• 90 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by Salarn (465 posts) -

To address the elephant in the room Zynga isn't very popular, lots of people hate them and their practices. I definitely won't defend what they have done with some of their business choices. EA has a rough bit of time with their PR, lots of bad choices, winning (?loosing?) worst company of the year 2012 lots of people hate their use of DLC and other business choices.

However, and please read this sentence twice:

This is not a popularity contest, this is a legal matter which can change game development significantly.

Preface: This is purely on the topic of gameplay and mechanics, visual & audio elements are protected. In a phrase, "you can copyright proper nouns, you cannot copyright verbs or simple nouns". You cannot copyright 'wizard', you can copyright Harry Potter. You can copyright your picture of a duck, you cannot copyright pictures of ducks or the concept of ducks.

If EA wins this this case, they will have for the first time ever, gotten copyright law to apply to actual gameplay. This is dangerous, allow me to put that into context. Inside the law suit they have the following:

Players have the option for their Sims to learn skills and follow career paths.

Does that sound like: Classes

Each Sim has a set of fluctuating needs. These needs include basic bodily needs,such as hunger, energy, comfort, hygiene, and bladder needs, and players must act accordingly by eating, resting, washing themselves, and relieving as necessary

Almost as if you're raising a: Virtual Pet

Sims do not speak English to one another, but rather speak “Simlish,” a garbled language of made-up words, thus leaving the meaning of the language to the imagination of the players

Simlish is a good name, but so is: Gibberish

Dig through the lawsuit and take a look, this is just a few of the ones that I found in just my first read through.

----------------------

What is the bottom line here?

EA should not win this lawsuit against Zynga in it's current form. The scope is way to broad, if they wish to make the case about Art and Sound being to similar that's perfectly fine and they should with all their might.

Big companies are real slime balls when crib their games from smaller companies. I feel terrible for Johann Sebastian Joust team, it's terrible to have an idea stolen that hurts your product, and your livelihood. However, the alternative if gameplay concepts can be protected by copyright law is that after a huge layer frenzy, the small developers will be served papers demanding the stoppage of sale and a check for using company XYZ's gameplay element that they have under copyright.

----------------------------------------

EDIT: I was incorrect in saying that this was the first gameplay copyright case, there was one just over a month ago by "The Tetris Company", a notorious copyright bully you can read about the June 2012 case here: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/06/defining-tetris-how-courts-judge-gaming-clones/ EA is current publisher for "The Tetris Company" and it's games.

#1 Edited by Salarn (465 posts) -

To address the elephant in the room Zynga isn't very popular, lots of people hate them and their practices. I definitely won't defend what they have done with some of their business choices. EA has a rough bit of time with their PR, lots of bad choices, winning (?loosing?) worst company of the year 2012 lots of people hate their use of DLC and other business choices.

However, and please read this sentence twice:

This is not a popularity contest, this is a legal matter which can change game development significantly.

Preface: This is purely on the topic of gameplay and mechanics, visual & audio elements are protected. In a phrase, "you can copyright proper nouns, you cannot copyright verbs or simple nouns". You cannot copyright 'wizard', you can copyright Harry Potter. You can copyright your picture of a duck, you cannot copyright pictures of ducks or the concept of ducks.

If EA wins this this case, they will have for the first time ever, gotten copyright law to apply to actual gameplay. This is dangerous, allow me to put that into context. Inside the law suit they have the following:

Players have the option for their Sims to learn skills and follow career paths.

Does that sound like: Classes

Each Sim has a set of fluctuating needs. These needs include basic bodily needs,such as hunger, energy, comfort, hygiene, and bladder needs, and players must act accordingly by eating, resting, washing themselves, and relieving as necessary

Almost as if you're raising a: Virtual Pet

Sims do not speak English to one another, but rather speak “Simlish,” a garbled language of made-up words, thus leaving the meaning of the language to the imagination of the players

Simlish is a good name, but so is: Gibberish

Dig through the lawsuit and take a look, this is just a few of the ones that I found in just my first read through.

----------------------

What is the bottom line here?

EA should not win this lawsuit against Zynga in it's current form. The scope is way to broad, if they wish to make the case about Art and Sound being to similar that's perfectly fine and they should with all their might.

Big companies are real slime balls when crib their games from smaller companies. I feel terrible for Johann Sebastian Joust team, it's terrible to have an idea stolen that hurts your product, and your livelihood. However, the alternative if gameplay concepts can be protected by copyright law is that after a huge layer frenzy, the small developers will be served papers demanding the stoppage of sale and a check for using company XYZ's gameplay element that they have under copyright.

----------------------------------------

EDIT: I was incorrect in saying that this was the first gameplay copyright case, there was one just over a month ago by "The Tetris Company", a notorious copyright bully you can read about the June 2012 case here: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/06/defining-tetris-how-courts-judge-gaming-clones/ EA is current publisher for "The Tetris Company" and it's games.

#2 Posted by Sackmanjones (4711 posts) -

Hmm. Idk man. I saw the trailer for the ville I think it's called? And holy shit that thing is almost indistinguishable from the sims social. All the way down to how it animates.

#3 Posted by buft (3318 posts) -

You make some excellent points , EA will push for a suit that is as wide ranging as they can make it and when they set that precedent they will no doubt move at other companies with renewed confidence, there is certainly scope for them to push for this case but as you say it needs to tighten up and address the actual infringements.

#4 Posted by CL60 (16906 posts) -

Zynga should just stop blatantly copying everything like assholes. At the very least be subtle about it.

#5 Posted by Kidavenger (3569 posts) -

If Zynga has copied EA then EA should win, I really can't see them winning based on any one of these attributes, more of a combination of all of them to create a product indistinguishable from the original.

Each of those attributes on their own have been used in thousands of games, there is no way that EA winning this would automatically hold them in power of these concepts.

#6 Posted by benjaebe (2783 posts) -

EA should win because Zynga are scumbags and blatantly copy everyone else. I think EA is less concerned about copyright infringement over the individual elements, because that would be ridiculous and probably unenforceable, but rather that as a whole Zynga stole wholesale from them and other developers.

#7 Posted by TheDudeOfGaming (6078 posts) -

Man, if EA wins then so be it. I just wanna see Zynga burn.

#8 Posted by Eviternal (194 posts) -

@Sackmanjones said:

Hmm. Idk man. I saw the trailer for the ville I think it's called? And holy shit that thing is almost indistinguishable from the sims social. All the way down to how it animates.

I encourage you to re-read the original post. Salarn's argument isn't that Zynga is free of guilt, it's that if EA win this case, a legal precedent will be set for companies to pursue action against any game with similar elements to theirs.

I for one agree; this could be profoundly negative for the gaming industry if EA win with such broad allegations.

Zynga have committed blatant plagiarism in the past and deserve to be prosecuted for it, but this avenue is not the right one.

#9 Posted by Hailinel (24966 posts) -

Zynga does not deserve my sympathy.

Online
#10 Posted by Sackmanjones (4711 posts) -
@Eviternal I did read it and he makes good points. However from what I've seen this game it is a carbon copy of eas creative product. Neither winning would be the best option but if someone has to win EA should. Just my personal thought
#11 Edited by Shivoa (626 posts) -

Yep, completely agreed. Cloning is an issue inside the industry but if copyright for gameplay or design is upheld then we are in real trouble. This is already causing insanity on mobile devices with patents for interactions. Imagine if the first WIMP system had patented those interface systems, no right click, draggable windows, nothing we associate with classic GUI interfaces. Imagine if the trigger was protected and only one company could make a controller with analogue triggers or even analogue sticks (insert observation about how we already get some of this total bull* with a cross digital pad patent and a game in a loading screen being protected in some countries by abusive patenting of that concept).

This is the equivalent of an author going after another author because their stories (while being written with different sentences) are too similar or their style of writing is too close. That isn't how copyright works because it would prevent the generation of significant material of cultural importance, we need to prevent the corrupting idea of patents infecting the kinda workable notion of copyright. As a European coder, I cringe at these US software patents and related nonsense because *insert every argument for the last 20 years on how it doesn't fit with the fast, evolutionary discipline of coding to block innovation with all these overly board and obvious patents that the US patent office has shown no ability to critically examine even with their own messed up standards for worth* and this seems to be EA using the word copyright when they actually are trying to go for a patent style infringement argument. This isn't stolen assets, this is imitation; cloning is something the market needs to police, not the local laws. The alternative is going to be potentially very bad for all gamers and developers.

Edit: cleaning up text.

#12 Posted by SmilingPig (1339 posts) -

Zynga prays on the weak and mentally ill to survive, it needs to die.

#13 Posted by benjaebe (2783 posts) -

Everyone should take a quick look at the findings from the Tetris v. Xio Interactive case, where a Tetris clone was found to infringe on Tetris's copyright. The precedent is already there, and the judge concluded that while copying some game elements doesn't constitute copyright infringement, copying wholesale the game design and overall aesthetics of another game, which Zynga is undoubtedly accused of, does.

I don't think EA is out to set a precedent where individual pieces like the OP talks about are copyrightable and grounds for a lawsuit, but rather that wholesale copying of another game in both aesthetics and gameplay design is.

#14 Edited by Toxeia (729 posts) -

I'll point you to the Fair Use Doctrine. I want you to focus real hard on points 3 and 4.

The third point, Zynga has taken far too many liberties with other's creations. This isn't Michael Jackson's "Beat It" vs Weird Al's "Eat It." This is that shitty child day care down the street that has poorly painted images of Disney or Sesame St. characters on the plaster walls. Even that's a poor comparison because that god awful image of Oscar the Grouch isn't causing monetary loss to Jim Henson's estate or whomever currently holds rights to Sesame St. "The Ville" is not only a blatant copy of the previous work, but in direct competition with it. That would be point 4.

There's no hiding from this. Your slippery slope argument doesn't work in this situation.

Edit: Perhaps a better situation would just be a class-suit involving every creative individual who has had their work copied by Zynga, and they just sue them into the cold, dead earth.

#15 Edited by Shivoa (626 posts) -

@Toxeia said:

There's no hiding from this. Your slippery slope argument doesn't work in this situation. Just because EA wins this case doesn't mean that suddenly Nintendo can press charges against Sony for having a waggle-controller.

No, it means EA, who by ownership of Dune 2/C&C from buying Westwood own a lot of the gameplay mechanics of RTS for the last 20 years, can consider a lot of the genre as clones and go after them for the many cloned gameplay concepts incorporated into them. Clone games are not using fair use, they are wholly originally created works of art in a similar style and with similar gameplay mechanics.

Edit: the case you cite is of a clone as independent creation of work considered so close (as a whole) as to be derivative (and is itself teetering on the edge of worrying ground - but we need these cases to establish where the line is, does an author who copies a whole chapter of someone else's book have the right? Nope. But what if they just used the same plot? Yep, they can do that.) There is a clear distinction between the two works in this current case. The tetris clone was tetris and differences were superficial. The works are being considered as a whole and this is all a minefield but I agree with the OP, if EA win this it could set a precedent for a worryingly broad interpretation of duplication of copyrighted material.

#16 Posted by DeanoXD (608 posts) -

i know you said i should side with zynga, but i won't.

#17 Posted by JoeyRavn (4977 posts) -

@Shivoa said:

This is the equivalent of an author going after another author because their stories (while being written with different sentences and description) are too similar or their style of writing is too close. That isn't how copyright works because it would prevent the generation of significant material of cultural importance, we need to prevent the corrupting idea of patents infecting the kinda workable notion of copyright.

No, it's not. Zynga has been exploiting other people's ideas and leeching off their success. The better analogy would be: someone decides to write a book about a young mage called Henry Padder who goes to a school for mages called Hangsworth with his friends Nor and Henrietta. Or a game developer that creates a game called The Last Ideal about a group of adventurers (a "battler", a "dark conjurer", a "stealer" and a "light healer") that have to fight an evil dude named Garlic.

What Zynga did was not using established tropes of the video game market (such as a class system or tamagotchi-like pets): they were blatantly ripping off other games, from game mechanics to visual style. The problem is that all these things are not taken in isolation, but as a group to create a very precise and concrete type of game. It's extremely hard (not to say impossible) to come up with a completely original idea and, of course, creative works will always overlap with other pre-existing works. People will write novels that will be similar to other novels and code games that will play and feel similar to others. Maybe they will even try to evoke the feeling that novel or game produced in the reader/player. Homages are fine, theft is not.

And you, as a coder, should be worried about this. Let's say that you create a game, put it on iOS or Facebook and begin to make money. Six months later, Zynga comes with a clone of your game that caters to the exact same players that initially made your game popular. I don't think anyone likes their work stolen by others, right? Copyright laws are a touchy subject and undoubtedly very controversial... but I think it's pretty clear that Zynga has been stealing from others for years now. EA is not the first to complain about this, and Zynga has been found guilty of this in the past.

#18 Posted by Salarn (465 posts) -

As I said in the original post, Zynga is not a good guy here, nor is EA. A third time to be clear.

This is not a popularity contest between EA and Zynga.

The way things are now, big companies can crush smaller ones by out spending to push their game through production faster than smaller studios, dump way more into marketing to get more people play it, and all sorts of "might makes right" tactics. However, they cannot legally stop someone from making a game, as long as they don't steal assets directly. At the end of the day, gamers will have more games, and quality will matter at least to some extent.

If gameplay elements become subject to copyright law this will change. Small companies will not be able to make games legally that larger companies own copyright laws to, and have buckets of money sitting around to lawer someone into the ground that even tries. For anyone not familiar with the duration of copyright law, it would be a minimum of 95 years right now if applied to videogames, and that number increases when a special mouse is near the limit. Now, quality doesn't matter, at the end of the day you have the one game that the copyright owner decides to make, when they make it, and that's the consumer's only choice.

A good example for this would be sports titles, that have contracts with specific athletes. Football, MMA, Golf, etc... while EA doesn't hold a copyright on football, they own every team and player making it very hard for anyone to compete.

Take a look at big title games in the last few years. How many times have the phrase "Diablo Clone" "WoW Clone" "Bejewled Clone" been used? Is CoD different enough from Battlefield that someone won't go to court over it? How about DoTA and LoL? (that already happened)

Art/Sound/Characters is one thing, gameplay is another

#19 Edited by zudthespud (3281 posts) -

The points you pick out do sound frivolous but the points in the article Patrick wrote up make it look like a blatant imitation. I've not played the actual games so I'm not really in a position to comment but if some of the points are genuine infringements and others not is this made clear in the verdict? Or is there just a punishment delivered on the lawsuit as a whole?

#20 Posted by mosdl (3229 posts) -

@Kidavenger said:

If Zynga has copied EA then EA should win, I really can't see them winning based on any one of these attributes, more of a combination of all of them to create a product indistinguishable from the original.

Each of those attributes on their own have been used in thousands of games, there is no way that EA winning this would automatically hold them in power of these concepts.

Exactly this. EA is listing the similarities, not claiming ownership of said mechanics.

#21 Posted by BraveToaster (12589 posts) -

The size of a company has nothing to do with what side their own; small companies can be (and are) just as shitty. With that said, if a company blatantly copies or clones someone else's work, they should be punished.

#22 Posted by Hailinel (24966 posts) -
@Shivoa

@Toxeia said:

There's no hiding from this. Your slippery slope argument doesn't work in this situation. Just because EA wins this case doesn't mean that suddenly Nintendo can press charges against Sony for having a waggle-controller.

No, it means EA, who by ownership of Dune 2/C&C from buying Westwood own a lot of the gameplay mechanics of RTS for the last 20 years, can consider a lot of the genre as clones and go after them for the many cloned gameplay concepts incorporated into them. Clone games are not using fair use, they are wholly originally created works of art in a similar style and with similar gameplay mechanics.

If EA really wanted to start that fight, they'd know they'd just be making themselves a target because they've borrowed mechanics from other companies for their own games. Sony could sue the shit out of them for Dante's Inferno, for example. You think EA really wants that?
Online
#23 Posted by dr_mantas (1912 posts) -

It's not about individual gameplay mechanics or even a collection of mechanics from various games, it's about a direct lift of one entire game.

Maybe you're right to worry, but I doubt someone will be able to copyright "shooting" or "jumping" any time soon.

#24 Posted by JoeyRavn (4977 posts) -

@Salarn said:

How many times have the phrase "Diablo Clone" "WoW Clone" "Bejewled Clone" been used? Is CoD different enough from Battlefield that someone won't go to court over it?

Call of Duty and Battlefield are very different, actually. I'm pretty sure that "clone" has its shades of meaning here. When you say that Titan Quest is a Diablo clone, you're not saying that Titan Quest is Diablo with a new coat of paint. Rather, you are saying that it follows a series of gameplay mechanics that Diablo made popular. The same goes for WoW clones, I guess. Bejeweled clones are different, because the gameplay itself is what defines the game: in other words, Bejeweled is a simpler game than Diablo. It has fewer gameplay mechanics than Diablo, so clones of that game will probably be more similar to the original source than Diablo clones. I'm sure that Popcap could win in court if they decided to sue other game companies that clone Bejeweled, but I'm not so sure that Blizzard could win against THQ for Titan Quest.

@Salarn said:

Art/Sound/Characters is one thing, gameplay is another

You have to take the whole package, not individual characteristics. put it in the right words:

@mosdl said:

EA is listing the similarities, not claiming ownership of said mechanics.

As I said, EA is saying that a game like The Ville uses the exact same gameplay mechanics and visual style as The Sims Social to cater to the exact same group of potential players. I don't think they want to forbid everyone from using a class system.

#25 Posted by StarvingGamer (8283 posts) -

@Hailinel said:

@Shivoa

@Toxeia said:

There's no hiding from this. Your slippery slope argument doesn't work in this situation. Just because EA wins this case doesn't mean that suddenly Nintendo can press charges against Sony for having a waggle-controller.

No, it means EA, who by ownership of Dune 2/C&C from buying Westwood own a lot of the gameplay mechanics of RTS for the last 20 years, can consider a lot of the genre as clones and go after them for the many cloned gameplay concepts incorporated into them. Clone games are not using fair use, they are wholly originally created works of art in a similar style and with similar gameplay mechanics.

If EA really wanted to start that fight, they'd know they'd just be making themselves a target because they've borrowed mechanics from other companies for their own games. Sony could sue the shit out of them for Dante's Inferno, for example. You think EA really wants that?

They may not want it, but the people in charge of making the games aren't the ones drawing the legal drafts. I haven't read the actual filing, but if the cribbing of incredibly general game mechanics is what this lawsuit is being based on, then a win for EA does open the gates for all sorts of crazy shit. If it really is that vague, however, then they'll probably just make EA redraft and refile.

#26 Posted by iAmJohn (6121 posts) -

@StarvingGamer said:

@Hailinel said:

@Shivoa

@Toxeia said:

There's no hiding from this. Your slippery slope argument doesn't work in this situation. Just because EA wins this case doesn't mean that suddenly Nintendo can press charges against Sony for having a waggle-controller.

No, it means EA, who by ownership of Dune 2/C&C from buying Westwood own a lot of the gameplay mechanics of RTS for the last 20 years, can consider a lot of the genre as clones and go after them for the many cloned gameplay concepts incorporated into them. Clone games are not using fair use, they are wholly originally created works of art in a similar style and with similar gameplay mechanics.

If EA really wanted to start that fight, they'd know they'd just be making themselves a target because they've borrowed mechanics from other companies for their own games. Sony could sue the shit out of them for Dante's Inferno, for example. You think EA really wants that?

They may not want it, but the people in charge of making the games aren't the ones drawing the legal drafts. I haven't read the actual filing, but if the cribbing of incredibly general game mechanics is what this lawsuit is being based on, then a win for EA does open the gates for all sorts of crazy shit. If it really is that vague, however, then they'll probably just make EA redraft and refile.

Like the Tetris vs. Xio case that posted, this is a case about volume. EA's argument is that while copying individual elements from a source work may be fair, Zynga's game on the whole employs the same gameplay design and artistic expression of the concepts.

Online
#27 Posted by Napalm (9020 posts) -

Zynga is a business, not a videogame developer.

#28 Edited by Nonapod (126 posts) -

I haven't read in detail what exactly EA is contesting and, even if I did, IANAL. I assume this over a specific copyright violation(s) rather than abstract concepts?

#29 Edited by Shivoa (626 posts) -

@JoeyRavn said:

@Shivoa said:

This is the equivalent of an author going after another author because their stories (while being written with different sentences and description) are too similar or their style of writing is too close. That isn't how copyright works because it would prevent the generation of significant material of cultural importance, we need to prevent the corrupting idea of patents infecting the kinda workable notion of copyright.

No, it's not. Zynga has been exploiting other people's ideas and leeching off their success. The better analogy would be: someone decides to write a book about a young mage called Henry Padder who goes to a school for mages called Hangsworth with his friends Nor and Henrietta. Or a game developer that creates a game called The Last Ideal about a group of adventurers (a "battler", a "dark conjurer", a "stealer" and a "light healer") that have to fight an evil dude named Garlic.

What Zynga did was not using established tropes of the video game market (such as a class system or tamagotchi-like pets): they were blatantly ripping off other games, from game mechanics to visual style. The problem is that all these things are not taken in isolation, but as a group to create a very precise and concrete type of game. It's extremely hard (not to say impossible) to come up with a completely original idea and, of course, creative works will always overlap with other pre-existing works. People will write novels that will be similar to other novels and code games that will play and feel similar to others. Maybe they will even try to evoke the feeling that novel or game produced in the reader/player. Homages are fine, theft is not.

And you, as a coder, should be worried about this. Let's say that you create a game, put it on iOS or Facebook and begin to make money. Six months later, Zynga comes with a clone of your game that caters to the exact same players that initially made your game popular. I don't think anyone likes their work stolen by others, right? Copyright laws are a touchy subject and undoubtedly very controversial... but I think it's pretty clear that Zynga has been stealing from others for years now. EA is not the first to complain about this, and Zynga has been found guilty of this in the past.

Yes, the stories are too similar; you have just described how to avoid copyright infringement in 'cloning' a book. First remove any trademark issues (names that are protected - you probably need to go further with the title and visual style of the outside of the book as that stuff is quite easy to fall foul of - causing marketplace confusion between your product and someone else's. The supermarket brand version of product X can't look too like the major brand version and this is tested against expectation of confusion in the consumers) and then completely rewrite the entire book with your own words as to not infringe any copyright of the text. That is an original work that has likely no artistic merit but does not infringe the copyright unless your lawyers are really pushing their luck.

The software equivalent of this process is normally done with an extra step to protect against potential claims of infringement via reverse engineering. Software (both source code and the translation to machine code as a binary/executable) is protected as a creative work; there is enough expression (it is not a purely functional description of a process - copyright vs patent in action; most software developers do not agree with the idea of a software patent and they do not exist where I live) in the writing of software to claim copyright on the written work. This process starts by someone analysing the behaviour of some software (reverse engineering) and writing down in purely functional terms how the thing acts, this is describing the purely functional design of the software and so does not contain any of the expressive copyrighted material. They then hand this functional spec document to a second team who do the actual development of the new software to conform to these specifications. The resulting software will exactly match the behaviour of the original work but the internal source will be unlikely to be the same (because coding is expressive and software is large). A reasonable amount of reverse engineering and independent (clone) development is required for the open source community to deal with creating open source drivers and so on from which we all benefit. A lot of closed source companies do this too and there have been quite a few highly entertaining escalating wars when one company writes a protocol and another clones their client behaviour to drop into that space in the client/server structure.

In this case then Zynga is not very good at their reverse engineering but they do seem to have a reasonably consistent visual style to their products that in this case it a tight match for EA's work but it is all a generic style of Flash vector art, low bandwidth cute that I do not think either company created or can claim ownership of (just an no one can claim ownership of pixel art). Copyright is about exact duplication and there is enough difference here to be safe in my eyes (but all cloners are scum, I am very clear on this point and would be very unhappy if my work was ever cloned; I just do not think copyright infringement is a valid tactic to fight back against it because it isn't actually copyright infringement). As you can tell from the above description of the reasonably well accepted reverse engineering process, cloning the gameplay mechanics exactly of a game falls into copying the non-copyrightable portion of the whole and as long as the underlying code is not stolen to enable it then it shouldn't be an issue for the courts. I am also not convinced the art is too close, although it is unfortunately rather similar it looks like a lot of the Zynga other properties to me, a consistent penmanship that isn't aesthetically pleasing to me but I would also say does not look to be clearly EA's (and even if it was then I would say close but not too close - this is no asset theft).

Edit: I should add much of my understanding of this (IANAL) comes from articles such as this and if you'd like to read more of my views on patents and copyright then I talked about it here (which brings up a lot of these ideas but from the perspective of 'could we rid the world of all patents and how would that work? Copyright seems like it does a good job of establishing the worth of a complex idea in a sea of possibility').

#30 Posted by JoeyRavn (4977 posts) -

@Shivoa said:

In this case then Zynga is not very good at their reverse engineering but they do seem to have a reasonably consistent visual style to their products that in this case it a tight match for EA's work but it is all a generic style of Flash vector art, low bandwidth cute that I do not think either company created or can claim ownership of (just an no one can claim ownership of pixel art).

Again, EA is not claiming ownership of the visual style. Or each individual gameplay mechanic. EA is saying that Zynga took The Sims Social, dissected each gameplay mechanic, created new assets that look really similar to those of The Sims Social and put out a game that is, basically, The Sims Social with another title. Yes, effectively, Zynga "cloned" The Sims Social (and countless other games) as you describe at the start of your post. I don't think you can get away from being sued for copyright infringement by doing this. And, in fact, I do think you should get sued, because it's an extremely scumbag way of doing business.

But that is a long way from EA claiming that they own vector art, or pixel art or leveling up or micro-transactions. And, truly, that is not their purpose. Saying that they will try to copyright all those mechanics is just conjecture and a slippery slope based on EA's less-than-favorable reputation. As the OP said, this is not a popularity contest (even though it's clear that he abhors EA). Zynga's theft is blatantly obvious. I just don't see how anyone would defend them and "side" with them.

#31 Posted by Nonapod (126 posts) -

@Shivoa: It's all fine and good to delineate between copyright violation being strictly copying of source code and cloning being closely reverse engineering functionality, but I have no idea if that distinction is in any legal precedents. Unfortunately I suspect it's not so explicitly clear in the legal world.

#32 Edited by Shivoa (626 posts) -

@Nonapod: Agreed, I do not have the foundation in case histories to give a definitive answer but I know ReactOS have been very careful with their reverse engineering to comply with US legal requirements (the person who documents or disassembles the code cannot also be the person who writes your 'clone' code) but I don't think they've ever been taken the court by MS and don't know why they state this precise process as being required by US law (and which cases generated that standards requirement).

My wider point is all gameplay mechanics and functional button choice selections are functional components of the code and so should not be in any way copyrightable for the current way software houses do business to be in any way sustainable. If copyright was shown to expend to functional components then the entire reverse engineering thing currently seen as legal would come under attack and everyone would sue each other out of existence. I think in gaming this is why people who get cloned do not try to pursue the other person via legal action as we can all see how tugging at the house of cards can bring everything down and lead to copyright action as patent for mechanics.

Edit: it is worth saying that while I don't agree with people who say this is within the realm of copyright infringement on the totality of the rough duplication of the whole work/art and exact duplication of functionality; there might be a case in likelihood of confusion for a consumer in the marketplace but that is a trademark issue and I'm not sure it's a solid case. I would certainly think that kind of legal argument would carry more weight in going after cloners, especially when both products are being sold in the same 'shop' (Facebook). But maybe there isn't even a trademark issue (way away from my knowledge, I just know that as I mention earlier supermarket own brand has to be careful about bottle shapes and package style and just using a different product name doesn't save you from trademark issues so if the screenshots on a store page/app install page and design work is so close that seems like you'd possibly have a case to answer, just not a copyright infringement one).

#33 Posted by Chroma_Auron (112 posts) -

http://www.joystiq.com/2012/08/03/highlights-from-eas-lawsuit-against-zynga/

Here is the joystick article along with the legal document that you can examine for yourselves. While separately these elements would be fine but many of them are copied almost exactly. The graphical style, furniture, the Hud, exact same mechanics without any variations, and some of the animations. Include how close to each other in release dates and you got a case of blant copyright infringement.

#34 Posted by bwheeeler (453 posts) -

Sure are a lot of people who have no clue what the fuck they're talking about in here!

#35 Posted by Superanos (15 posts) -
@Chroma_Auron:  That's also how I see it. This isn't just Zynga creating a game of the same genre with similar gameplay, it's EXACTLY THE SAME GAME with slightly different graphics that still look very similar to the original product.
#36 Posted by Brodehouse (9966 posts) -

Also, there are already gameplay designs that have been copyrighted. Namco owns mini-games in load screens. Nintendo owns the industrial design to the cross shaped d-pad.

#37 Posted by deadly_polo (471 posts) -

Having read the claim filed by EA, there are so many similarities I can't see anything but an EA win or a settlement financially benefiting EA (which is the only way The Ville can continue to exist). It does seem to be quite blatant, though I haven't played either so I can't comment on the differences which obviously EA have not set forth.

#38 Posted by kristov_romanov (459 posts) -

I am still undecided regarding my thoughts on the whole EA v Zynga issue, though I am leaning towards EA. What I do acknowledge are the interesting, well thought out, points put forward by @Salarn

#39 Posted by nintendoeats (5975 posts) -

I guess the question to ask is: Should id Software be allowed to sue 3d Realms for making a doom clone?

I think we can all agree that we don't want to live in that world.

#40 Edited by Salarn (465 posts) -

@Brodehouse said:

Also, there are already gameplay designs that have been copyrighted. Namco owns mini-games in load screens. Nintendo owns the industrial design to the cross shaped d-pad.

They actually own patents, so it's slightly different. WIth the d-pad that's a physical piece of hardware it's patent expired in 2005, the name "d-pad" is a Nintendo copyright but like bandaid and 'adhesive medical strips' the name has limited power. Immersion owns patents on two motor rumble which caused Sony to drop rumble from the first run of PS3 controllers (allegedly), Nintendo owns the patent on one motor rumble.

There are also patents on "guide arrows" owned by Sega, in game custom sound tracks by Microsoft, and Nintendo owns a patent on "insanity" in video games.

The key difference here between patents and copyright is that patents don't have the 'implicit copyright' law where anything you make is granted free automatic copyright protection. A patent has to go through submission, and while still horrible flawed, takes a lot more effort than doing nothing to receive copyright protection. A big company could just casual browse the successful games, and snipe them one after another after they are made with previous copyright claims.

EA taking the copyright route on this is the issue, and they were very smart about it. Zynga is in a terrible spot, everyone hates them, they are in no position to compete dollar wise on lawyer fees, a great time for someone to kick them when they are down. Of course EA has a HUGE stake in all of this.

EA has been working with the biggest copyright bullies, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tetris_Company and must have gotten a taste for it. After paying up to 1.3B for PopCap Games, Inc. EA got some really great games and gameplay there.

The Tetris Company owns no copyrights or patents outside of the name "Tetris" not even "Tetrimino" but, actually, I was wrong in my original post. There was a previous ruling on gameplay copyright in June 2012, sorry I missed that.

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/06/defining-tetris-how-courts-judge-gaming-clones/

I still stand by my original point however, I'd much rather see clones and have big companies squish the little ones by burning marketing dollars, than to have the copyright lawyers of big companies decided which games can get made or published.

#41 Posted by The_Nubster (2169 posts) -

@bwheeeler said:

Sure are a lot of people who have no clue what the fuck they're talking about in here!

Well, don't you sound knowledgeable about this.

#42 Posted by Humanity (9376 posts) -

@Salarn: None of what you're afraid is going to happen, or it's very unlikely that it will, so you shouldn't worry about it. EA is a big company, but it would not survive a holy war with every known developer over copyright laws and they know it. On the flipside if Zynga wins this case it will reinforce their position of blatantly stealing ideas and re-releasing them under their name. If Zynga wins then they will definitely continue their practices and thats a known quantity.

#43 Posted by Salarn (465 posts) -

@Humanity: I don't think Zynga's survival is going to hinge on this or not, they are in a pretty bad spot right now their odds of surviving the year in any resemblance of what they were is pretty much moot. The most interesting thing will be who will end up buying them out, that could be affected by this lawsuit here, if Zynga ends up owning EA hundreds of million in damages, EA could then buy them with a low ball price to wipe the debt.

I'm not trying to come off here as 'chicken little' or anything, copyright and patent laws are a huge problem with many areas of industry. Copyright Trolls and Patent Trolls do exist and I want them as far away from my hobby and livelihood as possible. The previously mentioned patents (interactive load screens, vertically scrolling 3D notes, insanity, rumble) have their existence made gaming better?

#44 Posted by JoeyRavn (4977 posts) -

@nintendoeats said:

I guess the question to ask is: Should id Software be allowed to sue 3d Realms for making a doom clone?

I think we can all agree that we don't want to live in that world.

But this is clearly not the case here. Duke Nukem 3D (if that's the game you're talking about) has enough original content to distinguish itself from Doom without any cause for confusion. I suggest you read EA's complaint if you think this is a case of someone merely making a game similar to another one.

#45 Posted by BionicRadd (617 posts) -

Point of order, there have been dozens of Sims ripoffs over the years and EA has never bothered suing, as far as I know. The Desperate Housewives game for the PC was almost a reskin of Sims 2 and EA made not a peep. Gameloft has proven, time and again, that you can "clone" a game without actually wholesale ripping it off.

I see where you're coming from, but you're intentions are misguided. What we should hope for is a ruling similar to the Tetris ruling someone has already mentioned. This isn't the first time Zynga has been accused of wholesale copying, but this is the first time they did it to a company with the legal firepower to really address it.

So, no, not pulling for Zynga. I hope they crash and burn and the people unfortunate enough to work for them can hopefully find employment at a company that isn't so reprehensible.

#46 Edited by Shivoa (626 posts) -

@bwheeeler said:

Sure are a lot of people who have no clue what the fuck they're talking about in here!

Thanks, you have provided an unlimited bounty of links to trusted sources and your own descriptive text there to help illuminate us.

Obviously the closest most of us will ever come to this is via reporting on the issues (like my link to the Free Software Magazine article, it does not claim to be written by a lawyer, just someone who has had their work-related needs explained to them by a lawyer in layman's terms), some of us will have done some legal issues as it relates to out field (legal and ethics for computer scientists for example, these are very broad and shallow (due to teaching time constraints) University level courses and are often regional so I mainly read about UK and European law on that course as part of my degree) but that is miles away from having a deep understanding of the subject.

Copyright, patents, and trademark are of critical importance to people in the software development industry (who would rather not get sued) but we're all coders and don't spend a lot of time talking to lawyers (especially at the junior grades) and common law is all precedent case based so keeping up to date on exactly what has been decided and what is so similar to previously decided cases to be a likely slam dunk and what new ground is being cemented with each new case being brought is not going to be in our likely wheelhouse. In the end each new case could go either way (roughly speaking) and could have little to major ramifications based on how broadly it is considered to apply to future cases. I agree with

#47 Posted by laserbolts (5323 posts) -

People really hate Zynga. What did they do?

#48 Posted by Salarn (465 posts) -

@laserbolts:

They are known for reproducing games as close as possible to their competitors, often smaller developers, often so close the differences wouldn't stand up under scrutiny.

However, they also pioneered the successful marketing of Facebook games, that have a tendency to spam your friends, gate progress behind micro translations and rely on simply skinner box gameplay.

EA is also hated, just in this case the ?lesser of two evils?

#49 Edited by laserbolts (5323 posts) -

I understand the ripping off other games point but honestly who isn't guilty of that? As for the Facebook games thing personally I have no problem with that. It gives older people something to do on their computers and you can turn off the notifications on your Facebook.

#50 Posted by Brodehouse (9966 posts) -

Remember how everyone supported Runic when they accused that Chinese company of lifting design and assets from and repackaging them as their own 'similar' game? Who exactly was beating the "Runic is trying to copywrite gameplay!" drum in that case? It's amazing that you can get a full 180 of opinion about an identical case just by changing the name of the victim. Thank Christ actual law doesn't work that way.