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Ubisoft sued over alleged infringement of  Assassin's Creed  storyline
Ubisoft sued over alleged infringement of Assassin's Creed storyline
April 18, 2012 | By Mike Rose

April 18, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    31 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



An American author and research engineer has filed a lawsuit against Ubisoft and Gametrailers, alleging that the storyline behind the popular Assassin's Creed features many similarities to one of his novels.

John Beiswenger wrote and published his novel Link in 2002, while the first Assassin's Creed video game was released in 2007.

In the copyright infringement papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the middle district of Pennsylvania earlier this week, Beiswenger alleges 11 counts of copyright infringement against Ubisoft and Gametrailers, across the Assassin's Creed video games, books and video trailers.

The author claims that numerous plotlines in the Ubisoft series are heavily borrowed from his Link novel. Link features a device and a lab which allows the characters to relive memories through the eyes of ancestors.

He alleges that the Link device and lab are very similar to the Animus in Assassin's Creed, which allows the main character to go back in time and relive various periods through his ancestors.

The book also makes references to assassins and assassinations with regards to the Link device, claims Beiswenger. The legal document provides dozens of examples of what the author alleges is proof that the Assassin's Creed storyline is very similar to his own storyline.

Elsewhere, the author is suing Gametrailers for a number of video trailers that relate to the Assassin's Creed series, including a game trailer for the latest game in the franchise, Assassin's Creed Revelations.

Beiswenger is looking to halt any further infringement of his copyright, he claims, and is demanding damages of up to $5.25 million.

Gamasutra has reached out to Ubisoft for comment.

Besides his authoring work, Beiswenger is also a product research engineer, and is named on over 20 U.S. utility patents, including color LCD touch display technology, digital alarm clock electronics, fingerprint scanning technology and surgical instrument sterilization.


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Comments


Jason Withrow
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Did Gametrailers produce the Assassin's Creed trailers? Otherwise I'm not following that point.

Johnathon Swift
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The point is that he's a moron with no understanding of how the legal system works. On the other hand, if he wins, I'm suing everyone that ever used a spaceship to travel to distant planets. Because, you know, I invented that, or something.

Michael Martin
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Trolls will be the death of everything good in this world. This guy invented digital alarm clocks, touch lcd screens, fingerprint scanners and sterilizing surgical instruments?! Wow! He must be a super smart bajillionaire.

Too bad he's violating my patent on breathing oxygen. Cease and Desist!

Edit: I turned to Google for more info - turns out, this 'amazing' person has also patented flashlights, oscillating lawn sprinklers, electric convection grill, and has applied for a patent on this amazing new technology he calls a "fax" machine. I weep for the state of our intellectual property laws.

E McNeill
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Patents are usually a good deal more narrow than that. Also, patent trolls rarely write books in hopes of becoming copyright trolls. I don't think we can leap to the conclusion that this guy is an IP troll, even if we can be skeptical that his case is as strong as he claims.

Juan Mejias
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Yeah, his IP might have actually been violated, in which case he's got all the right in the world to file a claim. Assuming he's right he's actually the underdog here. Let's hope Ubisoft's legal team doesn't eat him alive.

Jonathan Jou
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Maciej,

I just did a small bit of reading into copyright law to get a better idea, and I'm fairly certain that if copyright law worked the way the plaintiff here is using it, software copyrights would work like patents, and Microsoft, Google, Facebook, HP, and so on would sue each other for having similar features until only one of them remained.

Which is to say, copyright law protects the implementation (the novel), and not the idea (the plot, ideas, or premise of the novel).

Which is to say... I'm not sure why Mike wrote about this, and I'm pretty sure John filed this without sufficient legal consultation. A lot of laws would have to be overturned to make "having similar ideas" be a copyright infringement. And then almost every novel in the world would have to stop being published, because, well... there's probably a book before it that had a "similar idea."

Michael Martin
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Based on what I've seen of this, I think it seems highly suspect.

As for why I weep, allow me to explain: the judicial system, in many fields, provides fertile ground for disingenious lawsuits, in which the goal of the plaintiff is not to remedy a problem, but rather to use the threat of a costly trial process as leverage to extort money from the defendant. This is often known as a "settlement". Even if a defendant is successful in fending off a lawsuit, the financial cost can be astronomical. "Yay, we won, and it only cost $1 million dollars!" This is why this legal form of extortion is effective. You are right, I mi-typed when I specifically said I weep for the IP laws. I actually an weeping for the abuse of our judicial system. And my impression is that this is an example of that abuse.

Can Ubisoft afford it? Sure. But collectively, this legal abuse contributes to artificially inflating the cost of doing business, making products, and buying products. It doesn't just affect games either.

Might he have a legitimate case? Yes, he might. But at this point, I doubt it. I also reserve the right to remain highly suspect, and to express my suspicion. Just like you can reserve the right to take it at face value.

One thing I would like to know is whether or not Mr. Beiswenger tried any form of remediation prior to filing a lawsuit. Lawsuits are supposed to be the last resort, not the first.

c anderson
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Using a quick amazon, followed by a google search ... the book in question is fairly obscure; and might have been self-published. However, he is filing the charges in Pensylvania, rather than normal patent troll environs of Texas.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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Oh look, free marketing for his book!

E Zachary Knight
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Most people I know don't like to buy books from jerks. So this seems more like free advertising for Assassin's Creed.

Aleksander Adamkiewicz
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There is no such thing as bad press.

Who of you immediately googled his books?

Yes, I thought so.

k s
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From what I read in another article his book shares a few concepts with Assassin's creed but that's it and I doubt that's enough to rightfully claim copyright infringement. It's my speculation he's a struggling writer trying to make ends meet in a fairly un-thought out way.

Evan Combs
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That is kind of what I have taken away from this too. Not necessarily struggling, but sees what he thinks is an opportunity to make some money without proper understanding of copyright laws.

k s
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Base on someone's comment here his books is obscure so he's not making much from it.

Joshua Darlington
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I would have to read more details to judge the merit of the case. But time travel and assassinations go together like action films and explosions. Proving that you invented a cliche seems like an uphill battle. Nothing against cliches.

Bryan Ferris
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Even if his claim is valid (which I highly doubt), he won't win many allies by trying to stop the production of the series.

Adam Bishop
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He'll likely want a share of the profits, not a an order to shut down production.

Bryan Ferris
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Hmm, I coulda sworn that I read that he was asking for production to stop, which I thought was really odd since it would make him less money, but I don't see that in the article now. :/

Andrew Wallace
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Be right back, I'm just going to go sue JK Rowling because in 1995 I wrote a story with wizards.

Gregory Booth
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Join with some other potential plaintiffs...

http://io9.com/5683905/everything-harry-potters-been-accused-of-r
ipping-off

james sadler
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There are some similarities which could give him cause for filing a suit, but he would have to prove a few things. One is that he original creators read his book or knew of it in some detail and two, that it is an original idea and that it would be impractical to think that someone else could easily come up with the same ideas naturally. If he can't do that then he has no ground to stand on. Doing a little research t does seem that the book in question is pretty obscure and hard to find, but that doesn't mean that someone at Ubi didn't read it. Even then there would have to be more things in common with the book to warrant copyright infringement. The animus is a tool in the game, not the game. It is a small element that gets the story going. I also find it funny that he has waited 5-ish years, and some 4-5 games, to file a suit. Screams less about copyright infringement and more about trying to get a payday.

Michael Rooney
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I was thinking the same thing. The first game was released 5 years ago. The statute of limitations on copyright claims is 3 years after the claimant should have reasonably known about the infringement. As AC is a pretty large franchise, I don't think ubi has anything to worry about just because the SOL would probably be passed unless the guy is totally shut off from any media.

james sadler
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SOL is pretty loose ground. He could easily claim that he doesn't play video games and that the similarities in the two media only came to his attention recently (of course that pokes a little hole in my original statement). Even the original media coverage didn't go into the animus so unless he played the game, or talked to people that did, he wouldn't have known about the similarities.

Didn't mention it above, but I'm still not sure why he put Gametrailers into the suit. If he sued them he would have to sue every media outlet that showed the trailer(s). That's without knowing the exact details of the suit though and judging it on face value only.

james sadler
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I took the time to read the actual suit claim a few minutes ago and it is pretty comical. I understand the issues with the animus, but he's throwing stuff like "a plot revolving around good vs. evil" as a point of his suit and just because there are assassinations in his novel that Ubisoft stole his idea. From what I could tell from the excepts of his novel placed in the suit the assassinations in the book happen in current time and the "Link" device is used to pull the memory out of people thought to be a witness or perpetrator to it, not about going back and reliving ancestral memory. If anything, the ancestral aspect is just hinted at. Also that because it have spiritual and religious tones that it is the same. There are too many examples where two+ media have been way more similar and have existed without issues. I didn't see any actual publishers listed as the book's publisher so I would agree with the above that the book was probably self published which makes it even harder to prove that Ubi knowingly infringed on the copyright. I just hope they fight this.

Alexander Stabinski
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Someone refresh me didn't the world of Paranoia do something similar with the clones being able to live through their ancestors?

Nicholas Ulring
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If this was a serious issue. Where was he in 2007. Why now? I am tired of this trend of suing when something becomes a cash cow. If it is was legitimate issue he should have sued 5 years ago. His case it too late. I hope he looses.

Joseph Caddell
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I'm pretty sure if it was your work you would do the same. The guy has his reasons. Ubisoft kinda sucks anyway, they pissed me off...

Jason Chen
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Writers are not necessary gamer.....

Joseph Caddell
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That's what I was about to say. Has it occurred to anybody that maybe he just found out about this!?

Aaron Casillas
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"Link?" is that a Zelda reference?

Patrick Haslow
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The concept of replaying ancestors' lives was seen (in a more supernatural vs. sci-fi way) in Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube. That also was centered around an object - a supernatural tome instead of a mechanical device. That game, like the author's book, was also released in 2002. I don't know if he has a solid case, but the similarity bears mentioning. The idea is not wholly original.


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