PUBG Corp’s infringement lawsuit against NetEase may not be completely ridiculous after all

    
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Last week, we wrote about how PUBG Corp is suing NetEase (and NetEase is threatening to sue everyone) over alleged copyright infringement in regard to the battle royale genre and the companies’ respective games, in particular PUBG itself. The litany of gameplay concepts PUBG Corp includes as original to PUBG baffled both us and our readers – it’s everything from loot acquisition and air drops to waiting areas and sound effects. It’s absurd. So how legal is it?

As gaming attorney Pete Lewin writes on Gamasutra today, generally what is copyrightable – in the US, where the lawsuit has been filed – is the expression of the game’s ideas rather than the ideas themselves. “For example, Nintendo owns Mario (the expression), but not the concept of a plumber collecting gold coins and rescuing princesses (the idea),” he explains. “As such, PUBG Corp will undoubtedly own PUBG’s unique code, art assets, audio files etc as these represent its particular expression of its game design choices.”

The wrench in the works here is the 2012 decision in Tetris Holdings, LLC v. Xio Interative, Inc.; the court there ruled that even though the defendant hadn’t actually ripped off any of Tetris’ assets in its copycat game, it had in fact cloned a significant chunk of ideas pioneered in Tetris, which therefore constituted infringement. In other words, Tetris Holdings beat a cloner by asking the court to look at the whole game, not just its mechanical bits and pieces.

And that means PUBG Corp’s case might not be as absurd as it sounds after all, though of course as the attorney points out, PUBG is a much more complicated game, and NetEase’s next move will be to highlight all the ways in which it’s different from the game so as to dodge the Tetris trap.

Source: Legal Gamer, Gamasutra
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Randy Savage

Coming soon to Kickstarter! A video game featuring a plumber collecting gold coins and rescuing princesses!

xpsync
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xpsync

I wonder what PUBG Corp is going to do when Call of Duty and Battlefield come out with their Battle Royal modes? Take on EA and Activision? bahahaha good luck with that!

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Can’t wait for the next game trend to come out.
It’ll be an unholy mixture of Battle Royale, Hero Shooter, and MOBA.

And it’ll sell zillions of copies.

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Schmidt.Capela

I think that this precedent would actually work against BlueHole; in that case, the court found that “In the context of games – including video games – copyright protection extends only to the artistic aspects, but not the mechanical or utilitarian features, of a protected work.”

Mino was found to infringe on the Tetris copyright because it was deliberately made to look and play identical to Tetris, down to the color choices and graphical quirks, to the point it was hard to tell the two apart. Or, in other words, it took a company deliberately trying to clone a game down to the smallest details for a court to rule that it infringed on the original’s copyright without literally copying the original’s assets. That’s a very high bar to clear.

Also worth noting that plenty of unauthorized Tetris clones exist, such as Tetraminos (available on Steam and all modern consoles), and the Tetris Holdings can’t do anything against them as long as they don’t clone Tetris to the extent Xio did with Mino.

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rafael12104

Heh. It’s a wash. The whole things is a wash, already. I agree with Greaterdivinity, there is no doubt certain ideas or mechanics are PUBG exclusives, but over all, the genre existed before PUBG and the idea of Battle Royal is untouchable in that sense.

PUBG Corp is using an old lawyers trick by throwing in everything in including the kitchen sink, so they can then hold a much stronger position should there be arbitration. You overshoot so you get what you want.

But given the nuisances in this case and the cases to follow, this will not be settled for many years if it is ever settled at all. Any decision will be appealed until the cows come home.

In the meantime, we will play the shit out of PUBG and Fortnite. So, meh…

xpsync
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xpsync

…and in a few weeks when the next flavor of the month game comes out;

“everyone be like PUB what G?”

Wait… already happened Fortnite 4 the win, till next month…

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bill bunny

This isn’t a till next month thing….battle royale seems to be the next thing. just like with mobas, something about it clicks with alot of people. Especially fortnite, with its unique mix of building and shooting…..will be around for years to come.

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Darthbawl

it had in fact cloned a significant chunk of ideas pioneered in Tetris

Which is funny in this case with PUBG. There are multiple Youtube vids out there that show prior art/ideas/concepts that PUBG did not create, including things like the game lobby, the OMG frying pan, etc. So it will be interesting to see the PUBG peeps try to explain those and others.

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Greaterdivinity

Even by that measure there are enough similar battle royal style games that predate PUBG that they can’t make any reasonable claim to most of the broader mechanics.

Stuff like “chicken dinner”? Absolutely. I think some of their complaints absolutely hold merit given how blatant the clones are. But most of them are patently ludicrous (claiming they own basic movement mechanics and unique gun/vehicle sounds?).

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Devin B

I think Charlie Sheen should sue them for Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

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Armsman

I think Charlie Sheen should sue them for Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I think you mean “Tiger blood”. ;)

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Schmidt.Capela

Actually, similar to LoL, PUBG started as a mod of a mod: it was known as DayZ: Battle Royale back then, a mod for DayZ, which was itself a mod of ARMA 2.

Which means most of the concepts of the game were developed atop other people’s IPs (in this case Bohemia Interactive, the makers of ARMA2 who also hired the creator of DayZ). And just to make things more interesting, about everything that wasn’t already in DayZ was copied from the Japanese film Battle Royale. If the kind of copyright exclusivity BlueHole is asking for actually existed, PUBG itself would never have been made, at least not without explicit authorization from Bohemia Interactive, Toei (owner of the Battle Royale movie rights), and Koushun Takami (author of the Battle Royale book the movie is based on).

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John Kiser

PUBG is literally just a last man standing game mode with a shrinking arena and bigger scoreboard. Having similar stuff model wise doesn’t really mean anything unless they are done in a confusing manner particularly given that a load of PUBG’s assets are just Unreal Marketplace items.