Capcom games like Resident Evil 4 and Devil May Cry allegedly used unlicensed copyrighted photos extensively in its games to build out environments, details, and even the Resident Evil 4 logo, according to a new lawsuit filed Friday.
Designer Judy A. Juracek filed her initial complaint in a Connecticut court on Friday. In the lawsuit, she alleged that Capcom used photos from her copyrighted book, Surfaces, in multiple games, including Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry, and other Capcom games. Surfaces is a collection of 1,200 photographs of textures that Juracek photographed herself; the book is intended to be used for “visual research” for artists, architects, and designers, according to the book’s description. It was originally published in 1996. The collection comes with a CD-ROM of the images — but Juracek said she requires people to license images from her for commercial use by contacting her directly. Juracek said in the lawsuit that Capcom never contacted her for a license.
Juracek pointed out at least 80 photographs that are used in different scenarios across Capcom’s games, with more than 100 pages of documentation. One instance called out in the lawsuit is regarding a shattered glass texture used in the Resident Evil 4 logo.
Juracek said she took the photo of glass in Italy. “It is hard to imagine that Juracek would take a photo of shattered glass in Italy and interior mansion door design and that Capcom artists would reproduce the exact same pattern of shattered glass in a logo and interior design without benefit of Juracek’s photographs,” she said in the lawsuit.
In more than 100 pages of supporting case documents, Juracek pointed out more than 200 instances of her photographs allegedly being used in Capcom’s games. This includes everything from marbled textures to ornate sculptural details that are recognizable and abundant in Capcom games.
Part of Juracek’s evidence comes from the 2020 Capcom data breach, which happened in November. In that leak, Resident Evil Village’s launch plans were prematurely revealed, and personal information for hundreds of thousands of people had been compromised, including customers, shareholders, and employees, Capcom said. Capcom reportedly received a ransom note in the attack, before information was leaked online. That information included some “high resolution images of artwork used in Resident Evil and other games,” Juracek said.
“The file names for at least one of the images from the Capcom hacked files are the same file names as those used on the [Surfaces] CD-ROM,” she alleged. The lawsuit shows a metal texture that was labeled “ME009” on Juracek’s CD-ROM, and labeled the same in the Capcom folders.
In the lawsuit, Juracek noted that Capcom was also recently accused of copying Dutch filmmaker Richard Raaphorst’s monster designs for the new Resident Evil Village game. Raaphorst found out about the allegedly stolen design after fans contacted him about one of the characters from his film Frankenstein’s Army being the basis for Village’s propeller-headed bad guy, Sturm, he told Eurogamer.
Juracek’s lawyers are asking the court to award her up to $12 million in damages on a count of copyright infringement. She’s also seeking damages for “false copyright management and removal of copyright management:,” $2,500 to $25,000 for each used photograph.
A Capcom representative told Polygon that the company is “aware of the lawsuit” and has “no further comment.”
The full complaint is available below.
Update: This story has been updated to include a statement from Capcom.
Update (June 7, 2021): Jonathan A. Winter, Juracek’s lawyer, told Polygon in an emailed statement: “We put together a very detailed complaint which we think speaks for itself. Other than that, we have no further comment.”
Update (Feb. 8, 2022): Photographer Judy A. Juracek and Resident Evil developer Capcom have filed to dismiss the lawsuit regarding the use of Juracek’s alleged stolen photographs in Capcom games. Details of the resolved dispute are not publicly available. Reached for comment, Juracek’s lawyer pointed Polygon toward a prepared statement. Juracek’s lawyer, Jonathan A. Winter, declined to provide further comment.
Capcom and Judy Juracek have amicably resolved their dispute concerning the alleged use of Ms. Juracek’s photos in Capcom’s games. A dismissal was filed on February 7, 2022 with the District of Connecticut to end the lawsuit.
Capcom has not responded to Polygon’s request for more information.