Bethesda, a well-known video game company, is suing Warner Brothers and Behavior Interactive over a new Westworld mobile game. The company alleges copyright infringement, misappropriation of intellectual property and breach of contract.
According to Newsweek, the lawsuit states Behavior Interactive worked with Bethesda to create their popular game, Fallout Shelter, and Bethesda owns copyrighted code related to this game. The suit further states Behavior Interactive used this same code on the Westworld game, as well as a similar design, features, animations and other parts of the game.
In addition to the numerous similarities, the Bethesda lawsuit also mentions a bug in the Westworld game that is alleged to be the same bug in an early version of Fallout Shelter. The video game company states this is further proof Behavior Interactive used the same code to create the Westworld mobile game for Warner Brothers.
The U.S. Copyright Office defines copyright infringement as when copyrighted material is published, reproduced, executed, displayed or recreated in a way that is too close to the original. This must also have occurred without the permission of the copyright owner.
To show copyright infringement happened, the copyright owner must first prove he or she owns the copyright. The owner must also demonstrate the other party used his or her copyrighted work. This is accomplished by showing the alleged infringer had access to the original material, and that the resulting work was too much like the original. If access to the original work cannot be established, the party accused of infringement may try to claim independent creation. This can be hard to prove if the original work was widely distributed.
Assuming Bethesda has a contract stipulating they own the copyright on the code, this could certainly put Warner Brothers and Behavior Interactive in danger of copyright infringement. With Behavior Interactive’s work on the Fallout Shelter game, it would seem nearly impossible to claim the company did not have access to the code. The real question would be establishing that the code is similar enough to warrant an infringement claim.