Activision Suing Video Game File-Sharers (Updated)

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Updated: GamePolitics is now reporting that the lawsuits are not related to file sharing, according to the attorney representing Activision.

Original story: Game publisher Activision, the house of Guitar Hero (X360, PS3, PS2, Wii, DS) and Call of Duty (X360, PS3, PC, Wii), is suing individuals for pirating Activision games, garnering large cash settlements and agreements to stay silent.

Edge reported today that Activision has sued New York man James R. Strickland in federal court for copyright infringement, specifically mentioning the Xbox version of Treyarch's Call of Duty 3.

In response, GamePolitics uncovered "that Activision has engaged in a pattern of such federal suits, in most cases garnering big settlements from individuals who are not represented by attorneys and who, as part of their settlements, agree not to discuss the case."

The report continues, "Activision's court filings do not specify the manner in which their copyrights were violated, or how they came to learn of the violations."

Activision's legal tactic may sound familiar to the one used by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) against filesharers. GamePolitics found a solid connection to those suits: "Activision's lead attorney on the cases, Karin Pagnanelli, has worked on numerous file sharing cases on behalf of clients in the music business."

GamePolitics' sampling of settlements, reproduced below, follows:

  • John Doe of Washington. Doe, unrepresented by counsel, settled with Activision.
  • Chris Hyman of Abbeville, South Carolina. Hyman, also unrepresented, agreed to pat Activision $25,000 to settle the case. (CoD3 Wii, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Xbox 360).
  • George Laflin of New Jersey. Laflin, apparently the only defendant who had an attorney, agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Xbox 360).
  • Maryanne Leach of Northome, Minnesota. Leach, with no attorney, agreed to pay Activision $1,000.
  • Kenneth Madden of York, South Carolina agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Wii, Cod 2 The Big Red One PS2, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Xbox 360). He too was unrepresented.
  • James R. Strickland, aka Ryan Strickland of New York State; case is still active (CoD3 Xbox 360).
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From The Chatty
  • reply
    September 19, 2008 9:57 AM

    I wish the idea of Activision as the gaming industry's RIAA surprised me a bit more.

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      September 19, 2008 10:00 AM

      I'm still surprised.

      I'd like to know more about what these people are guilty of. Did they simply download the game from a website, or were they the ones cracking games and distributing them online. In my mind, there's a big difference between the two, with the former not being guilty of $100,000 in fines.

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        September 19, 2008 10:16 AM

        BitTorrent most likely. The instant you hop on a torrent you become both a downloader and an uploader (ie: distributor) of the thing you are obtaining. It's not like visiting a website and downloading a file, or having something available in your share folder on limewire because of the two way process even during the initial download itself.

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        September 19, 2008 10:18 AM

        I'm sure the ambiguity resulting from preventing people from discussing the cases is entirely deliberate. The people paying $100,000 were probably distributing the game en masse in some way, whereas the $1,000 may just have been a handful of downloads of Activision games, but by not providing any information to clarify this, Activision want people to read articles like this and think "wow, if I download a game illegally I could end up paying $100k".

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          September 19, 2008 10:26 AM

          I bet the payouts have a lot more to do with how much money the people actually have. No use suing someone who works for McDonald's for $100k.

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            September 19, 2008 11:31 AM

            Suing someone doesn't give you information about the defendant's financial situation. Likely this has to do with download vs distribution. If they can pin you for distribution then they can get more out of you.

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              September 19, 2008 7:39 PM

              Sure it does. You check their assets before you bother to push it. There's no reason to bring a civil suit against someone who doesn't have any money or assets to take.

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            September 20, 2008 2:05 AM

            Just to see the look on his face and laugh as his pisses his pants and starts crying in the courtroom...