Judge tosses copyright claim on Sony's 'God of War'

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Judge tosses copyright claim on Sony's 'God of War'

Thu Mar 11, 2010 @ 04:51PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

252px-Gowbox Video games are becoming more like movies every day, so it's not surprising to see publishers facing the same kinds of idea theft lawsuits that frequently irritate Hollywood.

Sony Computer Entertainment and game designer David Jaffe have just put one such nuisance to bed after a California federal judge threw out a copyright infringement claim by two individuals who said they conceived the idea behind the game "God of War."

In the lawsuit, Jonathan Bissoon-Dath and Jennifer Dath claimed they submitted two treatments and two screenplays concerning a Spartan attack on Athens and the resulting series of tasks initiated by the Greek Gods to restore peace. The story roughly describes the mythology involved in the founding of the Olympic Games.

Judge Marilyn Hall Patel took a look at the multi-hour video game and examined similarities in plot, themes, dialogue, mood, setting, pace, characters and the sequence of events. We don't envy the task of comparing a screenplay to a complicated video game that poses challenges for players in the setting of ancient Greece.

We'd like to imagine Judge Patel sitting in her chamber playing PlayStation for hours; however, it appears she relied heavily on plot notes and expert analysis. The discussion of similarity generally goes something like this: "While violence is not absent from plaintiffs' works, it lacks the thematic centrality and intensity seen in 'God of War.' For instance, plaintiffs' protagonist refuses to kill such an 'amazing animal' as the rampaging Nemean Lion and instead transforms the beast into his 'tamed pet.'"

At the end of a 27-page decision (the interesting analysis includes endnotes worthy of a David Foster Wallace book), Judge Patel admonishes: "No one can own the basic idea for a story. General plot ideas are not protected by copyright law; they remain forever the common property of artistic mankind."

No word yet on what Zeus thinks.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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