Ubisoft Sued Over The Animus For Copyright Infringement
John L. Beiswenger is a research engineer and science-fiction author who claims that Ubisoft pinched the idea for Assassin’s Creed from his novel, Link. He certainly isn’t the most acclaimed sci-fi writer of our time so it’s doubtful that Ubisoft even knew his book existed but let’s hear what the man has to say.
Beiwenger’s novel is part sci-fi, part theoretical science and delves into using a “Bio-synchronizer” which allows ancestral memories to be “accessed, recalled, relived and re-experienced.” Sounds familiar, no? Now consider that Link was published 4 years before Assassin’s Creed was first released.
“If John Wilkes Booth fathered a child after he assassinated Lincoln, and we found a descendant alive today, we could place Booth at the scene and perhaps smell the gunpowder. Ancestral memories? As far back as you want,” reads an excerpt from the novel.
Above and beyond this, Beiswenger claims that there are strong thematic similarities between the two intellectual properties. In particular “spiritual and biblical tones, with references made to Jesus and God, the Garden of Eden, and forbidden fruit”, as well as the reliance on “accurate historical moments through their ancestors’ memories”.
The writer claims: “Ubisoft have directly copied, and directly and contributorily infringed on the whole of Plaintiff’s copyrighted work” with the release of games, guides, comic book series and trailers.
In what is best described as a delayed reaction to a game that was made 5 years ago or a way to make a quick buck, Beiswenger is suing Ubisoft for copyright infringement and is looking for “damages in an amount not less than $1.05 million.” That figure goes up to $5.25 million if the judge rules in his favour. In the interim, he’s trying his damnedest to make sure that Assassin’s Creed III and any related products are not released.
And now for the rebuttal. Whether Ubisoft drew from Beiswenger’s work or not is irrelevant because the two works are completely different media. It’s like me writing a short story based on a painting I saw and the artist suing me for copyright infringement. Ubisoft may have taken inspiration from the book and used it as a platform on which to build the premise of their game but there is so much else going and so much around that that Beiswenger really has no claim to it.
The fact that Beiswenger took so long is surely testament to the fact that he doesn’t care about copyright infringement so much as he does about money which is precisely why he would wait until the franchise is worth as much as it is. You don’t exactly see Isaac Asimov, or whoever owns the rights to his works, suing everybody left, right and centre who decides to put sentient robots in their movies or games. It would be a very different story if AC was a book but it isn’t, not primarily at any rate since books of the games do exist.
If you really want to see copyright infringement, take a gander at the Eragon series of books and notice the myriad of similarities to Star Wars. It’s so clear that you can draw straight comparisons with characters and events and even the colours of the dragons correspond to colours of various character’s lightsabres. Hell, it’s Star Wars with dragons.
I find it absurd that Beiswenger has a leg to stand on in this lawsuit given how starkly different the two mediums are. Besides, writers for things such as games and movies take inspiration from books all the time because even if you do borrow an idea or concept, it’s a completely different medium and you’re using/portraying in a completely different way.