Gaming Lawyer Analyzes PUBG Corp’s Copyright Lawsuit Versus NetEase
Last week, PUBG Corp. filed a copyright infringement suit against NetEase and their Rules of Survival and Knives Out Battle Royale games. According to the lawsuit filed in the Northern District Court of California, NetEase allegedly “cloned” PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and released Rules of Survival for mobile devices “at or below cost for the purpose of gaining market share before PUBG releases BATTLEGROUNDS for mobile devices.”
Gaming industry lawyer Pete Lewin analyzes the case in an article on Gamasutra and explains what exactly constitutes copyright infringement. According to Lewin, copyright laws in the US protects the “expression” of ideas, but not exactly the ideas themselves. “For example, Nintendo owns Mario (the expression), but not the concept of a plumber collecting gold coins and rescuing princesses (the idea),” he says. As such, PUBG Corp will undoubtedly own PUBG’s unique code, art assets, audio files etc as these represent its particular expression of its game design choices.
There is, however, a precedent where game rules and mechanics were deemed copyrightable, as in the case of Tetris Holdings, LLC v. Xio Interative, Inc.
“The Tetris case involved a company which for all intents and purposes had recreated Tetris in every material respect without using any of the original Tetris assets (e.g. the exact same sized play grid, the same shaped pieces and same general ruleset). In effect, it was ruled that the clone was so similar to Tetris in all respects that it was tantamount to copying and therefore constituted infringement, even though there was no literal copying.”
Battlegrounds, however, has a lot more elements than your typical Tetris game. Most of which are fairly generic in video games. This means that PUBG Corp. may have a harder time than they initially thought to prove that NetEase copied their game. Even with roughly a hundred pages of pictures showing the games’ similarities.