EA sues Zynga, claims copyright infringement in The Ville

Electronic Arts has filed a lawsuit against Zynga "on behalf of Maxis." EA claims that Zynga's newly released social game, The Ville, copies "original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of the US copyright laws."

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Electronic Arts has filed a lawsuit against Zynga "on behalf of Maxis." EA claims that Zynga's newly released social game, The Ville, copies "original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of the US copyright laws."

"The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance," Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw argues. "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."

In a blog post on EA's official website, Bradshaw admits that EA is not the first company to accuse Zynga of copying. A few months ago, the developers of Tiny Tower publicly lamented Zynga's Dream Heights. "But we are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it."

"Some will say The Ville simply iterates; some will tell us to get over it and move on. We are confident in our position, and that we will prevail," Bradshaw concludes. Oddly, our review of SimCity Social points out that EA and Maxis' take on city building feels a lot like Zynga's CityVille game.

Zynga is currently embroiled in yet another lawsuit, one filed on behalf of shareholders accusing the company of insider trading. Zynga general counsel Reggie Davis provided this statement to Shacknews, where the similarities between SimCity Social and CityVille are also pointed out:

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.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 3, 2012 10:30 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, EA sues Zynga, claims copyright infringement in The Ville.

    Electronic Arts has filed a lawsuit against Zynga "on behalf of Maxis." EA claims that Zynga's newly released social game, The Ville, copies "original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a clear violation of the US copyright laws."

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      August 3, 2012 10:34 AM

      Fitting. Zynga sues smaller guys for the same thing even though we know Zynga copies stuff all the time.

      http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/16/war-zynga-sues-the-hell-out-of-brazilian-clone-vostu/
      http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/24/tiny-tower-developers-call-out-zynga-for-their-look-alike-game/

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      August 3, 2012 10:36 AM

      Zynga is going under anyway, just let it go EA

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        August 3, 2012 10:39 AM

        Gotta go after them while they still have something.

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          August 3, 2012 10:51 AM

          scoop up the company for milipennies on the dollar!

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            August 3, 2012 10:58 AM

            tbh, I'm not sure why EA hasn't done this, even if its just to dissolve Zynga completely

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              August 3, 2012 1:33 PM

              why pay more when you can just sue them to speed up their bankruptcy and buy them up cheap at auction.

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        August 3, 2012 11:00 AM

        That coffin needs MORE NAILS!

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          August 3, 2012 1:09 PM

          YES YES YES bring our message to the masses !!!

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          August 3, 2012 3:11 PM

          EA's Peter Moore took a dig at Zynga's stock price yesterday: http://www.vg247.com/2012/08/02/eas-peter-moore-zynga-is-like-a-runner-hitting-a-wall/

          "To use, if you will, an Olympic analogy, we’re competing in the decathlon and if we miss in one event, we’ve got nine others we can make up on. Zynga is running a marathon. They just hit the wall and dropped to their knees."

          Keep in mind that former EA COO John Schappert left to become the COO of Zynga, and Peter Moore is the current COO of EA.

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          August 3, 2012 10:24 PM

          never enough nails for that coffin

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        August 3, 2012 12:19 PM

        No, hurry it up EA.

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        August 3, 2012 1:24 PM

        [deleted]

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      August 3, 2012 10:48 AM

      I thought the Dune 2 vs Warcraft lawsuit set the the precedent that what Zynga is doing is legal

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        August 3, 2012 10:58 AM

        1. You're dealing with copyright law, where the only thing that may be copyrighted is the expressive elements of your game. Generally, it will be art assets and the arrangement and selection of non-copyrightable information. If you're talking about gameplay specifically, you'll have a tough time showing validity of a copyright infringement claim. However, if you substantially copy the art assets or that selection and arrangement, you're in trouble. It's a very intensive analysis. So if someone makes a Diablo type game, they'll be fine as long as they don't re-use too many elements from the original game. Dune 2 and Warcraft were in a basic way, very similar. However, both games have different art assets and a differentiated selection and arrangement of gameplay and interface elements. It's usually a tough call on these cases and it can be very hard to figure out which way the court will go.

        Look at this recent case for an idea of that: http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-jersey/njdce/3:2009cv06115/235418/61/0.pdf?1338468032

        2. Which gets to my other point. The Federal district courts are only controlled by precedent set in those courts and in their appellate courts, which include their circuit and the US Supreme Court. So really, even if the court ruled that Blizzard didn't infringe, that doesn't mean that other federal courts have to follow that precedent.

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        August 3, 2012 11:16 AM

        Here's a copy of the actual complaint: http://www.scribd.com/doc/101954002/EA-v-Zynga-Complaint-Final

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        August 3, 2012 12:05 PM

        Dune 2 vs Warcraft was like day and night compared to the 2 games mentioned in the lawsuit. Check the pics.

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      August 3, 2012 10:53 AM

      I'm not in the least bit surprised.

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      August 3, 2012 11:26 AM

      haha Ian Marsh (co-founder of nimblebit, which made tinytower, which was then copied by Zynga: http://cdn.toucharcade.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/dearzynga.jpg) just tweeted "This birthday just keeps getting better and better!"
      https://twitter.com/eeen/status/231454345873461249

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      August 3, 2012 11:30 AM

      Are the differences between COD and Medal of Honor distinguishable to an uninitiated observer?

      EA is never going to get any money out of this.

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        August 3, 2012 12:25 PM

        How dare you defend Zynga. Do you know where you are, kind Labia?

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        August 3, 2012 9:38 PM

        They may be similar is so many ways, but they are different enough for copyright law. The layout of the levels, characters, story lines, etc are similar, but not copies. COD and MOH, along with every other military shooter evolved as iterations on older games with a few bigger leaps of innovation. What Zynga does is copy nearly every detail of a game. There's a big difference.

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      August 3, 2012 11:31 AM

      Who the fuck can I root for in this!?

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        August 3, 2012 11:56 AM

        EA by far

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        August 3, 2012 11:58 AM

        whoever wins, we lose

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          August 3, 2012 1:09 PM

          ^^^^^^
          I wonder if the Zynga investors are going to sue them over this as well?

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        August 3, 2012 12:01 PM

        Umm, the company not blatantly copying another company's ideas to make a quick buck?

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        August 3, 2012 12:02 PM

        3rd party. Cthulhu.

      • reply
        August 3, 2012 12:33 PM

        Gegtik.

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        August 3, 2012 12:46 PM

        The Lawyers

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        August 3, 2012 1:00 PM

        haha that's a really tough question!

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        August 3, 2012 1:31 PM

        EA. Zynga makes knockoff games that effectively steal from smaller devs; EA still puts out a fair number of quality games, even if a lot of their operation is lol.

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          August 3, 2012 2:41 PM

          I guess EA does mostly rip off their own games.

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          August 3, 2012 2:44 PM

          The problem there is how broad the judgment would be. If you can end up copyrighting gameplay and UI methods the industry will grind to a halt while lawyers go over every game in development to make sure nothing is in violation. Also would open up a can of worms for people that made games years ago going after newer games that are "similar" enough.

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          August 3, 2012 4:44 PM

          What are some examples from the last 5 years?

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            August 3, 2012 4:45 PM

            Whoops thought it was reversed. Ignore.

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            August 3, 2012 4:46 PM

            Examples of Zynga making knockoffs, or of quality EA games? (lol)

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          August 3, 2012 11:00 PM

          EA has their periods of not being totally shit company and investing in new, interesting IPs (like Mirror's Edge). It still feels strange to be rooting for them though.

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        August 3, 2012 3:19 PM

        Zynga. An EA win here would set a HORRIBLE precedent. (Yes, everyone knows Zynga can't create anything original on their own, but its not worth opening the doors for unworthy lawsuits.)

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          August 3, 2012 3:24 PM

          Although I'm glad EA is suing them and at least costing Zynga time and money for their less-than-respectable practices.

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          August 3, 2012 11:34 PM

          really?, getting super rich off of horribly blatant stealing shouldnt go unchallenged

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            August 4, 2012 4:14 PM

            The problem is that where the line is drawn is subjective. The question would become how close are you allowed to mirror another game before they the *lawsuit incoming* light engages. Really. How different would one person's game have to be from another to avoid a lawsuit?

            Outside of copying code I feel you're pretty safe.

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          August 4, 2012 1:27 AM

          "unworthy lawsuit?" did you even look at the document? EA would be insane to let this slide.

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            August 6, 2012 10:03 AM

            Late reply but: I feel EAs lawsuit is worthy. My post was too-brief, but i was referring to the possibility of a broad ruling coming out of this that sets a precedent and allows other lawsuits to go through that are predatory, such as EA suing Activition because Call of Duty is too similar to their Battlefield series

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              August 7, 2012 11:36 PM

              actually, I ended up reading your other post below later that night and I do agree with the danger of broad ruling that could stifle the industry

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            August 6, 2012 10:04 AM

            also, i wrote a better post here: http://www.shacknews.com/chatty?id=28658411#item_28658411

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          August 4, 2012 7:29 AM

          I've been thinking about this for a bit, and I agree with you. Although Zynga deserves to be taken down a peg, the legal precedent makes me really uneasy. Among other things, first person shooters, RTS', and fighting games get put in a rather uncomfortable spot by this.

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        August 3, 2012 3:25 PM

        [deleted]

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      August 3, 2012 12:50 PM

      If EA won this case the game industry would be fucked. Not defending Zynga, but there shold be limits on what you can claim as copyright.

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        August 3, 2012 3:20 PM

        agreed

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          August 3, 2012 3:24 PM

          I don't think either of you have looked at complaint EA submitted to court.

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

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            August 3, 2012 4:02 PM

            I didn't, but now that I've read it, it's a mixed bag I still don't like it. They mention a number of things that Zynga is copying that is perfectly legal and should remain legal.

            ---

            "The Sims was the first game of its kind, and to this day is regarded as one of the most creative video games ever developed." -- That's nice, it was a special snowflake, and that fact shouldn't lend this lawsuit any additional credibility.

            "The Ville was not an attempt to innovate on a game concept ..." -- Innovation on a game concept is not a requirement. It would be bad for the gaming industry as a whole if the court ruled in EA's favor on this.

            "Not only does The Ville blatantly mimic the entire framework and style of gameplay in The Sims Social.." -- Again, more of the same. A scary thing for us if a ruling gave this portion validity.

            BUT, they also have good points in there:
            "it so closely copies the original, creative expression and unique elements of The Sims Social
            — i.e., the animation sequences, visual arrangements, characters’ motions and actions, and other unique audio-visual elements — that the two games are nearly indistinguishable."
            -- If they can prove this to the courts satisfaction, then I'm all for EA on this basis.

            --

            To be clear, I fucking hate what Zynga is doing in terms of slightly-tweaking the look-and-feel / "expression" of other games to the point that the average customer could almost confuse Zynga's game for someone elses. They are riding the shitty line of what is actually legal, and I'd love for them to get beaten down for it, but only if it doesn't establish a bad precedent to encourage lawsuits over "clones" that really aren't clones.

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              August 3, 2012 10:44 PM

              Yeah I think I'm starting to feel similar to your concerns here. What's funny is EA is guilty of some of the claims they're making against Zynga. I'm all for them getting a big fat settlement from just the fact that they blatantly copied certain elements from the game though (art content for example).

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            August 3, 2012 4:09 PM

            I did and maybe I should have been more clear. If EA wins outright it will be bad.

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        August 3, 2012 5:18 PM

        Not really - it's artistic aspects, not gameplay aspects. Cloning games will be still allowed, just don't make the look and feel as closely match the original as possible.

        Again, the earlier Tetris case provides a lot of good case law to compare against.

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      August 3, 2012 1:11 PM

      anyone defending zynga's practices philosophy and methods is a traitor to the whole creative gaming community

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      August 3, 2012 1:12 PM

      Holy shit, check out the screenshots (scroll down)

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

      • reply
        August 3, 2012 4:43 PM

        lol page 19, skin tone RGB values are exactly the same

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          August 3, 2012 6:40 PM

          Yea. EA deserves to win this and it won't be bad for gaming IMO.

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        August 3, 2012 10:06 PM

        jesus that's pretty awful

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      August 3, 2012 10:02 PM

      In shock that I'm rooting for EA here.

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      August 3, 2012 11:15 PM

      Both of those companies can vote for Romney die in a car fire.

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