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Ubisoft Facing Assassin's Creed Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Ubisoft has a new hurdle to face: A lawsuit filed by American science fiction author John L. Beiswenger.

As reported by GamesIndustry International, Beiswenger claims Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed franchise borrows heavily from his novel, "Link," in which ancestral memories can be "accessed, recalled, relived and re-experienced." The suit cites a great many similarities between the book and the games, and even draws attention to single words and terms.

The novel also features references to assassins and assassinations (John Wilkes Booth is mentioned), and the technology used to conduct the memory experiments is also similar apparently. There are even "spiritual and biblical tones, with references made to Jesus and God, the Garden of Eden, and forbidden fruit." Beiswenger is seeking damages of no less than $1.05 million, with the amount rising to as high as $5.25 million if the judge rules that Ubisoft willfully infringed his copyrights.

We only have one question: Mr. Beiswenger, the first Assassin's Creed launched back in 2007. It featured the same themes. ...why wait until now to sue? Oh, because the franchise is way more valuable...yes?

Tags: assassins creed, ubisoft, link, john beiswenger

4/18/2012 12:32:02 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (44 posts)

Cpt_Geez
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 12:52:11 PM
Reply

I was thinking the same thing Ben, this guy waited 5 years to come out with these accusations. This isn't nothing more then a money grab.

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 2:23:07 PM

Shoot, if I was his lawyer I would have advised him to wait too. If his story is true I hope he gets all the money he can. Once this goes to trial I hope we hear more about it.

Last edited by MyWorstNightmar on 4/18/2012 2:23:57 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:39:38 PM

Or he never heard of the series.

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Lairfan
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 6:24:49 PM

Then he must have been pretty out of the loop.

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PS360
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 12:55:50 PM
Reply

Plain and simple, BS

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 2:24:53 PM

How do you know? You sound rather confident. Have you read his book?

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johnld
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 6:54:18 PM

maybe people not reading his book is the problem. he wants a piece of the action that started years before.

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PHOENIXZERO
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 4:29:41 AM

One, none of the themes this writer is claiming as "his" are original and the developers have been fairly open as to influences for the series. Also, almost sure the first game was in production before this guy's book was even released.

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Underdog15
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 12:59:09 PM
Reply

What about "Quantum Leap"? Mind you, it's not applicable to ancestors, but other lives throughout history are re-experienced.

What about Indiana Jones using biblical set pieces? (The Ark) What about... a whole lot of things, actually... that use historical artifacts that have "special powers"?

What about countless other works that have claimed "hero's" or political/religious leaders that, according to history, are heroes, but in actuality are really villains who wrote history?

A lot of those themes mentioned have been done before. It's just a different collection of themes.

Now... if his book is in reference to templars and assassins (or same idea), employs a main story (and not just a concept) that is identical to Desmond, Ezio, or Altair, or other things... he might have a point.

but yeah... This series is half a decade old. Not surprising a lawsuit suing loose, rehashed sci-fi ideas comes about after huge success...

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kraygen
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 1:07:23 PM
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Actually it's highly possible that this guy might not have heard of Assassin's Creed until recently. I know here amongst us gamers that might be hard to believe, but people who are not of the gaming community have much less knowledge of it's games.

Even if in the past five years he had heard of the game itself it's highly possible he didn't know anything about it's stories and elements of the game.

I keep up to date on most games, but I guarantee you that if you asked my siblings or parents about Assassin's Creed they would only know that it's a video game, parents probably wouldn't even know that.

As for waiting for the game brand to be worth more, that seems unlikely since it's by Ubisoft who would have had $1 million easy even at the first games launch.

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kraygen
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 1:14:32 PM

I checked into Mr. Beiswenger and it turns out he's old enough to be in that realm of not likely to be a gamer. I'm just saying, it's possible the book and the game are similar and while a million dollars is a lot of money, most people looking to get rich quick ask for a lot more.

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 2:29:47 PM

Excellent perspective. However he is not on an island by himself. I'm sure someone in his family or someone that has read his book also has knowledge of assassins creed. He's probably known about it for quite some time. a lot of factors go in to suing someone and timing is 1 of them. Don't sue too early and don't sue you too late. Assassins Creed seems to be at its peak of popularity.

Last edited by MyWorstNightmar on 4/18/2012 2:30:29 PM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:16:55 PM

I understand that, but the man writes sci-fi. Typically, those people are into a variety of sci-fi things; even if he doesn't play games, I'd be very surprised if now is the first he's hearing of Assassin's Creed.

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kraygen
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 10:20:24 PM

Well I partially agree, he probably hasn't just heard about the game, but he might have only found out within the last year what is was about exactly and could have in that time, done research on the game to see exactly how alike it and his book were, sought legal counsel, and then filed the lawsuit.

I agree that it's possible he's just looking to make a quick million, but in this day where people seem to have lost all creativity in most mass media markets, it wouldn't surprise me if he is right either.

As the article states, "and even draws attention to single words and terms." That sounds pretty specific, so I'm just trying to point out that it may be a little soon to call out the lynch mob.

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Neo_Aeon666
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 1:08:00 PM
Reply

Well you know people will use any means to get money. No worries though :P Altair will take care of him :D lol

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CH1N00K
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 1:19:55 PM
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Even if this guy loses the case, Which I'm thinking asking for just over a million dollars seems low for a franchise as big as AC, How much money do you suppose this guy will rake in on people going out to suddenly buy his book to see what the similarities are?

But if he wins this case, I'm thinking of making my own lawsuit. I've posted pictures before of me snowboarding, and I have a feeling Amped, 1080 snowboarding, Coolboarders and all other snowboarding games were based loosely on my experiences... I've got a seperate lawsuit in mind for Shaun White's Snowboarding for defamation of character, because those games sucked that bad....

And I think my grandfather killed Zombies during the war, so I may have to go after Call of Duty as well...

Last edited by CH1N00K on 4/18/2012 1:23:42 PM

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Underdog15
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 1:25:27 PM

Your grandfather did that?

PICS!!! Or it didn't happen!!!!

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CH1N00K
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 1:44:24 PM

Okay you got me. My grandfather wasn't in the war because he was a farmer. The government told him to stay home to work the land to supply crops for the troops....But they did have a bad case of groundhogs one year, so I think I have a good case against the guys who invented Whack-a-Mole....

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Underdog15
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 2:06:04 PM

I SAID PICS, SON!

lol

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karneli lll
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 2:43:20 PM
Reply

Lawsuits take time,maybe he was stacking his chips and doing homework, or probably the guy never heard of assassins creed till it went to colonial america,the game has gained a lot of interest with its latest move.

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Highlander
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:14:01 PM
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This is a frivolous law suit at best. Just because the author's work makes mention of assassins and assassination he thinks that somehow Assassin's Creed is violating his copyright?

Good grief, anyone that's ready any amount of science fiction or fantasy can confirm that there are other works that feature "in which ancestral memories can be accessed, recalled, relived and re-experienced." It's not exactly a novel concept. But he wants money from Ubisoft because their game about assassinations in historical settings somehow copied his book because he mentions John Wilkes Booth? If this case isn't thrown out it will be a severe miscarriage of justice. Ubi should counter sue for harassmen.

Here is the synoipsis of Link from Amazon.
"Contrary to the beliefs of Nobel Laureate Dr. Francis Crick and most modern day scientists, but in alignment with the religious beliefs of billions of human beings on earth, the soul is alive and well and active in our daily lives. Contrary also to the beliefs of most neuroscientists, it is the soul, not the brain, which is designed to remember.

This story principally takes place in the facilities of Search International, Inc., a product research firm near Madison, Wisconsin. They call their work "product research," because the engineers, medical professionals and scientific staff are specifically focused on the development of new products for client manufacturers.

Commercialization of new technologies was the company's only objective until an unusual accident occurred; an accident which led management and the biotechnology research staff known as the Biochip Team into a discovery beyond their imaginations, a discovery which could well be considered the most important to mankind for all time.

The truly astonishing hypothesis, developed by Search International, suggests that at the functional center of the nucleus of every cell is an atemporal Particle of zero mass and infinite capacity for memory a biological singularity. The same Particle is a component of every cell in the body. It is the "fabric of the soul."

The author lets the reader be present right alongside the scientists as they uncover some of the very secrets of Creation, and while test subjects are taken back in time to recall ancestral memories, a process key to proving the existence of the human soul. Intrigue enters the plot as competitors, a foreign government, and a special-interest group learn of Search International's discoveries."

Here is the synopsis from Assassin's Creed;
"Assassin?s Creed is the next-gen game developed by Ubisoft Montreal that will redefine the action genre. While other games claim to be next-gen with impressive graphics and physics, Assassin?s Creed merges technology, game design, theme, and emotions into a world where you instigate chaos and become a vulnerable, yet powerful, agent of change.

The setting is 1191 AD. The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You, Altair, intend to stop the hostilities by suppressing both sides of the conflict.

You are an Assassin, a warrior shrouded in secrecy and feared for your ruthlessness. Your actions can throw your immediate environment into chaos, and your existence will shape events during this pivotal moment in history.
Key Features

Be an Assassin: Master the skills, tactics, and weapons of history?s deadliest and most secretive clan of warriors. Plan your attacks, strike without mercy, and fight your way to escape.
Realistic and responsive environments: Crowds react to your moves and will either help or hinder you on your quests.
Action with a new dimension - total freedom: Eliminate your targets wherever, whenever, and however. Stalk your prey through richly detailed, historically accurate, open-ended environments. Scale buildings, mount horses, blend in with crowds. Do whatever it takes to achieve your objectives.
Relive the epic times of the Crusades: Assassin?s Creed immerses you in the realistic and historical Holy Land of the 12th century, featuring life-like graphics, ambience, and the subtle, yet detailed nuances of a living world.
Intense action rooted in reality: Experience heavy action blended with fluid and precise animations. Use a wide range of medieval weapons, and face your enemies in realistic swordfight duels.
Next-gen gameplay: The proprietary engine developed from the ground up for the next-gen console allows organic game design featuring open gameplay, intuitive control scheme, realistic interaction with environment, and a fluid, yet sharp, combat mechanic. "

Obviously, they are exactly the same and copyrights have been shredded by the dozen...::rolls eyes::

Last edited by Highlander on 4/18/2012 3:14:39 PM

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:35:19 PM

Wow. Your opinion noted, but after reading the synopsis of Link, I think he has a case. I understand that you read it and came to a different conclusion, but it sounds awful similar. Especially when you add the last line of the synopsis.

Granted, I'm not a sci-fi book reader, so perhaps this same exact concept is in every other book out there, but I had never heard of the concept before Assassin's Creed.

“This is a frivolous law suit at best. Just because the author's work makes mention of assassins and assassination he thinks that somehow Assassin's Creed is violating his copyright?”
After reading the synopsis of Link, the only conclusion you came to is that he might say they both mention assassin’s in their works? Really?

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Rogueagent01
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:47:18 PM

Using what you posted there I can't for the life of me think of how there is a potential copyright infringment. However I am not going to look into this guys book to see if there is something worth sueing over, I'll leave that up to the judge. Just from what you have posted there I feel that this may be a way of getting noticed. But if that is the case I hope they counter sue him for everything hes got.

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Highlander
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:48:46 PM

You mean this line;

"Intrigue enters the plot as competitors, a foreign government, and a special-interest group learn of Search International's discoveries."

How does that translate to Assassin's Creed? Any novel that revolves around an astounding discovery at a major corporation with big implications will involve competitors, foreign government and special interest groups. Indeed the plot will thicken... It's all part of the standard playbook for drama and intrigue. These same concepts have been done in innumerable other books. You could make a case that in fact Link borrows some concepts from Philip K Dick.s "We can remember it for you wholesale." and throws in some Jungian Ancestral memory and a bit of religion for good measure. Metaphysics is always good for a chapter or two.

You're going to have to illustrate further how that makes a case for him.

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 4:09:03 PM

It's not just because he mentions John Wilkes Booth, but rather (pulled from the legal document) "'If John Wilkes Booth fathered a child after he assassinated Lincoln, and we found a descendant alive today, we could place Booth at the scene and perhaps smell the gunpowder.' 'Ancestral memories?' 'As far back as you want.'"

Now, the way you put it "But he wants money from Ubisoft because their game about assassinations in historical settings somehow copied his book because he mentions John Wilkes Booth?" sounds a tad condescending to him and his complaints, but when when you actually type out the full John Wilkes Booth reference, well, it paints a different picture.

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 4:17:01 PM

This is a link (no pun intended) to the court filings. A skim through is enough to make it interesting.

http://www.bannerwitcoff.com/_docs/Ubisoft_Complaint.pdf

Or you can follow Ben's link, and from there, another link to get to it.

Last edited by MyWorstNightmar on 4/18/2012 4:18:17 PM

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Highlander
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 5:47:10 PM

No, it doesn't make it any more interesting what so ever. The author in this situation is making a fool of himself and the court will similarly make themselves seem foolish if they go forward with this case. If this were a patent case there would be prior art by the dumpster load. Copyright has no concept of prior art in the way that patents do. However, the concepts involved in Link are neither new, novel or innovative. I've read science fiction for decades and have read stories that features recovering memories of ancestors through various means including DNA. The oblique references to assassins in the Link novel portions quoted in the filing are not entirely central to the plot - are they?

To prove copyright infringement the infringing work has to be substantially similar to the original. If I write a book about a crew of a starship exploring the known galaxy in a ship with faster than light capability, capable of transmitting matter from orbit to the surface of a planet, am I infringing on the Star Trek copyrights? Or the Blake's Seven Copyrights? What if they don't transmit matter from orbit but use smaller craft to shuttle themselves to the surface? What if they use hand held communications devices and sensors and have energy weapons for side arms?

Perhaps we should look further back into literary history for the sources of the ideas that both Link and Assassin's Creed clearly borrow from, they clearly have a case.

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MyWorstNightmar
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 6:54:33 PM

I don't know copyright law and the specifics to it. I do know that he claims to have a copyright for this piece of literature. What I do know is why have copyright laws at all if you can't get your ideas protected? There is a possibility that they borrowed "too much" from his book. In your example of Star Trek, if the ideas are borrowed too much, then yes, that is not right. Specifically, I would think artists get permission to use certain copyrighted ideas from other artists, whether the compensation ends up being as simple as a thank you in the book, or a paid royalty of some kind for the intellectual property. Verizon pays George Lucas royalty to use the term "Droid". However, if Family Guy uses the term "Droid" one time in an episode, do they have to pay a royalty? I don't know. However, when they do their Family Guy Star Wars spoofs, they had to get permission. Music artists get sued by other music artists if their music sounds too much like theirs. It happens often.

How can you appear to be so high and mighty to make these types of claims? "The author in this situation is making a fool of himself and the court will similarly make themselves seem foolish if they go forward with this case."

What is the point of having a judicial system if a man isn't allowed to have his day in court? If the court finds that after hearing evidence from both sides, the accuser is correct, then you are deeming them foolish? Ok.

I'm just interested to see how it all plays out. I will reserve my judgment until I hear all the facts.



Last edited by MyWorstNightmar on 4/18/2012 7:00:51 PM

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 3:47:25 PM
Reply

Idea borrowing is pretty common these days, there aren't many interesting plots left. Bioshock was essentially a new vision from the Ayn Rand tradition.

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trinichinese
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 6:29:30 PM
Reply

the problem with the world these days a lot of people thing they have the right to own an ider just because they think of it first ,dont get me wrong hey his book may be similarfor all we know the makers of the game may have or may have not got the ider from his book just because he mention similar stuff how did he get iders to wright his book from stories from research he did not invent the ider or create some thing new and a mater of fact ,movies ,videogame ,and books have iders and insperation from all different experences in life just different ways to tell a story i will give an example of a story book to movie we all know the cinderela story book and yes they have made movies but what abut the movie maid in manhattan movie it is different but yet the same its just another cinderela story just told differently so my point is his book may be simalar to the story in the game but its not the same

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bigrailer19
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 7:16:39 PM
Reply

It really doesn't matter when he decides to sue. I mean it looks suspicious sure... But several factors could be figured. Like maybe he only found out about the franchise. Who knows. But regardless, he'll obviously be entitled to more money with success of AC. So...

If Ubisoft is ruled in the wrong, it really doesn't matter anyways, he would indeed be entitled. The series is good, but they can't take credit where it's not due. But who knows what's really going on. I havnt read those books so I wouldn't know the difference.

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DemonNeno
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 9:00:20 PM

"The series is good, but they can't take credit where it's not due."

Are you implying Ubisoft doesn't deserve credit for this idea? I highly doubt we've lived on this long and not heard of this guy's work if it was implemented half as well as AC. I read books quite often and haven't heard of either the author nor "Link".

Coming next! Nintendo sues him for using their Zelda character name! It's verbatim letter for letter.

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bigrailer19
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 1:27:20 AM

No that's not what I'm saying. I think AC and Ubisoft have portrayed a very well thought out and meticulous story and landscape.

I just mean in the broad scheme of it all, if this was (and I'm not implying it is) someone else's idea then Ubi can't reap all the benefits. But I will give Ubi the benefit of the doubt because you are right And I feel the same when u say "I highly doubt we've lived on this long and not heard of this guy's work if it was implemented half as well as AC".

I don't read books nor will I pretend I do. But I have never heard of this guy or this book, and I certainly have no intentions of reading it now. I also find it suspicious he only says something now, 5 years after the franchise came out.

I was just speaking generally, not necessarily just in this case.


Last edited by bigrailer19 on 4/19/2012 1:28:04 AM

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PHOENIXZERO
Saturday, April 21, 2012 @ 11:15:10 AM

He has zero chance of winning since "his ideas" are not his or original to begin with and are themes that have been explored in books, television and movies way before "Link" was ever self published to never be heard of by anyone until this week. This will be thrown out, simple as that.

The guy is trying to make a quick buck, that's all.

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79transam
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 7:43:20 PM
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Well if his hope was for attention to his book he got it as I believe I will go pick up a copy. At first glance I thought this was for sure a money grab, but hes asking for so little I almost wonder if he is hoping ubi with settle out of court.

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DemonNeno
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 8:55:24 PM
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If it goes as far as claiming "specific" ideas were stolen, then I can foresee this guy not being full of crap.

Unless he's making idiotic claims for the sake of ushering in urgency for settlement. Ubisoft would have to be a house full of idiots if they actually did this. Hence, I'm betting on this guy bluffing.

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Pyramid
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 9:16:06 PM
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Now that the claims to be the first reward him if he reach Platinum on all AC games. LOL

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gray_eagle
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 @ 11:05:58 PM
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if he wins, how many others who write books will go after devs
just because theres a little simalr too the two?

what "if" theres a book out there that the author feels that (for example)
skyrim is simular to the author's book?

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Chamoru_Warrior
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 12:19:35 AM
Reply

people always seem to wait a while before they file against you for these kinds of things. he's probably been marinating on this for a while and it was just a matter of he and his legal representation devising a scheme to sue Ubisoft. the case will either get dismissed or they'll settle out of court. does anyone seriously think he and his ambulance chaser lawyer would have gone after Ubisoft had the AC series not become the mega hit that it is today? lol maybe that's what they were waiting for.

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13Pabs
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 5:00:16 AM
Reply

You cannot discount the fact the he may have only just realised Assassin's Creed exists.
Anyone who has played Heavy Rain know's the story of kidnapping, Ethan Mars the father and Sean Mars the kidnapped.
A Numb3rs TV episode released 18 Feb. 2005, Prime Suspect, features an initial story of a young girl kidnapped by clowns from her birthday party. The most interesting part of this is the father's name Ethan. He is shown in the opening scenes working in his study which I found very similar to Heavy Rain.
Another TV show with numerous similarities is Homicide: Life On The Street's 27 Mar 1998 episode, Abduction. The opening scene shows a young boy named Sean on a Carousel with his mother watching but as she gets distracted Sean goes missing. Well Sean's surname is Marshall. Also his parents are divorced and the father only gets custody every other weekend.
As you can see it's fair to say that maybe one or more of the Heavy Rain writers had seen these shows, other possible abduction scenario shows or had read about this subject when coming up with ideas.
Now I doubt (correct me if I am wrong) but I would assume that no one has seen these episodes. So it's also fair to assume that maybe the writer hadn't heard about Assassin's Creed.
It's well known that Hideo Kojima has utilized various movie references throughout the Metal Gear games that to my knowledge haven't resulted in court cases against Konami.
However, I as a player of Heavy Rain did feel a bit cheated once I had seen these TV shows after playing the game. So I could understand that a writer would feel violated if he felt someone directly used his ideas with consent.
Coincidently I am currently playing Assassin's Creed 2 which is a fantastic game. Requiescat in pace.

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___________
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 5:18:00 AM
Reply

sigh.
when did the states become such a sue happy state?
no seriously i swear to god tomorrow im going to turn my computer on and see a headline saying man sues dog for growling at him.
as the saying goes, only in america!

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SirLoin of Beef
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 9:12:10 AM

"when did the states become such a sue happy state?"

People here in the US have loved suing each other for years now.

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PHOENIXZERO
Thursday, April 19, 2012 @ 6:13:17 AM
Reply

After doing a tiny bit more digging, author is also an apparent patent troll (if you don't know what that is, look it up) and is also suing GameTrailers because they host videos of the Assassin's Creed games.

His book that no one gave a crap about or heard of until now was published in 2003. Seriously, it had one review before the idiots going to Amazon to give his stuff negative reviews came about and that review looked like it was either written by a friend of the author if not the author himself.

I'm quite sure the first AC game was already in production by that point with basic story elements in place.

I hope Ubisoft counter sues, they certainly won't give in to this guys obvious extortion attempt.

Last edited by PHOENIXZERO on 4/19/2012 6:23:34 AM

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washapdude
Thursday, April 26, 2012 @ 10:07:19 PM
Reply

Well, I'm in the music business and the common phrase used here is, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." It's hard to take a side on any of this because I haven't played assassins creed or read that book, but that's all I have to say haha.

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