy. Never mind all the tycoon and other knockoffs, or just regurgitating every sports game annually with different names on the jerseys. I just don't have any sympathy for EA when it comes to being copied. They're the perfect example of non risk taking copiers who regurgitate the same franchises every year because they refuse to take a risk. And when somebody does get a good idea they just copy it or buy them out and run the franchise into the ground.

Shame you can't copyright ideas . . . (2)

Tanman (90298) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873829)

EA is pretty reckless with this. iD could sue everyone for copying the idea of 1st person shooters with the guns popping out the bottom of the screen, et al.

Of course, they can't WIN such a suit. I hope the judge dismisses with prejudice. This is a potentially patent-troll-esque precedent case.

Pot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40873851)

meet kettle.

Ironic (1)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873911)

EA doing this is just amusing, ironic and hypocritical. Ow well, nothing new here. To me this seen only the big kid in town bulling the newcomer to spend some millions in lawyers in both sides. In this case the one with the biggest stick wins, and even with EA doing so bad in the stock market Zynga is worse. I particularly despise both and think they represent the worse there is in this industry and corporate business in general. For all I care and if they pay their employees properly they can just bankrupt. Since they will not pay their employees properly in case of bankruptcy they can still exist, I'll just ignore them all.

Re:Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874431)

Sounds like, Win-Win-Win.

this is absurd! (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873941)

Zynga would never copy other peoples' games! [wikipedia.org]

Frivolous. (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | about a year and a half ago | (#40873953)

This bullshit is Lotus 1-2-3 versus VP Planner all over again. Or Apple versus Microsoft over Windows. Apple lost that one. Lotus lost when they went after Borland over Quattro Pro. Some people don't learn from history.

Actually Lotus had a stronger case, if anything, because the software they were fighting could read and work with Lotus files.

Re:Frivolous. (1)

dzfoo (772245) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874211)

You should read some history then, because the examples you mentioned are a lot more nuanced than what you are suggesting.

In the case of Apple vs. Microsoft, they didn't lose because "look and feel" is not protectable, they lost because they had given an overly permissive license to Microsoft, and the latter successfully argued that it covered most of the claims. And even that is just a small part of the outcome.

          dZ.

Fed up with all this... (1)

loneDreamer (1502073) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874019)

I'm really fed up with all this copying paranoia. Did they do their code from scratch? Did they draw their own graphics from scratch? Then yeah, welcome, that's what competition is supposed to be all about. If EA's game is the better one and they did benefit from being first to market, good for them! If Zinga did at least one improvement and people like it better and switch, good for them too. I don't like Zinga, but I'm in favor of anyone suing about something like this to fail, and fail miserably.

Imagine if all this crap would go to other areas of living. Like if I were to open a bakery and come up with totally different shapes of bread than every other bakery out there.

Calculating sympathy... (2)

ZorinLynx (31751) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874081)

Calculating sympathy for Zynga.........Done.

Sympathy calculated: 0

Once they started acquiring every half decent game and ruining them with more ads, bloat and cross promotion for their other crap, I started to despise them. I never even played a Zynga game intentionally, they were just thrust on me when Words with Friends and Draw Something were bought out.

Ugh, DIAF, Zynga. Please.

What about Sony's Mura demo from 1997? (1)

nicoleb_x (1571029) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874087)

Of course, Maxim completely ripped off the Sony Mura demo from 1997. Just like Apple stole Sony's phone. If only Zynga knew this!

To hell with them both (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874117)

Can we declare that they both lose and remove both their apps? They're not games, they're psychological tricks to extract credit card numbers.

The best part about this lawsuit: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874147)

is that no matter who wins or loses, we all win.

time to part ways... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874153)

We're going to part with that old EA Sports Saying, "Get the Fuck out of my building!"

Quoth Mark Pincus, CEO, Zynga (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874213)

"I don't fucking want innovation," the ex-employee recalls Pincus saying. "You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers."

We can only hope... (1)

Trapick (1163389) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874255)

Hopefully both end up losing somehow. It couldn't happen to two shittier companies.

This is NOT about "copyrighting ideas" (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40874259)

It's about copying the art and the exact interface of the game. Take a brief look at the complaint to see lots of comparison pictures [scribd.com].

For example, SimsSocial has 8 possible skin tones for characters, and Zynga copied them down to the exact RGB values (!!). Items such as refrigerators, TVs, etc. are so similar that their outlines match up almost completely when they're overlaid on top of each other. I hate EA as much as the next Slashdotter, but this is pretty compelling stuff.

Soon enough... (0)

SirAstral (1349985) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874373)

If you believe that EA has a case here please do humanity a favor and stay away from the rest of us.

The Sims is not a unique or original idea of a game. In fact far to many games to even mention have implemented some form of EA's game function in part. Imagine if EA could win such a case. Next will be WOW shutting down because as popular as it is, they certainly are not the first even though people like to call other games "WOW Clones". Another of the multitude of game developers have already done WOW before it was an idea in the board room. Same goes for FPS, RPG, & RTS games just to name the most popular genre's. We should be more concerned with all the litigation wars that would start over games because of this.

It's simple, if someone beats Maxis at their own game and does a better "SIMS" clone then too damn bad for Maxis! This is the game industry, every game company has been trying to one up each other year after year for the past 2 decades as it is and I like to keep it that way!!!!

It took this long to get someone to say something? (1)

tnerb123 (609955) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874451)

Finally a company does something about it. Look at every game that they have created. Its a copy of some other game. Its said it had to go this long before someone finally did something about it.

Blizzard is next (1)

farble1670 (803356) | about a year and a half ago | (#40874687)

take a look at this game, Order and Chaos,
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/order-chaos-online/id414664715?mt=8 [apple.com]

it's a near perfect version of World of Warcraft running on iOS and Android. the look, feel, and mechanics are near copies of WoW, but the content is different- the quests, bosses, maps, items, and so on.

if Blizzard can't sue for this, then EA and everyone else doesn't have a prayer in going after copycats.

BTW, OaC is quite a good game.

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