Tag Archives: lawsuit

X-Men’s Theme Song Faces Lawsuit Over Similarities to Hungarian Police Drama

X-Men: The Animated Series is accused of stealing its theme song from a Hungarian show in a new lawsuit.
Image: Fox Kids, Hungarian National Television

The theme song to X-Men: The Animated Series is undeniably amazing, but now there are accusations that it was stolen. A Hungarian man has filed a lawsuit against Marvel, Disney, Fox, Apple, Amazon, and others—along with folks from Saban Entertainment—claiming that the theme song was plagiarized.

io9 has looked over the lawsuit, which was filed Monday and first reported by TMZ. Zoltan Krisko, who claims to be managing the estate for Hungarian composer Gyorgy Vukan, says Vukan’s theme song for the 1980s crime drama Linda the Policewoman bears striking similarity to the one created for X-Men: The Animated Series, which debuted almost a decade later in 1992.

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You can listen to the theme song below. It’s hard to deny how alike they sound.

Linda the Policewoman, which was created by György Gát and distributed by Hungarian National Television, is described in the lawsuit as a “household name.” That’s not inaccurate. Running from 1983 to 1989, Linda was a popular show that not only brought kung fu fighting styles to Eastern Europe television but also apparently contributed to reshaping gender norms during the Iron Curtain.

Even though Hungary was isolated from much of the Western world during this time, the lawsuit claims the folks behind X-Men’s theme song still associated with Hungarian animators, which could have exposed them to Linda. The suit includes:

During the 1980s, cooperation between film industry professionals from different countries, including from the “Eastern” and “Western” world, existed despite the still standing Iron Curtain. Based on information and belief, as professionals in the animation film industry, Defendants Ronald Wasserman, Haim Saban and Shuki Levy all came in contact with Hungarian professionals in the film industry, and were aware of the famous animation workshop at Pannonia Filmstudio in Hungary, where Hungarian film industry professionals, such as Gyorgy Vukan, were frequent visitors.

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Along with the companies, Krisko is suing Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy, two composers for X-Men: The Animated Series who have each at one point taken credit for the theme song. The suit accuses several companies and folks that produced, distributed, syndicated, or otherwise profited from the show of enabling the copyright infringement of Vukan’s work (a problem that could still continue, since Disney is reportedly considering putting the series on Disney+).

That said, Vukan’s composition wasn’t registered for copyright in the United States until 2017, which is when Krisko said he first learned about X-Men: The Animated Series. Krisko is asking for damages and to award any profits attributable to him, and asking the court to restrain them and others from infringing on the copyright further.

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This isn’t the first time the X-Men theme song has been accused of borrowing from other works. Several folks have cited its similarity to Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” which came out in 1990. But unlike this situation, it doesn’t look like that ever resulted in a lawsuit.


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Source: Kotaku.com

Twitch Sues Trolls Who Turned Artifact’s Page Into A Porn-Riddled Disaster

Image: Artifact

Late last month, the Twitch game category section dedicated to embattled Valve card game Artifact briefly rocketed back into relevance. That was almost entirely thanks to the concerted efforts of trolls, who created dummy channels and violated the heck out of Twitch’s terms of service with broadcasts that included anime, porn, and anime porn. Twitch put the kibosh on this in the following days by implementing new security measures. Now, for good measure, the platform is suing people who participated.

Late last week, Twitch filed a legal complaint (via Bloomberg) against the anonymous trolls behind the Great Artifact Porn Explosion Of 2019, whom the complaint refers to as “John and Jane Does 1-100.” The suit targets these people—who Twitch hopes to identify at a later date—specifically for streaming content that included “hard-core pornography, racist and misogynistic videos, copyrighted movies and television shows, and videos depicting violence, including videos of the March 2019 Christchurch mosque attack.” The trolls did this, says Twitch, by coordinating their efforts on platforms like Discord and using bots to evade takedowns.

All of these actions violate Twitch’s terms of service, which Twitch believes constitute “valid, enforceable contracts between Twitch and each of the Defendants.” So, in short, these streamers breached their contracts and, in misrepresenting their identities on the site, committed fraud. Twitch also takes issue with streamers using Twitch-branded art and graphics to promote some of these streams, declaring it a trademark infringement. The company has requested that all involved be legally barred from using Twitch, which would include a ban on posting “violent, pornographic, or offensive content” on Twitch, creating or using Twitch bots, using trademarked Twitch graphics, and assisting anybody else in doing those things. The platform is seeking a reward “of restitution and damages, including, but not limited to, enhanced, liquidated, compensatory, special, statutory and punitive damages, and all other damages permitted by law.”

Legal complaints are generally opening salvos in which legal teams’ best bet is to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Also, the defendants are currently unknown, so Twitch still has some legwork to do on that front. If nothing else, however, filing this complaint does make a statement that might serve to frighten off some of the streamers who still upload these sorts of materials to other Twitch sections, like “Just Chatting.”

As for Artifact, the game’s Twitch section currently has about 100 viewers spread across seven streams. Of those, four—more than half—are actually dedicated to Artifact. Three, meanwhile, are blatant troll streams. So, an extremely small handful of people are still at it, for some reason. At this point, they might want to reconsider.

Source: Kotaku.com

Popular Streamer Sues FaZe Clan Over ‘Illegal’ Contract, But The Organization Says The Contract Is Fine

Image: Turner “Tfue” Tenney

With over six million followers, Fortnite pro Turner “Tfue” Tenney, 21, is far and away one of the most popular streamers on all of Twitch. Now he’s suing FaZe Clan, the esports organization that signed him, over a contract that he and his attorney feel is “oppressive” and, in some cases, “illegal.”

Tenney’s main grievances stem from apparent limitations on his ability to make money off of sponsored content, as well as alleged restrictions FaZe places on players who try to make sponsorship deals independently, sans any sort of arrangement on FaZe’s behalf. The suit—which you can read in full here, courtesy of the Hollywood Reporter—claims that FaZe forces players to sign “Gamer Agreements” that lock them into branded deals procured by FaZe, on which FaZe then claims a “finder’s fee” of up to 80 percent. Kotaku contacted Tenney, but has not yet heard back.

Tenney’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, provided Kotaku with a statement on his motivations for taking this case. “I decided to take this case because I was outraged when I heard about how gamers and streamers were being taken advantage of by their representatives,” he said in an email. “The contract in this case clearly violates the Talent Agencies Act and is unconscionable. My hope is that this case will lead to a better, safer environment for streamers and esports professionals at large… I intend to represent gamers and streamers who are being taken advantage of until this behavior has been eradicated. If you have been taking advantage of them, your time has come.”

FaZe Clan provided Kotaku with a statement, as well: “We’re shocked and disappointed to see the news of Tfue’s press article and lawsuit. Over the course of our partnership with him, which began in April 2018, FaZe Clan has collected:

$0 – Tournament Winnings

$0 – Twitch Revenue

$0 – YouTube Revenue

$0 – from any social platform

In fact, we have only collected a total of $60,000 from our partnership, while Tfue has earned millions as a member of FaZe Clan. While contracts are different with each player, all of them—including Tfue’s—have a maximum of 20% to FaZe Clan in both tournament winnings as well as content revenue, with 80% to the player. In Turner’s case, neither of those have been collected by FaZe Clan.”

Tenney’s suit, however, claims that the contract he signed was not fair as it pertains to brand deals, which FaZe did not specifically mention in its statement. The suit reads: “In simple terms, FaZe Clan uses its illegal Gamer Contracts to limit Tenney to deals sourced exclusively by FaZe Clan and to prevent Tenney from exploring deals presented by others; deals that are potentially superior to deals procured by FaZe Clan; and deals that are not saddled with an eighty percent (80%) finder’s fee.”

In one particular case, according to the suit, FaZe apparently passed on a deal with gaming hardware company HyperX due to the company’s own concerns about its business interests. “FaZe Clan perceived that HyperX was a competitor of another sponsor that did business with FaZe Clan,” says the suit. “As a result, FaZe Clan elected to cause Tenney to pass on the HyperX sponsorship deal because that deal conflicted with FaZe Clan’s own interests—its interest not to upset another sponsor and potentially jeopardize and negatively impact its relationship with that sponsor.”

The suit also claims that these practices put FaZe in violation of California’s Talent Agency Act, which stipulates that any party “who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment or engagements for an artist” must be licensed by the labor commissioner and operate under all of the regulations that entails.

“Because FaZe Clan is unlicensed, it has avoided regulation by California’s Labor Commissioner. The need for licensure and regulation, however, is dire. Not only does FaZe Clan take advantage of these young artists, it jeopardizes their health, safety and welfare,” reads the suit.

The suit also alleges that FaZe has also violated labor codes by pressuring Tenney into moving into a Los Angeles-based YouTuber house where, as a minor, he was supposedly put into a series of illegal situations.

“Even though Tenney was underage until he turned twenty-one in January 2019, FaZe Clan would furnish and encourage Tenney to consume alcohol,” reads the suit. “Additionally, FaZe Clan would encourage Tenney and others to illegally gamble at the Clout House or FaZe House.”

The suit says that Tenney tried to end his agreement with FaZe Clan in September of last year, but FaZe apparently refused to acknowledge the termination. As a result, Tenney is requesting that the court end the Gamer Agreement and force FaZe to pay him what he claims he’s owed. This includes money made off previous sponsored deals Tenney participated in, as well as punitive damages.

Tenney and the legal firm representing him, Freedman and Taitelman, believe they are pushing back against an exploitative status quo.

“Because the esports industry is so new, there is little to no regulation or oversight,” reads the suit. “There are no real organizations such as unions or guilds to help protect the content creators/streamers that drive the industry. Most of these content creator/streamers are also very young, and are often unsophisticated, unseasoned and trusting. As a result, these young content creator/streamers are susceptible to being taken advantage of and exploited—often by those that are supposed to be looking out for their best interests. Unfortunately, this has become industry standard.”

Source: Kotaku.com

Axiom Verge Developer And Distributor Say Its Publisher Owes Them Over $250,000

Axiom Verge, the celebrated Metroidvania from developer Tom Happ, is getting a physical release on Wii U this year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the game’s distributor Limited Run Games and its business manager Dan Adelman have said that its publisher BadLand Games still owes them around a quarter million dollars.

In announcing the Wii U physical version of the game, which it will put up for sale later this month, Limited Run said that BadLand owes it $78,000 for physical copies of the game that it never delivered. After that, Adelman said that BadLand has not paid Tom Happ a sum that it believes to be around $200,000—including money that was intended to go into a special fund to help pay for medical treatments for Happ’s young child.

“Badland has literally stolen money from a disabled toddler,” Adelman said in a series of tweets earlier today. According to Adelman, he and Happ had been approached by a number of companies interested in trying to produce a physical version of Axiom Verge for various platforms. They eventually decided to go with BadLand because of the unique terms of the deal that was being offered.

“In addition to matching what other publishers were offering in terms of rev share, they said they’d contribute 75% of their cut to a trust fund set up for Alastair Happ’s ongoing medical expenses,” Adelman wrote on Twitter. Alastair Happ suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Kernicterus, most treatments for which are experimental and not covered by insurance. Years later, after physical versions of the game came to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and Switch, Adelman says that money is still missing.

Neither Adelman, Happ, nor Badland were immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

According to Adelman’s tweets, BadLand, which is based in Spain, was originally set to publish physical versions the game in both Europe and North America. The company later came back and asked Happ to front the money required to manufacture the copies for North America, which Adelman said was a signal Adelman that something wasn’t right. “At that point, we still thought BadLand was operating in good faith—they were just low on cash,” he said. “We were still planning on dividing up the proceeds on the original terms.”

Happ and Adelman organized the distribution of the physical copies in North America, with retailers paying Happ his share directly. But Adelman said that Happ has never been paid his share for the versions sold in Europe. Meanwhile, a Wii U version to be produced by BadLand never materialized at all.

As outlined in an extensive report by GamesIndustry.biz, the boutique distributor Limited Run Games ordered 6,000 copies of the Wii U edition of Axiom Verge, which included a soundtrack, artbook, and other extras, for which it paid BadLand $78,000 in early 2017. It planned to sell them through its website that fall, but the copies never showed up. In early 2018, Limited Run Games filed a lawsuit seeking repayment. It won the lawsuit, but still has not received payment. Despite BadLand temporarily closing in 2018 as a result of money issues, Josh Fairhurst, Limited Run’s CEO, told GamesIndustry.biz that he believes the company has the money to pay.

“BadLand Publishing has released several physical retail products since we sent them our money, some within the last few months,” Fairhurst told GamesIndustry.biz. “Through my knowledge of minimum order requirements with the major platforms and the associated costs, I know that BadLand has spent more than $100,000 (at least) on recent physical product releases. So, they’ve had more than enough money to pay us back, yet they’ve been content to keep our money.”

According to Luis Quintans, BadLand’s CEO, it will eventually pay back the money, but needs time. “In short, this [judgment] says that we have to pay to Limited Run, which is what we are willing to do from the beginning,” Quintans told GamesIndustry.biz. “But for that Limited Run has to want to talk to us and keep in mind that it is not possible to face all the payments at once.”

Fairhurst said on Twitter that now that Limited Run has sued BadLand and won, it cannot make such a deal. “Accepting a payment plan would invalidate our lawsuit and give BadLand a chance to not pay,” he wrote.

Limited Run will be releasing the Multiverse Edition of Axiom Verge on March 29 for Wii U after partnering directly with Happ and Adelman. According to Adelman, they too are pursuing a lawsuit against Badland for the $200,000 they believe the publisher owes them, but “the international nature of the suit” is making it “hard to make headway.”

“It’s frustrating to see @BadLand_Publish tweet about new games they’re releasing, no doubt funded with the money they owe LRG and Tom Happ,” Adelman wrote.

Source: Kotaku.com

Fortnite Dance Lawsuits Dropped, At Least For Now

On March 4 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people must complete their registration with the Copyright Office before they can sue for copyright infringement. As a result, lawsuits against the makers of Fortnite, Epic Games, over certain dance emotes available in the game have been dropped until the Copyright Office’s review of the dances involved is complete.

“The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com brought forth a major change in copyright law in much of the country,” David Hecht, the attorney representing rapper 2 Milly, Fresh Prince actor Alfonso Ribeiro, and four others in lawsuits against Epic Games, told Kotaku in an email. “Previously, plaintiffs could file copyright infringement lawsuits as soon as they applied for a registration with the Copyright Office. Now, plaintiffs have to wait for the Copyright Office to act on that application before filing suit, which, as a result of its backlog, can sometimes take many months.”

The string of lawsuits began last December with 2 Milly suing Epic for putting his Milly Rock dance in Fortnite in June of 2018 in the form of the “Swipe It” emote. Ribeiro then filed a lawsuit against the game company a couple weeks later over Fortnite’s “Fresh” emote which lifts his iconic Carlton dance from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Since then, others, including the Instagramer known as Backpack Kid, have also filed lawsuits claiming Epic stole their dances.

In February, Epic Games responded to the claims in the 2 Milly lawsuit with a motion to dismiss, arguing both that the Milly Rock was too simple a dance move to be protected as choreography under the Copyright Act of 1976 and also that it differed from the Swipe It emote that appears in Fortnite.

The company also shared correspondence with the court at that time that showed Ribeiro’s claim had been denied by the Copyright Office, which decided the Carlton was only a “simple dance routine” and thus couldn’t be copyrighted. A registered copyright is not required in order to sue for copyright infringement, although having one certainly helps. Following the Supreme Court’s latest ruling, however, the Copyright Office must now at least finish processing a registration request before someone can go forward with a lawsuit.

“To best conform with the law as it stands in light of the Supreme Court decision, our clients have dismissed their current lawsuits and will refile them,” said Hecht. “We will continue to vigorously fight for our clients’ rights against those who wrongly take their creations without permission and without compensation.”

A spokesperson for Epic Games declined to comment. 

Source: Kotaku.com

Pokémon GO Lawsuit Settlement Might Lead To Some Pokéstops And Gyms Being Removed

Pokémon GO creator Niantic is looking to end a lawsuit that was first started back in 2016, during the height of Pokémon GO’s popularity. The suit was filed by numerous homeowners who believed the company had caused players to trespass onto their property to catch Pokémon or activate Pokéstops.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, The homeowners are proposing a settlement, which if accepted by a judge in California, would force Niantic to implement new features and restrictions into the popular mobile game.

The features are listed below.

  • Upon complaints of nuisance or trespass and demands of the removal of a “PokéStop” or “Gym,” the company will make commercially reasonable efforts to resolve the complaint and communicate a resolution within 15 days.
  • Owners of single-family residential properties get rights of removal within 40 meters of their properties.
  • Niantic will maintain a database of complaints in an attempt to avoid poor placement of these virtual creatures.
  • When Niantic’s system detects a raid of more than 10 players congregating, a warning message will appear on their screens reminding them to be courteous and respectful of surroundings.
  • Niantic is also working with user-reviewers and mapping services like Google Maps to also mitigate any problems plus maintaining a mechanism so that park authorities can request a park’s hours of operation be honored.
  • At the company’s expense, Niantic will have an independent firm audit compliance with obligations during a three-year period.

The lawsuit dates back to 2016, when some residents were angered by hundreds of players walking around their private property or near their home or condo. Some residents in Villas of Positano condos, located in Florida, described players as “…zombies, walking around bumping into things.”

The case is interesting because it could change the definition of trespassing in the digital era. Is a company, like Niantic, at fault for placing digital items in private locations? How much responsibility should a company face for their players attempting to get these digital items and in doing so breaking the law?

For now, it seems Niantic and the homeowners affected by the game will settle soon. If the settlement is accepted by the judge, named plaintiffs in the lawsuit will receive $1,000 each.

Source: Kotaku.com

Epic Games Asks Court To Dismiss 2 Milly Lawsuit, Claims Fortnite Dance Is Different

Almost two months after Terrance Ferguson, better known as the rapper 2 Milly, sued the makers of Fortnite for including his “Milly Rock” dance in the game, Epic Games has asked the judge in the case to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the Milly Rock is too short to be copyrighted and that it’s not the same as the “Swipe It” dance in Fortnite.

As first reported by The Verge, Epic calls 2 Milly’s lawsuit “fundamentally at odds with free speech principles” and that the ownership being asserted by the rapper doesn’t exist under current law. “No one can own a dance step,” the motion reads. “Copyright law is clear that individual dance steps and simple dance routines are not protected by copyright, but rather are building blocks of free expression, which are in the public domain for choreographers, dancers, and the general public to use, perform, and enjoy.”

In an email to Kotaku, 2 Milly’s lawyer, David Hecht, disputed that characterization. “2 Milly did not seek copyright registration of a ‘move’ but rather a choreographic work,” he wrote. “Epic has infringed that work. The question is not whether Epic’s infringing emote is protectable. The lawsuit is about whether the Swipe-It emote infringes my client’s rights—which it undoubtedly does.”

The U.S. Copyright Office distinguishes between simple dance moves, which can’t be copyrighted, and more complex patterns of movement which can be. “The U.S. Copyright Office cannot register short dance routines consisting of only a few movements or steps with minor linear or spatial variations, even if a routine is novel or distinctive,” the office states. It’s not clear if the Milly Rock clears that threshold.

Epic’s argument also goes further, however, and claims that even if the Milly Rock dance could be copyrighted, the dance that appears in Fortnite under the name “Swipe It” is substantially different. It’s here that the Epic’s argument gets really into the weeds, describing each dance beat by beat and pointing out the differences.

Here’s Epic describing the Milly Rock:

“As shown by the accompanying video clip, the Dance Step consists of a side step to the right while swinging the left arm horizontally across the chest to the right, and then reversing the same movement on the other side.”

And here’s Epic describing Swipe It:

“Using Swipe It, which is performed at a moderate tempo, an avatar pivots on the balls and heels of its feet (not stepping side to side). At the same time, the avatar swipes its arms back and forth, sometimes using a straight, horizontal arc across the chest, and other times starting below the hips and then traveling in a diagonal arc across the body, up to the shoulder (the arm movements are not consistently across the avatar’s chest). The torso of the avatar turns to the side in a three-quarter view as the arm swipes, but the ribs remain in place. The emote also features bent wrists and a rolling motion of the hands and forearms.”

While there are clearly differences between the two dances, they weren’t enough to stop some fans from recognizing Swipe It as an imitation of the Milly Rock back when the emote was released last summer. Still, it’s unclear how these issues, and several others raised in the lawsuit, will be adjudicated in court. The law surrounding copyright and dance, specifically as it relates to portrayals in video games, hasn’t been tested in this way before.

How the judge decides in the 2 Milly case will also likely have consequences for the other people currently suing Epic for allegedly stealing their own dance moves, including Fresh Prince’s Alfonso Ribeiro. That actor’s “Carlton Dance” was recently removed from Forza Horizon 4, a possible sign that other video game companies are waiting to see how the cases against Epic are settled before continuing to incorporate other people’s iconic dances into their own games.

Source: Kotaku.com