Monday, August 6, 2012

Another Game Company Alleges Copyright Infringement

EA Games has sued Zynga for copyright infringement over Zynga's The Ville. EA alleges that Zynga's game is a near-identical copy of EA's The Sims Social. This is the latest in a recent spate of lawsuits by game makers, such as Atari and SpryFoxx, against other game makers for copying the "look and feel" of their games. Even Zynga itself sued another game maker for copying Zynga's own game. Now, it seems, the shoe is on the other foot.
The Sims Social is a Facebook game that lets you build your own little virtual social world. Ironic, really. A virtual social world inside another virtual social world. There's a movie in here somewhere.
There are varying opinions on how strong a case EA has against Zynga. Eric Goldman, a contributor to Forbes Online, doubts that EA has a compelling case of infringement and thinks EA has an uphill battle. In contrast, Prof. Greg Lastowka has a more favorable opinion of EA's chances.
In my opinion, and as I have said many times before, software copyrights are a thing whose time has come. Copyright law is very strong and getting stronger. Software patents are weak and getting weaker. Protecting software developers from blatant copying is an idea that just makes sense. In fact, I would argue that it's the most American thing we can do--this country produces more software than any other country. We need to protect that advantage.
EA Sues Zynga For Copyright Infringement
In addition, unlike software patents where there is no requirement that the infringer have actually copied anything, software copyrights do in fact require proof that the infringer copied the first developer's work. While I can understand the opposition to making someone pay a penalty even when they did nothing wrong, there is just something distasteful about letting someone get away with actually making a copy of someone else's hard work without any compensation.
So software patents continue to gain steam, especially in the game industry. I say, that's a good thing. Software copyrights are just more aligned with both the legal and moral motivators behind protecting innovation in the software industry.