Electronic Arts has asked a California federal court to dismiss claims that original John Madden Football
coder Robin Antonick is owed two decades of royalties, saying that his claims have no merit.
In a motion submitted Tuesday, EA said that Antonick's claims
of breach of contract and fraud are invalid on several levels, saying that not only are these claims well past their statute of limitations, they're also based on work that is not copyrightable.
Antonick coded the original Madden
as a contractor, and claims that all subsequent versions of the series are derivative works based on technologies he developed, specifically his football player behavior AI, the pseudo "three-dimensional projection" of the field, the original game's instant replay feature, and the concept of a "positional camera."
According to EA, subsequent Madden games (starting with the Sega Genesis version of John Madden Football
) did not use Antonick's code for these methods, and that all four of these technologies are "merely unprotectable ideas, processes, methods of operation, equations, or algorithms," none of which are expressions that can be protected under copyright.
And these are not terms EA came up with to describe Antonick's work: this is how Antonick described his work in his original complaint.
"The Complaint itself describes all four elements as 'methods,' 'processes' or 'algorithms.' Since copyright protects only expression, not ideas, methods of operation, or algorithms of a computer program, the Complaint's own allegations defeat the contract claim," said EA.
"Antonick's contract with EA provides for royalty payments only for derivative works under copyright law, not simply for any work that traces some idea back to, or shares a name with, the versions Antonick worked on."
The motion also reveals that when Antonick approached EA in 2009 demanding royalties, the company provided him with the source code for the Sega Genesis version of John Madden Football
so he could compare the code himself and see that none of his work was being reused. The company also provided "five sworn declarations from the relevant developers and executives, all of whom explained that [the Sega Genesis version of] Madden
and subsequent editions in the Madden
franchise were developed without using Antonick's work."
In order for Antonick to have a case, he will have to convince the court that his work amounted to original expression, rather than computer algorithms, which would make it copyright-protectable work. As Hollywood Reporter legal blogger Eriq Gardner points out
, such a strategy "might take some work, but it's surely not impossible."