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Sorry Beiswenger, We're Not Buying This

Nope.

Novelist John Beiswenger is suing Ubisoft for allegedly infringing his copyright in the plot of the original Assassin's Creed; the author's novel, "Link," apparently utilizes many of the same themes and ideas.

Unsurprisingly, this lawsuit, which could feasibly delay the hotly anticipated launch of this year's Assassin's Creed III, has resulted in a slew of negative reactions on the part of gamers. As usual, some of those reactions are embarrassingly childish (this industry still has to suffer through such adolescent crap), but many are rational, logical, and perfectly viable.

Beiswenger's lawyer Kelley Keller responded to the backlash by making a few lawyer-esque comments that admittedly made my eyes glaze over. I just know the author is seeking up to $5.25 million in damages and in response to the, "why wait five years?" question, Keller replied:

"The claim has been brought within the applicable time periods required under the law."

Mm-hm. Now, I'm not saying the author was aware of the situation when the original AC debuted back in 2007; honestly, the only way that happened is if Beiswenger is a gamer (and I don't think he is). But nowadays, the franchise is much, much bigger and more frequently in the public eye. There has been time for certain information to come the author's way, and he probably noticed that AC had generated substantial revenue for Ubisoft. That being said, can't we at least be a trifle honest?

The Assassin's Creed name is worth a lot of money. "Link" probably didn't bring in anything close five million bucks. There's enough coincidence to make a worthy case. ...might as well go for it. Of course, it's too much to hope for that Beiswenger will make such an admission, but if AC hadn't gone anywhere, we all know we wouldn't be looking at any such lawsuit. Furthermore, hiding behind a lawyer won't serve to stave off gamer anger, and only makes you look guilty. I would suggest to this author that he issues a statement of his own that might - emphasis on "might" - appease the irate AC fans. Defend yourself in some capacity.

At least do that. Be a man. Everyone over on this side of the fence thinks it's painfully obvious what you're doing. ...then again, maybe you don't really care. That's quite possible.

Tags: assassins creed, ubisoft, link, john beiswenger, assassins creed iii

5/9/2012 8:50:35 PM Ben Dutka

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Comments (32 posts)

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 9:35:44 PM
Reply

I would need more data to come to a conclusion about this, timelines, distribution, specific similarities that couldn't be coincidental etc.

The idea of cellular or genetic memory exploits isn't new with AC or Link so right now it all seems pretty vague.

I don't think we should prejudge him, it IS a disturbing feeling to see your work made popular by someone else but it's usually just that they came to the same idea on a different path.

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ProfPlayStation
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 3:36:49 AM

Yep. People have a right to defend their work. I don't know the exact plot of this book, but the general description does sound very similar to Assassin's Creed, which was released 5 years after the novel. Even while Ben is mentioning gamer whining, this article doesn't come off as much more than that. We don't know the details, and shouldn't pretend to know them.

I also don't see much weight to the argument that he only is doing it for a sudden cash grab. Contrary to what a lot of gamers think, this industry is still very well outside the notice of most people. Assassin's Creed, Metal Gear, Metroid, etc, may be "duh" names to us, but you're lucky if any non-gamers know much more than Mario and Angry Birds. Why wait 5 years? Because gaming isn't a big deal to most people.

There's no way this will delay the release of AC3, so I don't see why people should get upset about anything. Even if he wins, five million is a drop in the bucket for this series. If I thought some game company stole my work and profited from it, I'd sue, too.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 10:08:18 AM

I never said I knew why he was doing it. I merely said by staying quiet and not addressing gamer backlash (and having the lawyer do it instead), doesn't look good.

And I really don't care when he noticed AC. This wouldn't be happening if the AC name wasn't worth what it is. Period.

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Beamboom
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 10:19:34 AM

Of course it would not happen if there was no money to get from it... But does that change anything?

Last edited by Beamboom on 5/10/2012 10:20:09 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 10:23:27 AM

Of course it does.

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matt99
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 2:34:00 PM

Ben, I think the reason he is letting his lawyer do the talking is because this is a legal matter and that's simply the smart thing to do.

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CH1N00K
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 9:41:54 PM
Reply

He's asking for 5 million now? I though he originally was only asking for 1.2 or something like that..apparently someone did some research on how popular this game is...

I'm still curious to see how many copies of his book he's sold since starting this lawsuit...But it will be interesting to see how long he'll keep going with this. Ubisoft has the money to tie this up in court, and eventually the guy won't be able to afford to pay his lawyer and this will all just disappear....

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 9:44:34 PM

Good point, this accusation raises the profile of his book even if it is negative. He could also be hoping for a settlement before ACIII comes out. Looks like anything could happen at this point.

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CH1N00K
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 9:50:49 PM

I never thought of the early buy out, maybe that's his angle. Maybe he's hoping to tie it up in court long enough that Ubisoft is sitting on a game ready to launch that they aren't allowed. Especially around the Holiday season...

What Ubisoft should do is give him Jade Raymond "special" edition copies of all AC games and tell him to sell them on Ebay...Everybody wins!

Last edited by CH1N00K on 5/9/2012 9:51:32 PM

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kraygen
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 3:52:05 AM

His lawsuit is for about 1.2 million with possible damages up to 5 million, so both are technically correct.

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 4:15:38 PM

It could very well go worse for Mr. Beiswenger than simply running out of cash.

Check back on the history of what happened to hack writer Nancy Stouffer when she tried to sue J.K. Rowling for having supposedly lifted the Harry Potter story from Stouffer's obscure work. Not only did Stouffer receive a deliciously worded legal smackdown in the final reckoning of that decision, she also had to pay all the court costs. If memory serves, that invoice was something like $50,000, plus an undisclosed portion of the attorney's fees for Rowling's lawyers. Ouch.

And no, Stouffer didn't have a leg to stand on in her case. She even falsified evidence to try to bolster her claim. She and her vile legal team were hoping for a hush-money settlement to make an embarrassing distraction go away. Instead they got their asses handed to them in court, and then had to pay the bill for the privilege.

Which is to say that Mr. Beiswenger should handle with care in a case like this. The backfire can be pretty severe.

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sonic1899
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 9:53:13 PM
Reply

It's most likely a coincidence, not copying. There hasn't been a single story that hasn't been done already; all that would be different are characters, events, motives, and other factors. He's just blowing this out of proportion

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 10:17:12 PM

With what limited info we have I think that's the safest conclusion.

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cadpig
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 10:23:22 PM
Reply

These type of lawsuits are very difficult to prove. Should keep the lawyers busy.

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matt99
Saturday, May 12, 2012 @ 1:23:25 AM

This has nothing to do with your post, but I love the dramatic chipmunk.

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leatherface
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 10:36:12 PM
Reply

Damn! for a second there, i thought you were not gonna buy any more Budweiser.

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Ludicrous_Liam
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 1:50:49 AM

LOL! Me too! I thought they offered to advertise themselves on the backround, but it was too flashy or something and ben 'wasn't buying it' - like he wasn't accepting the deal. xD

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Underdog15
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 9:05:35 AM

lol No worries. I'm not gonna buy anymore budweiser. :p

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gray_eagle
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 @ 11:58:23 PM
Reply

this is a gateway just waiting to be busted open.

if it ends up being a win for the author, how many other
authors etc will try suing game devs or publishers in the future

this case, even if the author loses. i don't think it'll be good for
the gamming idustry.

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 1:46:40 AM
Reply

I'd really have to read the book to be able to gauge whether AC may really be more than just telling a similar story. On his side, if he's not just pulling this as a cash grab, I can see where he is coming from. Any creative entity ultimately wants to know that their work is appreciated and when something else is quite clearly derived from it and manages to vastly outsell or overwhelm the original work, the creator/s will obviously feel shortchanged.

My BS detector is telling me that he's just full of it though, so... whatever.

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mehrab2603
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 4:05:37 AM

Don't buy his book. He's done it just for this reason.

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 5:40:43 AM

Didn't say I was going to buy it. A library rental and I'll consider a buy if it really takes me by surprise. My bookshelf is made up, primarily, by novels that I believe are exemplary and I don't want to taint it too much.

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 4:23:18 PM

Good luck finding a copy of this thing in a library or a used bookstore. It's a vanity press novel from 2003. It would be astonishing if circulation got beyond 2,000 copies over the course of the book's lifetime.

All of which weighs very much against the idea that the team at Ubisoft even knew about this book, much less ripped it off.

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Palpatations911
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 2:16:16 AM
Reply

He might have brought it to the attention of a lawyer after the first game and was advised to see if the hen laid a golden egg before they took action.

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___________
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 5:55:56 AM
Reply

what i really cant understand is hes suing ubisoft because his novel contains characters using a device to live through ancestors memories.
right?
well, hasent that been done millions of times before?
i mean can you really trademark a plot?
this just reminds me of the day McDonalds tried to trademark the word cheeseburger.
they got laughed out of the court room!
just like this idiot should, just because your book contains people using technology to relive ancestors pasts does not mean no one else can use that idea!
or at least thats how it should be!

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Amnesiac
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 9:20:31 AM
Reply

Has anybody read this novel "Link?" I haven't but I've also never got around to playing Assassin's Creed either. The way I see this guy is going to win his money in court or out of court plus his book sales will start to make a profit again. All because the courts don't respect video games or this video gaming generation. If you can't respect the genre for its artistry then what is it? A kids game with Red and Orange bloops and blips like the original Atari. I hope I am wrong and this guy doesn't receive his "damages."
Really?? a couple million to a guy who wrote a book that nobody has ever heard of?
I hope the Carl Jung estate ends up suing this guy.

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karneli lll
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 1:48:26 PM
Reply

Im sorry but the summary of the book sounds like assassins creed. Go get em John!

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 3:23:03 PM

The summary is irrelevant.

I work in publishing, so I have some first-hand understanding of this dynamic. And here is something that you need to understand to realize how frivolous this lawsuit is:

Ideas are cheap. Execution is everything.

Everyone has ideas. Anyone in a creative field runs across so many ideas during the course of a week that there's no keeping track of them. Taking an idea and turning it into a good book, movie, show, game, etc... that's where the skill is. That's the craft.

So this Beiswenger character has a few ideas that overlap with Assassin's Creed. So what? Did he execute these ideas in a way that directly corresponds with what Ubisoft did? Doesn't sound like it to me. Burden of proof is on the accuser here, and unless he has more solid evidence than we've seen thus far, he's got nothing.

Legal history is littered with these kinds of cases. Most of them don't go the way of the accusers, especially when we're talking about obscure authors who put out their book through a self-published vanity press.

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karneli lll
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 5:24:29 PM

Its not just one summary, i have checked out a bunch of them.You have to admit there are just too many similarities: the genetics, the apple origins and what not. Im betting there will be a confidential settlement.

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Comic Shaman
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 3:11:06 PM
Reply

The most improbable part of this whole lawsuit is the idea that anyone at Ubisoft actually read this book. Even looking at the brief sample on Amazon will reveal that it would be a Herculean task to penetrate this prose. Let's examine the cover alone:

"What better place to look beyond than through the mind of one who saw to that point but no further?"

Parse that gem... if you dare.

If the first several pages in the sample are indicative (and pretty much any publisher will tell you that the first 5-10 pages of a book had better be good if your book is going to succeed), then it would take some serious fortitude to make your way through this novel.

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karneli lll
Thursday, May 10, 2012 @ 5:32:20 PM

I cant believe you're basing it on the fact that the book couldn't have been read by someone at ubisoft! Most people steal ideas from the underdog,for all we know maybe John approached ubisoft a while back and was laughed out of the office.

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Comic Shaman
Friday, May 11, 2012 @ 10:46:57 AM

"Most people steal ideas from the underdog."

That's overly melodramatic, I'm afraid. Especially in any kind of storytelling field (games, books, movies, etc.). Nobody needs to steal ideas. Ideas are cheap. Every writer, studio, publisher, or developer is swimming in more ideas than they can ever bring to fruition.

Here's what does happen. A creator will come up with a character or story, sign their rights away to a larger entity, and get the needle when their idea hits it big. That's a historically recognizable pattern.

Here's what does NOT happen. Members of a development studio are so bereft of ideas that they trawl through obscure, unsuccessful, self-published, poorly written books until they find the unrecognized gem of an idea that they can steal and turn into a big hit.

Oh, and if Beiswenger approached Ubisoft in the embryonic stages of Assassin's Creed's development, that would certainly have featured in his case. And he probably would have brought his suit earlier.

Maybe this is the rare exception where there is something to the case. I highly doubt it, but there's always the possibility. The fact is, though, that usually nobody steals ideas from unsuccessful sources. And there is a long, long history of successful franchises attracting opportunistic parasites who want to try to cash in. Which is what this looks like to me.

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