The third largest gaming company and publisher Electronic Arts (EA) has filed a copyright infringement suit against another well known game developer company Zynga. According to complaint filed yesterday, EA believes that Zynga has “willfully and intentionally copied and misappropriated the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social (a video game developed by EA for Facebook) in a violation of U.S. copyright laws.”
EA launched The Sims Social on Facebook (FB) in August 2011. On the other side, Zynga’s The Ville was introduced in June 2012, 10 months after the releasing of The Sims Social. The Ville allowed the players to dress their avatars, build a house and career, adjust their appearances in order to create a life for themselves. However, Zynga earned more popularity for itself by developing games for Facebook. Both the game The Sims Social and The Ville got huge popularity. But, many people found big similarities between the games.
After noting the players’ comments, EA looked into the matter and found the comments true. Therefore, EA filed a copyright infringement lawsuit of 40 pages against Zynga in San Francisco’s District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that, Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements, ideas, themes, actions, conversion, dancing and even character motions in The Ville have been directly lifted from The Sims Social.
In a statement, General manager Lucy Bradshaw of Maxis (Maxix is the official home of the publisher of all the Sim Games) said :
As outlined in our complaint, when The Ville was introduced in June 2012, the infringement of The Sims Social was unmistakable to those of us at Maxis as well as to players and the industry at large. The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance. Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social. The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable. Scores of media and bloggers commented on the blatant mimicry.
This is a case of principle. 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. By calling Zynga out on this illegal practice, we hope to have a secondary effect of protecting the rights of other creative studios who don’t have the resources to protect themselves.
Today, we hope to be taking a stand that helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them.
But Zynga’s General Counsel Reggie Davis responded in this way –
We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players.
EA’s John Reseburg replied to that response in this way – “They must be distracted right now; otherwise they would have noticed we have been shipping SimCity games since the 1990s.”
However, this isn’t the first time Zynga has been accused of copying another game. The creator of “Mob Wars,” a popular social game on Facebook, sued Zynga in 2009 claiming that Zynga’s “Mafia Wars” was a copy of Mob Wars. However, Zynga settled the lawsuit that same year for an undisclosed amount. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.’s interactive game division, Learning Co., in May 2011 also sued Zynga, contending that Zynga’s “FrontierVille” game was totally similar to Houghton’s “Oregon Trail” game franchise.
If you guys are interested to see the entire complaint, head over to Scribd.
It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit proceeds, considering the fact that game genres are not patentable.