EA files lawsuit against Zynga for copyright infringement

Electronic Arts has filed a lawsuit against rival Zynga for copyright infringement, alleging that the recently announced Facebook game The Ville is a "blatant" copy of EA's The Sims Social.

Electronic Arts has filed a lawsuit against rival Zynga for copyright infringement, alleging that the recently announced Facebook game The Ville is a "blatant" copy of EA's The Sims Social.

EA filed the lawsuit on behalf of its Maxis subsidiary, alleging that Zynga's The Ville "copied and misappropriated the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a violation of U.S. copyright laws."

"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."

In a press release, EA frames the lawsuit as a move to protect original work within the industry and against Zynga's alleged history of copying others' "creative product."

"This is a case of principle," Bradshaw said. "Maxis isn't the first studio to claim that Zynga copied its creative product. But we are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it. Infringing a developer's copyright is not an acceptable practice in game development. By calling Zynga out on this illegal practice, we hope to have a secondary effect of protecting the rights of other creative studios who don't have the resources to protect themselves."

"Today, we hope to be taking a stand that helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them."

In the wake of a $22.8 million net loss announced for the second fiscal quarter of 2012, Zynga's stock declined 35 percent. Zynga's disappointing financials were, in part, due to the delays in launching The Ville, the company said. The company revealed The Ville on June 26th at its Zynga Unleashed event in San Francisco and released it on Facebook the following day.

EA's lawsuit follows another filed on July 30th by the law firm Newman Ferrara alleging that Zynga executives were involved in insider trading. The suit alleges that a small group of insiders convinced underwriters at Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to waive a ban on employees selling shares before May 28th, 2012. The arrangement allowed the group to sell $515 million in shares on April 3rd, 2012 when shares were valued at $12.

"We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy," Reggie Davis, Zynga's general counsel, told Polygon. "The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville' franchise — it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today.

"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. 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."

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