EA: Our Zynga Lawsuit is a Fight for the Entire Industry

You can all feel protected now game developers: EA is protecting you against the likes of Zynga. So says Chief Operating Officer and tattoo aficionado Peter Moore in a new interview with Eurogamer. Moore tells the publication that EA's The Sims Social lawsuit (in which it accused Zynga of blatantly copying that Facebook game when it created The Ville) represents a hard push-back against Zynga's business model of cloning both big and small games.

"When we looked at TheVille we felt somewhat affronted by what we saw as copyright infringement," Moore told Eurogamer. "We also feel from an industry perspective that a number of these things have happened before related to Zynga, but there's never been a company that has the wherewithal and the resources to take it to the next level. We do."

"So, we're defending our Maxis studio, and we're standing up for the industry," he continued. "The roots of what we do as an industry is creative, from the minds of people who sit there and build storylines and characters and mesh it all together and work hard to do it. You take years to do that. And when you see somebody, quite frankly, take months replicating what you've done, you're upset. We were upset. We were upset for Maxis."

Moore goes on to say that, "from an industry perspective" EA is doing something that most smaller companies who have been the victim of cloning cannot do against a company as big as Zynga.

Source: Eurogamer


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  1. 0
    greevar says:

    I was using "stealing" in the pejorative sense. There's no such thing as stealing in copyright infringement.

    As far as permission is concerned, I understand the concept just fine. Just because I don't agree that permission is required, doesn't mean I don't understand it. I don't think Zynga is close enough to a copy of EA's work to really call it a copy that requires permission.

    Zynga, nor anybody else, would ever get EA to grant them a license so they can create a game that competes directly with their own offerings. EA would be nuts to give competitors a hand at taking their customers. If Zynga is going to make a cartoon styled Sims-like game, it's going to bear a lot of resemblance to The Sims. It's unavoidable. EA is trying to claim ownership to an entire genre here.

  2. 0
    Conster says:

    First: you used the term "stealing" before I did – I simply copied your usage, although I forgot to also use the quotation marks. And by knowingly falsely accusing me of skewing the discussion, you are skewing the discussion.

    Second: it's the getting permission part that makes it acceptable, just like how it's not okay to take a cookie from the cookie jar without permission, but it is okay to take a cookie from the cookie jar if you do have permission. I'm not sure why this seems such a foreign concept to you.

    Third: in case you've forgotten the part of your post I was criticizing, my point was that it's the not-having-a-license part that is causing people to "berate" Zynga, while Disney is excused, not the repackaging part. And if Zynga wouldn't have been able to get a license, then maybe they should've been slightly more creative.

  3. 0
    greevar says:

    First off, violating copyright is not stealing. Zynga didn't steal anything as far as the law is concerned. If you feel that they stole something, that is merely your opinion and not a fact. The legal criteria for theft requires that the plaintiff be deprived of their property and/or the use of it. EA was neither denied what was theirs nor were they denied use of it. This is a civil tort. You skew the discussion by implying that it is theft.

    Secondly, making highly derivative works based on the public domain is just as uncreative as using copyrighted works. Why should permission make one more acceptable than the other?

    Thirdly, do you think EA would have granted Zynga a license? Of course they wouldn't! They would be enabling a competitor to move into a market where they currently hold a majority. Why would they hand their customers to their competitor. So how is it even reasonable to imply that a license would have solved this when there was no chance of a license to be had?

  4. 0
    Conster says:

    That has to be your crappiest argument yet. When you either "rip" something from public domain or license it, that means you have permission to use it. When you have permission to use something, that makes it not stealing. If Zynga had gotten a license, there would be no lawsuit.

  5. 0
    greevar says:

    This isn't about Zynga, it could be Activision vs. EA for all I care, it's about the dichotomy between ideas and expression. Cases like these bring the two closer together and I don't want that to happen for what it would mean to creative liberty. No, I don't think Zynga is being very creative, but no less creative than a majority of the industry has been for the past 10 years. How many WWII shooters do we have? How many modern war shooters are there? Why do you think they made that parody "Duty Calls"? How many hardcore FPS games are there that are hell/sci-fi themed? How many cutesy anime RPG's are there? 

    And as far as "stealing", take a look at Disney's entire library of films. Every one of them is either ripped from the public domain* or licensed from the copyright holder. Disney constantly appropriates the work of others and repackages it. Nobody mentions that, but when a smaller company does something similar to a protected source, it's evil and wrong. Like they say in "Everything is a Remix": "When we copy, we justify it; When others copy, we vilify it."


    *Yes, I know the PD is free to use. However, it's important to note that they prefer to copy others rather than forming their own expressions. So, to berate Zynga and excuse others that do the same is disingenuous. EA isn't innocent either: 



  6. 0
    Craig R. says:

    If Zynga is your idea of "creative liberty", then as somebody mentioned in another thread, anybody should have the right to steal any game they want, slap some skins on it, and off they go, no problem.

    From the moment Zynga appeared on Facebook, they've been taking everybody else's games and cloning them down to the details. It's well past time they got raked over the coals for it.

  7. 0
    greevar says:

    Wow, nice ad hominem! Maybe it has nothing to do with Zynga but everything to do with how myopic this lawsuit is and how damning it is to creative liberty?

  8. 0
    greevar says:

    You're ignoring the entirety of my argument and repeating the same false assumptions that I just got done debunking.

    "without copyright protection, there'd be no way to stop the greedy corporations from shamelessly ripping off every indie game with potential, drowning it in superior marketing budgets."

    Wrong, it seems that way because you fail to see other ways of modeling the business. Can you make a business around selling copies without copyright? No you can't, not easily and not for long. Can you make a business around selling art as a service? Yes, and many do. Copyright is not mandatory for success, especially today. One other model that is making headway is mass public patronage. People interested in the creation of certain works contribute funding to see that project completed so they can enjoy those works.

    "This would stifle creativity…"

    Wrong, very wrong. If lack of copyright would stifle creativity, how do you explain the plethora of user generated content? You Tube? Deviant Art? Game modification? Music hobbyists that rival record label stars in quality and substance. The truth is, greater access to works and the tools to create is what encourages more art, not copyright nor does money. Money may give an artist the liberty to focus his time into art rather than some other occupation, but that's where money's contribution ends. People aren't driven by money beyond simple mechanical tasks (pack boxes, assembling electronics, etc). Once you require people to make even rudimentary cognitive effort, monetary incentives fail. What drives people to be creative is autonomy, mastery, and purpose. That is the power to be self-directed, attain greater competency in a skill, and have a useful role in society (i.e. to make a contribution to the progress of mankind).

    Creativity will flourish with or without copyright. There was art before there was business, before there was money. There will be art after those things are gone.

  9. 0
    Conster says:

    I'll say it again: without copyright protection, there'd be no way to stop the greedy corporations from shamelessly ripping off every indie game with potential, drowning it in superior marketing budgets. This would stifle creativity (why bother making something even remotely original if people will jump on it and rip you off, and making yet another blatant copy will give you more money and won't get you sued?), which is pretty much what you're arguing copyright protection leads to.

  10. 0
    greevar says:

    It's really not. IP bases its existence on the assumption that it's needed to ensure authors/artists can have a financial incentive to create more works, in order to "promote the progress". However, the power of exclusivity has the opposite effect. They hold back creating content to squeeze every last dollar out of every "IP" that they can. IP is not a necessity, it's just a convenience for copyright holders. There's plenty of other ways to make an art business, they just aren't conducive to the monopolies that they've become addicted to.

    Copyright wasn't even created for the authors, it was created to stop people from printing seditious writings against the monarchy of England. Every modern form of copyright is built on a law that was predicated on censorship and it is still used in that manner today.

  11. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    "It's very important that we maintain the dichotomy between expression and idea because if ideas can be owned, then it will severely hinder the progress of the arts."

    Agreed but I also believe there's a difference between iterating on someone else's idea and simply copying what they're doing.

    For example, I agree with the judge's ruling in the Tetris Co. vs Mino case.  Even though Xio Interactive coded the game itself and created all of the art assets from scratch, it still did nothing more than clone Tetris and sell it as its own.  Even though the blocks look slightly different (slightly different color shade and added highlights), I don't believe that's enough to not infringe on Tetris Co's copyright.  Now had Xio made its own falling block puzzle game, it would have been fine.  As the judge said, it wouldn't even have had to change that much to move it from infringing clone to non-infringing rip-off.  And hey, maybe Tetris with a slightly larger play field would be a better game!

    That's the core of the case here as I see it.  EA claims that Zynga did nothing more than clone its game.  Sure, it coded from scratch and produced its own art but from EA's side of the story, it looks like Zynga may have indeed infringed on its copyright.  And again, that's not to say that EA owns the idea of an isometric life sim game.  Not at all.  The ruling, like the Tetris one, is going to have to be very narrowly tailored to, as you say, prevent companies from owning the ideas themselves.


    Andrew Eisen

  12. 0
    greevar says:

    What I'm trying to articulate is that EA is attempting to dissolve the legal dichotomy between ideas and expressions. Zynga may have copied EA's ideas, but they did not copy the expression. This is my core issue. EA, et al, have failed to create property rights over ideas in legislature, so they try to establish it through case law in the courts.

    It's very important that we maintain the dichotomy between expression and idea because if ideas can be owned, then it will severely hinder the progress of the arts. Once that happens, only the major publishers will be able to create from the ideas they "own". It would form a definitive monopoly that would deny the public the liberty to remix ideas into new expressions. This case aims to create ownership of ideas, perhaps not explicitly, but implicitly.

  13. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    If that's how you're defining "directly copied" (or "exactly" copied, as you suddenly switched words on me) then nothing I've said would indicate that I hold the opinion that Zynga "directly" or "exactly copied" EA which, credit where credit's due, would be an untenable viewpoint.


    Andrew Eisen

  14. 0
    greevar says:

    Copied, as in it looks exactly the same and is indistinguible from the other. And by exactly, I mean that only if all assets in the game bear a resemblance to assets in the other beyond an attempt to emulate the real world sources they are based on. Example: A TV is a TV, but Zynga's TV doesn't look identical to EA's TV and Zynga's characters and EA's characters don't look identical in a side by side comparison. 

    Zynga did their own work, even if that work was to the effect that they replicated the experience that EA provides in "The Sims". This is in no way in defense of Zynga specifically, but to point out the unrealistic assumption that another artist/developer/whathaveyou isn't allowed to replicate the experience of another's work by independent means and effort. Zynga didn't cut and paste EA's content, they only expressed their version of the same ideas. The ideas may be the same, but their execution isn't. And that's the important part. 

    "In fact, "Everything is a Remix" actually supports it!"

    ​I fail to see that connection. "Everything is a Remix" (I assume you watch all four chapters) points out that ideas constantly overlap and situations like Zynga and EA are inevitable as long as they view ideas as property, which they do.

  15. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Unless you're going to pull some semantic BS with "directly copied," such a conclusion is in no way "untenable."  In fact, "Everything is a Remix" actually supports it!


    Andrew Eisen


  16. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    I'm doing no such thing.  As previously mentioned, I've not played either game so the only specifics I can provide you are the ones detailed in EA's complaint.


    Andrew Eisen

  17. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "It should avoid remaking EA's isometric life simulation game and make its own isometric life simulation game instead."

    You're dancing around the question.

    What, specifically, should Zynga have avoided, and what should it have done in its stead?

  18. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    I'm afraid I can't go into specifics (other than what's in EA's complaint) because, as I mentioned before, I've not played either game.

    "Have you ever watched the video series "Everything is a Remix"? You should, it might make it more clear how untenable your viewpoint really is."

    Oh?  And pray tell, what viewpoint might that be?


    Andrew Eisen

  19. 0
    greevar says:

    There's more to a color palette than the sum of its parts, it matters how you use the palette, just like Lego blocks have an infinite variety of arrangements that increases exponentially as you increase the number of blocks used. I can take a palette of red, gray, green and brown to make any number of differing images that look nothing like the others. Using the same color palette, in itself, is not any proof of copying.

  20. 0
    greevar says:

    I was merely trying not to assume any particular gender of anyone. It has nothing to do with my gender. The internet doesn't discriminate (the network, not the people) over gender/sex.

  21. 0
    greevar says:

    That's immensely vague. They did make their own life simulation game, it just "looks too much" like The Sims to satisfy EA's lawyers. They did their own artwork, programming, etc. I don't see how they could be "copying" when they created everything from scratch and only borrowed pure ideas. There is no law against copying ideas and game mechanics are nothing but ideas. To follow that line of thinking we would only have one word processor, one spreadsheet app, or one web browser. Have you ever watched the video series "Everything is a Remix"? You should, it might make it more clear how untenable your viewpoint really is.

    This reminds me of an old saying that is commonly credited to Picaso, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." To append that, "Great artists steal, but not from me."

    You need to make a very specific description of what is clearly infringing, because ideas are not subject to copyright and there is massive overlap of ideas everywhere.


  22. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    True but it's a plural pronoun and my personal preference is to use singular when referring to one person.  My apologies if you're female.  If the English language had a gender-neutral, singular third-person pronoun, I'd have used it.


    Andrew Eisen

  23. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "Anyway, you've already been linked to EA's complaint. Your concrete examples are in there."

    I'd like to hear what you think, not what EA thinks. What should they have avoided? What should they have done instead?

  24. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    If that's all I wrote, yeah but you chopped off the last bit which clarifies what the problem is: it's EA's game with a new coat of paint.*  Kind of like if J.K. Rowling bitched about someone publishing a book that appeared to be Harry Potter run through a thesaurus.

    Anyway, you've already been linked to EA's complaint.  Your concrete examples are in there.


    Andrew Eisen

    *Allegedly.  I haven't played either game.

  25. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    "It should look like its own thing" is a statement vague enough to be altogether useless. Again, I'm looking for concrete examples of what Zynga should have avoided and what they should have done instead.

  26. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    "many models exactly the same" What models? The only reason the character models look alike is because EA dressed them up to be as close to exactly the same as possible. The actual shapes and proportions of the models are very much different. As for any objects in the game, a fridge is a fridge. A tv is a tv. A wall is a wall. Only so much you can do to differentiate those aspects.

    "color palette choices are exactly the same" For the character hair and skin tones yes. But over all, the colors reflect real world colors and are quite different in character.

    "text popups are exactly the same" They have similar wording but they are not copy/paste the same.

    "game layout is exactly the same" No it isn't. There are similar layouts between similar functions, but over all it is as different Doom 3 as is from Halo.


    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  27. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    "exact same setting" Hmmm. I don't know., I guess there is really only one WW2 FPS. Only 1 Alien invasion FPS. Only 1 Zombie FPS.

    "exact same verbal prompts" I know my four letter word vocabulary is limited, but I guess these guys are paid to be creative.

    "exact same color palette" You are right. There are many variations of the Grey Brown palette. How could I have forgotten.

    "exact same models" Well, I guess your right. Space Marines are like snowflakes. No two are exactly alike.

    "Very few, actually, despite the many similarities." My point is that there are always similarities between games of the same genre. Could Zynga have gone too far in making their life sim game? Possibly, but that is no reason to go nuclear on genre building.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  28. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    So, the fact that there are many models exactly the same, the color palette choices are exactly the same, the text popups are exactly the same and the game layout is exactly the same is proof they didn't copy EA?

    You don't really think they just randomly threw this stuff together without looking at EA's game, but managed to copy so many of these things exactly, do you?

  29. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    Thanks. I'll take a look at the complaint, but I'm rather more interested in what people here think Zynga should have avoided, and what they could have done instead.

  30. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    How many of those FPS games use the exact same setting, exact same verbal prompts, exact same color palette and exact same models?

    Very few, actually, despite the many similarities.

  31. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    It should look like its own thing rather than EA's game reproduced through Zynga's visual styling.  The fact that a fridge looks like a fridge (even though that's mentioned in EA's complaint) very likely wouldn't have been enough on its own to prompt people to point and yell "copy cat!"


    Andrew Eisen

  32. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:

    I'm not familiar with those other titles. I want to know which particular features should Zynga have avoided and what, specifically, should they have done instead.

  33. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Your addition is that Zynga shouldn't have to make an isometric life simulation game without upsetting EA's lawyers?

    Okay, true enough but I don't think anyone was actually arguing that fact.  Even so, doing so would seem to be in its best interest, no?


    Andrew Eisen

  34. 0
    greevar says:

    You seem to have a poor grasp of difference between copying and emulating. They didn't copy EA's work. Everything in Zynga's game is clearly their own work, that is to say that every asset in their game someone created from nothing but an idea. What you're getting upset about is that they used the same ideas that EA used, which results in game that ​emulates​ the experience of "The Sims". It merely resembles EA's game, but there isn't one asset from EA that is a direct and 100% copy. Both games are based common, real-world, elements that you cannot forego including if you want to make a suburban life simulator. If you can show me an asset that is a perfect 1 to 1 copy, then I'll retract my statement.

    So to answer your question, I do have a problem with people making exact pixel-perfect copies of another's work and selling it. However, that is not the case here.

  35. 0
    Adrian Lopez says:


    OK. What, then, should Zynga's game look like (specifically) for them to avoid infringement claims. I want concrete examples of how they should have done things.

  36. 0
    Prof_Sarcastic says:

    Although I suspect you might have a valid point, there comes a time when you just Copied Too Much.  The bottom line is that IP law exists to safeguard innovation.  There may not be a ton of innovation in a clone, or in a derivative title like Sims Social, but there is a little.  I see none whatsoever in The Ville.

  37. 0
    MaskedPixelante says:

    Zynga didn't make a Sims-like game, they mechanically copied the Sims. Just like they mechanically copied Tiny Tower, and a dozen or so other games.

  38. 0
    greevar says:

    Oh give me a break. They aren't trying to "fight for the industry", they're trying to stop others from competing with similar ideas and keep new companies from entering the market they currently dominate. It's an anti-competitive strategy and nothing more. If you don't see that, you're not looking hard enough.

  39. 0
    greevar says:

    Don't be absurd. EA, and by extension the whole entertainment industry, is just as guilty as Zynga. They all do it, Zynga just got called on it by someone with more lawyers.

  40. 0
    greevar says:

    No it's not. You're trying to modify the situation to suit your viewpoint and completely missing the overall message. The main point is that people can, and often do,​ come to very similar results independently, using the same ideas. 

    You're trying to draw a direct correlation between the similarities of Zynga's game to EA's, where none exists, to support the idea that they copied, rather than emulated. I think your judgement on this issue is clouded by your contempt for Zynga because they often emulate other games. At the worst, you could call them lazy, but it's not wholesale copying.

  41. 0
    jedidethfreak says:

    Your Statue of Liberty painting parallel is off base – a more apt comparison would be if ONE artist painted the Statue of Liberty, then someone else used that painting to paint another Statue of Liberty painting instead of the real Statue, and they used the exact same colors to do so, and THEN claimed that they didn't copy the painting, but looked at the real Statue itself.

  42. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    You might want to try not immediately assuming people are stupid.  Who knows, it may serve you well.  At the very least, it may save you paragraphs of unnecessary typing.


    Andrew Eisen

  43. 0
    greevar says:

    "Zynga didn't make a Sims-like game, they mechanically copied the Sims. Just like they mechanically copied Tiny Tower, and a dozen or so other games."

    That's 100% false.

    Clearly, you don't know that "mechanically" copied means. To mechanically copy, it would have to be a pure 1 to 1 copy of the game, done by ​mechanical ​means (i.e. photocopy et al), and it would match the other pixel for pixel. Zynga's game is not mechanically copied, it emulates EA's game through similar ideas and "feel". Zynga's game is simply an independently created game that uses the same ideas inherent in EA's game and ideas cannot be owned or their use be construed as copyright infringement. Let me make this clear: Zynga used the ideas that EA used and created a new game that is entirely their own work, there are not assets from EA's game in Zynga's game. They made their own art, music, programming, etc. 

    If two painters decided to paint the Statue of Liberty on the same day, from the same angle, and both produced the same rendering, would one be accused of copying? Which one? Would it stand to reason that both painters sought to create a painting based on the same idea inherent in both paintings and produced each of them independently? Now, let's say those painters didn't paint on the same day. Let's say they only painted at the same time of day with only a month separating them. Assuming neither has seen the other's work, is the first painter the one being copied, or are both painters coming to similar results independently? How about if the second painter saw the first's work and thought he could do the same thing, only better? He goes out the the same location, at the same time of day, within a similar time of year (like summer perhaps?), and produced another painting of the statue, is that copying? Who is copying? The truth is, they both are. They are copying what they see in the existing world, just like the first primitive humans did to depict their stories on cave walls. They say "Art imitates life" for a reason.

    So, what is the bright-line rule here? What criteria carries it from independent work to copying? It's a very blurry line. The only thing that could be absolutely certain is a 1 to 1 copy, that is a 100% pixel perfect copy. That is not what "The Ville" is. Zyna only used EA's ideas, end of story.

  44. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    "Should EA be the only ones allowed to make isometric life simulation games?"


    "Could Zynga make such a game without upsetting EA's lawyers?"



    Andrew Eisen

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