EA Sues Zynga for Copyright Infringement

Hey, remember last month when we poked fun at the ability to make “whoopee” in Zynga’s latest ‘ville’ game The Ville and noted the similarity to the ability to make “woo-hoo” in EA’s Sims Social?

Yeah, good times.

Well, EA thinks “whoopee” and other features are just a bit too similar to its game and are suing Zynga for copyright infringement.

"The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance," said Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of EA's Maxis Label. "Zynga's design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social. The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable. Scores of media and bloggers commented on the blatant mimicry."

Bradshaw goes on to note that EA is not the first to accuse Zynga of copying its creative product but does have the “financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it” and hopes that its action against Zynga will help protect other studios who don’t have EA’s resources.

Naturally, Zynga thinks the lawsuit is a bunch of hooey.

"It's unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles,” said Reggie Davis, Zynga's general counsel.  “It's also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga's CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players."

Source: The Verge

Image: Forbes

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Contributing Editor Andrew Eisen

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  1. Conster says:

    Rather than turn this into a giant "EA are the more evil ones here!", "No, Zynga are the more evil ones here!" slap fight, maybe we should just grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

  2. Prof_Sarcastic says:

    I think there ought to be a line drawn because, if none whatsoever exists, then I can take a copy of your game, slap my company logo over yours and claim it's my game.  I doubt many people would say that is OK – if you do, then that's your prerogative, and lets just say that I disagree quite strongly.

    Given that almost everyone (I think) would agree though, there has to be some point between "copying every single thing" and "copying nothing at all", where acceptable drifts into unacceptable.


  3. jedidethfreak says:

    That's where he'd draw his line, because, whether he admits it or not, this all stems from him hating EA so much.

  4. jedidethfreak says:

    Again, it isn't that the game is "similar" – It's pretty much a full-on clone.  Same artstyle.  Same art assets.  Same color scheme.  Same text popups – word for word.

  5. Conster says:

    "Does there have to be a line drawn? Why, because of money?"

    I'm guessing it's because if you don't draw a line, there'd be no legal defense against things like Yeti Town and Armed Heroes Online, and every single marginally successful indie game would get shamelessly ripped off by bigger companies. Though I guess maybe you would call that "out-maneuvering the competition".

  6. greevar says:

    Does there have to be a line drawn? Why, because of money? There are many ways to make money from games. EA would be better served by exploring their options rather than trying to use the courts to thin the competition. It's rather clear that EA cares more about controlling the market than out-maneuvering the competition. 

  7. Prof_Sarcastic says:

    Surely there has to be a line drawn somewhere though?  Assuming there is some level of copying that is not acceptable, the only question is how much.  That's the court's decision, I guess, although we're free to disagree with their choice.

  8. greevar says:

    It has nothing to do about hate for EA. If their roles were reversed, I'd say the same thing. I don't think anyone has any business suing anyone that makes a game similar to another's because they all copy each other as a matter of course.

  9. jedidethfreak says:

    By the same token, how can anyone make a new book if they can't use the exact same words as another book in the exact same order?

  10. jedidethfreak says:

    Of course nothing in EA's game isn't wholly original – they took a game they ALREADY MADE and put it on Facebook.

    Then, Zynga makes a game that looks almost exactly like it, to the point that the color palettes are exactly the same, along with a lot of the art.

    Also, Zynga's clone isn't "apparently better."  It plays exactly the same, right down to the job trees and in-game text popups, according to my wife.

    Stop letting your blind hatred of EA cloud your argument to the point that you are actually defending copyright infringement solely on the basis that the victim of such is EA.

  11. greevar says:

    It's all bullshit, all of it. Zynga clearly did all their art from scratch. It's not like they ripped the asset files directly from the sims and used 1:1 copies; they did their own work based on ideas that are commonplace, mundane, and not at all unique. EA didn't have some revolutionary creative breakthrough when they made their game, nothing in it could possibly be considered wholly original. This is just EA getting pissed that someone is trying to compete with them with an apparently better version of their own game. Since EA has more money and more lawyers, they think they can litigate the competition away.

  12. Michael Chandra says:

    No, you are SAYING that is implied. Now if the lawsuit was heavily based on just things like that, I'd agree. But if it were, you already would have adressed all those tiny points combined to prove it's bullshit.

  13. greevar says:

    No, the point is that there's an implied rule that you have to go out of your way to make game that is lacking any artistic elements that overlap with another game. This kind of expectation imposes a cognitive burden on everyone trying to create a game to put in a lot of effort to make sure they don't overlap because they might get sued. 

    There's nothing I can see in that image that looks like a 1:1 copy. How different can a simulation of our society be?  There isn't much variability in a game that emulates the real world. Strong similarities between members of this type of game are inevitable.

    The skin colors are exactly the same? So what? EA doesn't hold a monopoly on colors. There's no law that says your palette cannot be a copy of another game's palette. That's just stupid. That doesn't make Zynga any more guilty.

    These are games that simulate an American middle class person's life and their environment as they would be in the real world, you can't make two of the games without strong overlap. The similarities I see are the basic common elements that you would find in 99% of homes in America. It's not Zynga's fault they look alike, it's because our culture is extremely homogenized. There's no room for variability.

    If anything, and this is just my opinion, it looks like Zynga actually did a better job than EA and I think that's what the real issue is. Zynga copied EA's idea, put a lot more effort into it, and made it better. Anywhere else that would be called "innovation". This whole to do over this is just people feeling their "property" has been violated, as if anyone could "own" an idea. Ideas are common and worthless; it's the execution that really matters and Zynga executed it better.

  14. Michael Chandra says:

    "How can anyone make any art if they can't use colors that have been used in other works?" That's not what was said. If you disagree, fine, but do not make up fake arguments to then counter. The point is that there are a LOT of way-too-close resemblances, including that the skintone-colour COMBINATION is EXACTLY the same. What you pretended the argument was is not even CLOSE to that. Please stop talking bullshit and actually have a proper discussion, not a fake one.

  15. greevar says:

    Are you serious? Did you really just say that Zynga can't use the same colors as EA? Do you realize the implications of that stupid idea? How can anyone make any art if they can't use colors that have been used in other works? Colors are not applicable to copyright nor should anyone be allowed to "own" a color. That's just insane.

  16. greevar says:

    They didn't "copy" anything. They used the same ideas that EA used. Ideas aren't anyone's property and Zynga can use them if they like. There is nothing between the two games that is technically identical. If making a game with cartoon characters using a highly saturated palette that simulates a suburban lifestyle is "copying" The Sims Social, then I guess Zynga copied them. However, criteria like that is so broad that it would apply to a great number of games. If Zynga made a 3D FPS based on the Army Rangers and used a "realistic" style that included the same real-world weapons and other props, based in any real world locale, would they be guilty of blatant copying of BF3? CoD:MW series? MoH: Warfighter? How about America's Army?

    The reality of this is, Zynga used ideas​ that EA used in their game. There is no copyright that applies to ideas and since no literal piece of work was taken directly from The Sims​ and integrated into ​The Ville​, there's no reasonable complaint. Saying that Zynga "copied" EA is like saying Coke copied Pepsi. There is such a thing as two works based on the same ideas coming to similar results independently. Nobody creates anything in a vacuum. Nothing is original and nothing was created solely by the credited author/inventor. What innovations come about are just the latest iterative step in the development of works that was built up by great number of people over a vast stretch of time. For every game studio that makes a successful game, there is literally millions of man-hours put into it over the span of all recorded human history that makes it possible. Were it not for all of the prior art, collected knowledge, and ever-transforming culture, there would be no EA, no Zynga, and no game industry.

    The court should put an injunction on both of them and order them to settle it outside of court. It's a waste of taxes to let these two companies have a pissing contest over who should have rights to what was mostly a world-wide, eons in the making, collaboration.

  17. jedidethfreak says:

    That isn't what I said at all.  Zynga could have used a different art style.  Instead, they copied EA's.  they could have used a different color palette.  Instead, they copied EA's.  They could have used different text in their popups.  Instead, they copied EA's.  The only difference between the two games that even an ardent player can notice is in the game UI.

    If someone changed around the UI in Mario, would you not say that's a clone if they marketed it as a new game?

  18. greevar says:

    Oh I see! So EA holds the rights to make and distribute any cartoon-styled simulation modeled on suburban life that uses social networks? The exact same style? That's highly​ subjective. Nevertheless, I can see plainly that Zynga's use of color and representation of light has more saturation and detail compared to EA, just for starters. The also put more effort into environment design, evidenced by the more detailed landscaping outside the of house. The objects inside the house look very flat and bland compared to Zynga's art. And I could go on, but I think I've made my point. It's only "the exact same style" in ​your mind. They may be similar, but they are not the same. There isn't a single asset in either game that you can draw a 1:1 comparison and say that it looks like they replicated it ​exactly, pixel for pixel. ​That's just patently false. As soon as you can prove they did that, I'll eat my words. Nothing in EA's version is particularly unique or original and they are just using painfully common elements that everyone is familiar with. So don't try to pretend this is anything but "When we copy, we justify it; When others copy, we vilify it." The games industry is rife with developers riding off of the ideas of competitors that have found the next big trend in games. 

    Let's just call this what it is; EA is pissed because Zynga is competing with them using the same ideas that EA lifted from the other games, common culture, and prior art. EA is just as unoriginal as Zynga. I don't think either of them should be able to say "this is ours, we own it and you can't make a similar one." It's nothing but a underhanded attempt to take out the competition, not by actually competing, but by using the courts to block competitors because they have more lawyers.

  19. jedidethfreak says:

    You can in this case – they copied EVERYTHING, right down to the same cartoony art style.  Are you saying that it's only possible to make this type of game with only one cartoony artstyle?  Or are you suggesting that there is only one cartoony art style?

  20. greevar says:

    Well, there you go. Games that are basically simulations of real world situations draw unavoidable similarities that wander into an area that exposes them to being called "clone" or "copy". You can't make games that imitate reality and complain when someone does the same thing because it looks the same.

  21. hellfire7885 says:



    If you want the game to be realistic or current, then all of that is pretty much unavoidable.

  22. greevar says:

    Every "realistic" modern military shooter uses the same real-world weapons, the same or similar vehicles, the generic terrorists look like they could be from any one of those games, and so on. The same was true for WW2 shooters (CoD, BF1942, MoH, etc.) We also have the Doom clones like Nukem, Quake, UT, Serious Sam, Painkiller, on and on…

    There was a video on Youtube that showed the gameplay of several modern military shooters and aside from minor details only the initiated would notice, they all looked identical.

    So yes, every game company makes games that are just copies of others. Going after Zynga is just hypocritical. Everything is highly derivative of everything else, that's reality. When you realize that everyone​ copies everyone else, you understand how stupid this lawsuit actually is.

  23. Michael Chandra says:

    Ah, so you have evidence that EA blatantly copied there in such a way that their game was not an actual different game? I'm sure the competition would like such evidence.

  24. hellfire7885 says:

    The Battlefield series has much larger, well, battlefields, as well as vehicles, so I fail to see how it's a blatant ripoff of Call of Duty. Plus the Battlefield series has been around a lot longer. The first, Battlefield 1942, having been out years before the first call of duty.

  25. Michael Chandra says:

    Got evidence? Do you have proof of a case where EA blatantly stole a huge amount of mechanics and art from another game to the point where it's not even close to inspired but purely a clone? If so, care to link it?

  26. jedidethfreak says:

    As has been pointed out above, Battlefield came out YEARS before CoD, so Infinity-Ward is the copycat.  Even so, the first CoD was different enough to be on the level.

  27. jedidethfreak says:

    They could have used a different art style and changed the text popups and job trees so they didn't look literally copypasta.

  28. Adrian Lopez says:

    To be fair to Zynga, how many ways are there to make an artificial-life simulator involving human characters in a suburban environment? Should EA be the only ones allowed to make games of this sort? What should Zynga's game look like instead of the way it looks like at the moment?

  29. GoodRobotUs says:

    I think there's a line between 'Games that have similar gameplay to another game' and 'Games that try to emulate another game'.

    There are many games, for example, that are heavily centred around 'Sim City' which is now the property of EA. but I wouldn't say many of them are trying to focus so much on the graphics and style as on the Gameplay and techniques required to play it (logistics, planning etc).

    When a game is not simply taking the gameplay and running with it, but instead attempting to emulate in close detail every aspect of the game they are creating a version of, then things get sticky.

    I'd have to see the finished game to really form a solid opinion, but this strikes me not so much a case of 'Zyngas' take on The Sims' as 'Zyngas' attempt to copy the Sims.'


  30. Michael Chandra says:

    Got to disagree. If a case still is doubtful but eventually decided on "no", that doesn't mean there wasn't a real reason for the lawsuit. The idea from that senator seems much better, where you only have to pay if it's judged to not have a likely chance.

  31. ZippyDSMlee says:

    I had a thought, all IP cases have to have 10 times the worth  of the IP paid to the courts, if you win you get the money back, anything else you lose the money.

  32. Michael Chandra says:

    There's a difference between copying ideas and cloning games. EA is going after the second type here. And as the record shows, Zynga has a history of full clones of other games.

  33. Falcon4196 says:

    This is a no win situation for EA.  Even if they so win the suit it sets a precedence for the industry that will certainly come back to bite them.  As much as everybody in the gaming industry copying each other annoys us do we really want to to become like the tech industry?  Where every time someone tries to start up a new company or put out a new some new piece of hardware a dozen trolls are just waiting to sue them into oblivion. 

  34. greevar says:

    That's not very constructive. EA is just as guilty as Zynga. EA copies other companies just as much as Zynga does. In fact, copying others is how companies like EA got their start.

    "When we copy, we justify it; when others copy, we vilify them." – excerpt from Everything Is A Remix

    Think about that.

  35. hellfire7885 says:

    Hmm, about time someone with some legal muscle went after Zynga.

    Not so fun for the bully when the prey hits back.

  36. Elle says:

    Dear ripoff artists, patent/trademark trolls and other such Bad People: If you are making EA look like the good guys in a lawsuit, you are doing something wrong.

    …if you have set yourself up for a court case against EA's army of lawyers in which this is the case, you are borderline suicidal. Say hi to Tim Langdel for me.

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