Ubisoft Files Against Author’s “Frivolous” Lawsuit

By John Walker on May 31st, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

I want to make the paddle slash creek joke again, but I won't.

I can only assume I Inceptioned the idea into Ubisoft’s collective head. Yesterday, reporting on the news that John Beiswenger had dropped his daft lawsuit against Ubisoft, I contacted the publisher to ask if they were now going to respond to the extreme allegations of illegal activity made against them by Beiswenger’s lawyer. Despite the promise of a statement in return, nothing came, and yet today via Gamasutra they’ve announced they’re filing a complaint against the eccentric author. I think I’ll email Ubisoft asking them if they’re planning to drop all their stupid DRM forever more, and see what appears elsewhere tomorrow! Anyway, the news is, they’re filing a complaint against the eccentric author whose lawyer made such extreme allegations of illegal activity against them.

Beiswenger’s “without prejudice” dropping of the case meant that he’d be able to pick it up and run with it, maybe after his prescient respiratory disorder detectors had taken the world by storm and his coffers were full. Ubisoft are looking to ensure he can’t do that, by asking for a ruling that states his case was “entirely meritless”, and thus preventing his pursuing it further.

And you can see why. The statement from Beiswenger’s lawyer read,

“My client’s decision to exercise his right to voluntarily dismiss the action, without prejudice, in no way diminishes his stalwart conviction in the merit of his claims against Ubisoft. He is unwavering in his belief that many key components of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise infringe on many key components of his novel, LINK. We believe Ubisoft has engaged in egregious acts of copyright infringement and, should he choose to seek redress through the courts in the future, we remain confident that a trier of fact would agree.”

Those are fairly hefty claims, and ones just left out there slandering Ubisoft. Which is why they’re seeking a declaration of rights that their game, Assassin’s Creed, does not infringe on the author’s book ideas. They told Gama,

“The plaintiff in the case alleging copyright infringement by Ubisoft has dropped his claim, without settlement. Ubisoft believes this suit was frivolous and without merit, and is seeking a ruling to prevent future related claims. We are proud of our creative teams and will continue to vigorously defend the intellectual property they develop.”

They’re also seeking their costs incurred from inevitably having to whirr up their expensive team of lawyers in response to the abandoned case, and of course whatever other “relief” the court will give them.

Yesterday I also contacted Beiswenger for comment, primarily to ask him how else he could have seen these events playing out, but so far he has chosen not to respond.

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62 Comments »

  1. Dubbill says:

    It’s the lawyers I feel sorry for.

    • Deadly Habit says:

      Feeling sorry for lawyers? Does not compute…

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah. Sacks of money are super heavy and can lead to back problems in later life.

    • Grygus says:

      Yeah all that schooling and the bright-eyed visions of making the world a better place, and this is how they actually make their living.

    • lijenstina says:

      Oh no, think about the children.

      “Mommy, why Daddy couldn’t come to my basketball game today ?”
      “Sweetheart, he has to make money for your new Lexus.”
      “Great. Tell him I want the V8 one.”

    • Discopanda says:

      When I was a young lad in 8th grade, my dad had a near-fatal accident that hospitalized him for two weeks. A local radio host (who I had met personally, my mom was on the radio for awhile) and a city councilman (who attends my church) joked about some lawyer being put in the hospital. “Well if it´s gonna happen to somebody, may as well be a lawyer, ha-ha-ha!” Sometimes lawyers aren´t so bad. Especially my dad. He is a pretty cool guy.

      PS, my dad is not a personal injury lawyer. The karmic irony would be too great!

      • Aedrill says:

        Nobody’s making jokes about lawyers being hurt. It’s also not their fault that current justice system encourages and supports wasting money on things like this case and it’s not their fault that they can make little fortunes on stuff like that while doing absolutely nothing constructive.

        It’s annoying to most of us, because we’d like to live in a world where money goes to people who do something actually good, but it doesn’t mean we want people like lawyers, politicians or celebrities being hit by a car.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Kinda went over peoples’ heads I think. :P

  2. abraxas says:

    As little as I generally like Ubi and all the DRM shenanigans and what not, I have to admit this makes me giggle like a school girl. I can just imagine Beiswenger sitting at home wishing he’d have never stirred the hornets nest. Or maybe he’s so delusional that he’s still somehow convinced he’s in the right and Ubi have no leg to stand on. Who knows with these crazy people!

    • Mistabashi says:

      Yeah, it’s like when Tim Langdell finally got his comeuppence at the hands of EA and I found myself thinking “good on you, EA”. As little love as I have for major publishers and their legal teams, things like this are a good reminder that actually it is kind of necessary to prevent people from taking the piss.

  3. OfMiceAndMods says:

    Ubisoft is the gaming equavilent of an Old Married Couple.

  4. Inigo says:

    whatever other “relief” the court will give them.

    Ooh-er missus.

  5. MuscleHorse says:

    Is this necessary? Does anyone take the crazy old coot seriously?

    • Kodeen says:

      Ubi is taking seriously the threat that he could start this suit back up, which isn’t without precedent, since he already did it once. If I were them I’d be doing the same thing.

      • Brun says:

        I don’t think they’re afraid of this guy specifically. They’re seeking a ruling to establish a precedent that would protect their IP from similar future legal action from anyone.

        • mersault says:

          The reason they are counter-suing against the crazy old author is because they are seeking a final adjudication on the matter against this particular plaintiff. It’s not about establishing precedent against everyone who claims copyright infringement by Ubisoft.

          When you voluntarily drop your own claim you can file it again as long as you are within the statute of limitations. If Ubisoft files a claim that the author’s lawsuit is frivolous, yada yada yada, and they get to the pre-trial motions phase, then Ubisoft can file a motion for summary judgment. If that motion is granted, which shouldn’t be too hard if the author is that goddamn bananas, then the case is dismissed. The difference with voluntarily dropping your own claim and a summary judgment motion is that a successful summary judgment ruling against you is the equivalent of having had the whole trial and losing in the end. So all the author can do if he wants to bring the same claim of copyright infringement against Ubisoft is file an appeal. When you file an appeal, you can usually only get the appellate judge to look at stuff that did not receive a final adjudication from the first judge, so if you lose your case the first time “on the merits” of your case, you’re probably just gonna be wasting money at the appellate level. Basically Ubisoft wants this guy to go away forever. Remember, even if he dies his estate (surviving family members) can still sue as long as the statute of limitations has not expired.

          Sorry for the long ass explanation. Just trying to make other gamers a little more informed about this stuff since it comes up so much. Easiest way to look at it is:

          The police grab you and charge you with murder. They don’t have enough evidence at the time to win their case. They voluntarily dismiss the case before anything gets to court. You would not be feeling relief because you won. You would be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life wondering when they are going to charge you again.

          • TsunamiWombat says:

            I’d be wondering how they found the bodies, Gangster movies taught me to use pigs >:|

    • Grygus says:

      As I understand it, that’s the question at hand, legally speaking.

    • serioussgtstu says:

      It’s not completely necessary, but Ubisoft do have to be seen to take this kind of thing seriously, otherwise they are liable to be sued by any author who wrote anything either set in the past or involving white hoodies.

    • Caleb367 says:

      Well, dude is still whining like a spoiled brat who lost a soccer game and claims everyone else cheated, so I’d say a righteous legal spankin’ is required. And hope that by metaphorically putting his head on a spike will serve as a warning for all the Langdells in the biz.

  6. Baresark says:

    This is the reason I hate lawyers. His lawyer should have told him he doesn’t stand a chance… because he didn’t. This would be a hopeless case to prosecute.

    • Grygus says:

      That doesn’t make sense. How do you know that his lawyer didn’t tell him that?

      • Caleb367 says:

        “Sir, I don’t think we’ll have good chances here…”
        “SHUT UP! I’M RIGHT! And also sue Budweiser for DARING to have a name slightly similar to mine!”

    • Vorphalack says:

      The lawyer could have advised him just as you said, and he could still have gone ahead with the copyright infringement case. Lawyers cannot block clients from bringing their case to court, even if the chance of success is approaching zero percent. Besides, lawyers get payed either way.

    • perruci says:

      These are all the games I wanted to purchase someday anyway.. And I haven’t YET!
      This is so incredibly awesome! Agen Sbobet

  7. Milky1985 says:

    Bit dangerous for ubi, if they lose this he can just start up his lawsuit again with the fact that they lost this in the arsenal. Probably would have been better for ubi to just ignore the guy, now they have turned it into david and golith.

    • Brun says:

      Yes, but usually there’s little sympathy for David when he is clearly someone who’s bitter that he didn’t invent [insert successful product here].

      • Milky1985 says:

        Well from the excerpts I have seen from the book quoted last time this came up there are simularities, not sure if copyright law has the same sort of thing as patent law (acidental infraction is a minor fine, deliberate is major) or not but I don’t think its 100% baseless.

        I would honestly think if it was 100% baseless they would just be quiet (yes they make a statemnt saying don’t mess with us, but costs them money they will not be able to get back, and a bit of bad press in some sections of hte world/internet), this seems more like a counter attack to prevent the second strike.

        That said i’m not a big business owner or a lawyer so i can’t say what is right or wrong.

        Can sleep soundly tho unlike the other two :P

        • Brun says:

          It’s a copyright (not patent) issue. Conventional wisdom says that copyright is to be vigorously defended even from minor threats as you risk losing your rights if you let infringement slide.

  8. Smashbox says:

    Worst book jacket teaser line ever?

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

    Yes.

    • Grygus says:

      I took it to be a “standing on the shoulders of giants” allusion, in which case it does make a kind of sense, but like you, I would have chosen a less clunky sentence to represent my writing.

    • Toberoth says:

      It’s awful.

    • ZamFear says:

      Reading that tag line immediately brought to mind ye olde “Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?” meme.

      So yeah. Terrible.

    • JB says:

      Awful doesn’t quite cover it, but it’ll do.

  9. byteCrunch says:

    “Ubisoft believes this suit was frivolous and without merit”

    So your response, is to counter with another suit which is frivolous and without merit.

    /facepalm

    • Gap Gen says:

      Well, people have already pointed out that Ubisoft are probably doing this to prevent people from trying the same thing in the future. A legal precedent may mean that they don’t have to defend this kind of case in the future, or if they do it’ll be quicker.

      In any case, while law doesn’t seem to make sense to reasonable human beings, and can stomp on people with less money or clout who end up in the game, it’s just kind of evolved with a set of dance steps that you have to follow.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      In what way is Ubisoft’s case frivilous and without merit?

      Beiswenger has left his case in a state whereby he can restart it at any time he chooses, leaving Ubi faced with the prospect of having to deal with him in the future. It makes perfect sense for them to want to get this closed off now.

      • Torgen says:

        Exactly. They’re dealing with a never-has-been who thinks he can make trouble and be paid off to go away. He’s either that, or a loon that believes this crap he’s shoveling. In either case, he’s expecting a multi-million dollar payday and is threatening to destroy a very profitable franchise for Ubi. Time to put him away now, instead of letting it fester.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          I’d go with the latter – everything about him screems “NUTJOB!”

  10. Ironclad says:

    I’ve got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Ubisoft is completely in the right here (a phrase used once every 10 years), on the other hand, it feels kind of sad.

    Like a kid who acts like he’s the tough guy of the schoolyard only to come face to face with a black belt bodybuilder martial-arts master. Wielding chainsaws.

    You know the curbstomp is going to feel kind of sad.

  11. Minim says:

    Funnily enough I just finished a book I got from the library maybe a month ago. It was called Race for God, written in early 90′s, and guess what it featured? A machine that lets you relive the lives of your ancestors (though this machine also had the drawback of killing whoever used it). It wasn’t even integral to the plot really and the book never even goes into those past lives at all, but the idea was still very present.

  12. lowprices says:

    John clearly convinced Ubisoft to pursue this lawsuit,
    Therefore:
    John sides with Ubisoft,
    Therefore:
    John is in favour of always on DRM.

    FACT.

    • Toberoth says:

      I heard UBI also strangles kittens, and therefore so does John. I always suspected this might be the case.

  13. alundra says:

    Didn’t they pay him $5,250,000 to drop his case??

    And they come back suing against him?? lol!! that’s what you get for making deals with the devil.

    Quite the bold move by UBI anyway, they should make a video game about it.

    • Bluerps says:

      They didn’t pay him anything. That $5,250,000 was just the amount he wanted from them. In fact, part of the reason they sue him now is to get him to pay them.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      No.

      His case was for $5,250,000, and he abandoned it. He didn’t abandon it *for* $5,250,000.

    • alundra says:

      Ah, it was gametrailers that settled.

      Well, I still think UBI should make a game about it, the rest I stand corrected.

  14. pupsikaso says:

    I’ve always wondered with these intellectual property and copyright infringement claims… what happens if two people who have never known each other, live across the world from each other, both write two different books that are similar enough that one sues the other. How is justice meted out in that scenario?

    • Kelsier says:

      Basically nothing would happen. One of the things you have to show to win a copyright claim is access to the infringed property. If the plaintiff cannot show that the defendant had access to the plaintiff’s work, then there’s no claim.

      From my not-very-serious following of this case, this would’ve been a major obstacle. You don’t have a copyright claim because you write a crappy sci-fi novel about an animus. You have to show that either Assassin’s Creed’s creative director had read the book (good luck), the book is so well-known that there’s no way the defendant could not have known (nope), or that the two works are SO similar that copying is the only reasonable explanation (nope).

  15. Hoaxfish says:

    This is all just leading up to Ubisoft’s new Animus DRM scheme, which will actively sue you if your ancestors don’t remember you paying for it

  16. Devan says:

    John, while I’ll be happy if some precedent is set that this kind of abuse of copyright law is meritless, I find it strange that you’ve used the word “slander” to describe it. I don’t see how the statement from Beiswenger’s lawyer could be slanderous because it’s all true, and (at least here in Canada) there is no case of slander if what is said is actually true.
    The reason it’s true is that it’s 100% a statement of opinion. “He is unwavering in his belief that..”, “We believe..”, “we remain confident that..”; those are pretty hard to disprove. So I think this lawyer has got his butt pretty well covered when it comes to claims of slander.

    • NathanH says:

      To be honest in a libel case he could probably just say there was no injury to Ubisoft, because nobody who heard the story actually belived Ubisoft were guilty of plagiarism.

  17. sirdavies says:

    Nintendo should take legal actions against John Beiswenger for copying The Legend Of Zelda’s font and it’s protagonists name! It’s subliminal advertisement!

  18. Stephen Roberts says:

    I kind of feel that it is immaterial who thought of an idea as long as it gets out there and gets into peoples heads. If I had a great idea but never did the work to promote and feed it then someone with money bags steals it, that is preferable to it being my idea and it never flying.

    In other words, you can have as many ideas as you like but until you put the leg work in at doing the thing and promoting the stuff, it’s doesn’t count for shit. I had an idea for a back pack vacuum cleaner (modeled by the Ghost Busters, no less) that might make hoovering the house a much easier job (Henry, I will destroy you) but because I haven’t actually done anything about it, I don’t care if someone nicks that idea. That would be my fault. And I could go out and by a back pack hoover to sweeten the deal.

  19. Deano2099 says:

    It’s a crazy story though because the guy is a nutter. Hence it gets reported. Ubisoft dragging it out means more publicity for AC3.