Published by LawTechie - May 1, 2012 - LawTechie

CopyrightAngry gamers and fans have flooded Amazon to criticize a book series published in 2003 called Link, as the release of Assassin’s Creed 3 maybe halted. Ubisoft is recently the target of a $5-million copyright lawsuit by an American novelist John Beiswenger who claims that certain aspects of the plot from Assassin’s Creed franchise have been taken from his book series. John L. Beiswenger v. Ubisoft Entertainment, 12-cv-00717 (M.D.P.A., filed April 17, 2012).

According to Patent Arcade, Beiswenger stated:

“The conception and creation of a link device and process whereby ancestral memories can be accessed, recalled, relived, and re-experienced by the user.”

The plot of Assassin’s Creed franchise is based on a device called Animus used by the main character to allow him to experience his ancestral memories. To compare, in the Beiswenger’s novel the “link” device can be used by the characters to retract ancestral memories as well. Moreover, he claims that the use of certain religious imagery in conjunction to the use of a device within the storyline is sufficient evidence to ascertain that Ubisoft has breached his copyright. The allegations are made against diverse portions of the game series, including publication, and trailers.

The novelist is asking for up to $5 million in damages pending on whether Ubisoft infringed his copyright accidentally or intentionally.


The court will have to interpret whether Ubisoft has allegedly infringed Beisenger’s novel by lifting the plot entirely from his novel or just the idea of the device that permits characters to experience ancestral memories. The idea of a device has been developed in prior publications such a 1981 novel, “The Died Twice” by Alan Hathaway. Unless Ubisoft had gone so far as to copy the entire plot from “Link” (e.g., the novelist’s expression) the idea argument would fall on its face.

Tim Bukher’s comments: This should make for a nice idea/expression dichotomy analysis, if only to confirm that plaintiffs should not bring silly lawsuits. Reading the complaint (linked above), the novelist seems to be complaining that Ubisoft copied the following: the idea for a device that allows people to experience the past based on genetic memory, a story that features assassins and assassinations, and a story that features a struggle between…wait for it… good and evil. What used to be called “genre fiction” seems today to be an actionable infringement. Based on the pleadings alone, I doubt this case will survive a motion to dismiss. We won’t have to wait long to see what the Court thinks of the case’s merits since a motion for preliminary injunction has been filed and plaintiff needs to convince the Court that he is likely to succeed on the merits to win the injunction motion.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.


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