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EA Sues Zynga For Copying Sims Game 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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EA Sues Zynga For Copying Sims Game

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  • Re:Rules (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:37PM (#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.

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @07:03PM (#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:Only the start (Score:4, Interesting)

    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).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @08:25PM (#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:Rules (Score:3, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @09:57PM (#40874949) Journal

    The unemployment rate is 8.3%. Plus another 8% that no longer count as unemployed since they've been unemployed for too long. And some that retired or went on disability, so the unemployment rate is really 16-20%.

    But that 16% isn't distributed evenly. Subprime mortgage lender? 100% unemployment rate. Silicon valley programmer? 0% unemployment rate. Ok, over 45, the unemployment rate jumps ... but Zynga isn't going to hire them either. If Zynga will hire you, someone else will hire you.

  • Tracing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Friday August 03, 2012 @10:48PM (#40875199) Homepage Journal

    as long as they are writing their own implementation including creating their own artwork, they are legally entitled to do so

    Based on the screenshots I saw in the legal filing, Zynga didn't create its own artwork from scratch as much as trace [] that of EA and other developers.

  • Re:Rules (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Havenwar ( 867124 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:59AM (#40876189)

    Except Zynga only copies POPULAR games, so if you don't play the originals then they won't ever make a copy for you to play, so your argument falls flat. Plus in true Zynga fashion the copy will pretty much push you to spam your entire friendslist and pay real money for in-game advantages, something most other companies do much less heavy-handedly... As someone who used to be a facebook game junkie and enjoyed several games that then got Zyngafied, I've tried both sides of the coin... and in almost every case I went back to play the original. Except of course the few cases when the benefit of a massive developer house really shone through... Zynga's games might be rip-offs, but in some cases they actually play better/less buggy than the originals.

    Does Zynga hurt the indie devs? Sure. It rapes them hard and heavy... AFTER they have gone popular. AFTER they have had a chance to build a name and fan-base and revenue stream. Still rape, but clever indie devs should be expecting such possibilities and have a plan to either compete with quality, sell out, or get out when the beast rolls along.

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