Today (29 May) it was revealed that PUBG Corporation filed a lawsuit against Epic Games in January with the Seoul District Court in Korea. The lawsuit stems from PUBG Corp’s growing concerns about Fortnite and its similarity to PUBG, resulting in this copyright infringement claim. Question is, do they really have a leg to stand on? Yes and no.
First off we all thought something like this could happen but no-one thought PUBG Corp. would be dumb enough to actually try it. Copyright law is a very messy business and can take months, if not years, to figure out and reach a decision. Epic Games can undoubtedly afford a more drawn out legal battle than the far smaller studio. Admittedly the suit is only in South Korea at the moment and may not affect other countries or developments but depending on the outcome this COULD have serious impacts on either studio, or potentially both. Epic have more capital to bring to bear against the suit, so it’s quite possible that PUBG are forced to drop it if the process goes on for too long.
Is there grounds for the suit? Kind of. PUBG’s argument is that PUBG was the first of the Battle Royale genre, it’s not… but lets gloss over that for now, and that Fortnite is dangerously similar to it. Therefore they are infringing on copyright. Now I’ll admit I’m not too hot on copyright law but unless they’ve genuinely filed for copyright rights around the whole Battle Royale thing then I’m not entirely sure that they’ve got much to go on.
Battle Royale is a genre, much like First Person Shooters, Driving, Adventure, Platformer and any other genre of gaming that exists. As a genre you will find multiple similar titles under each banner, that’s kind of the point, so does this open up the flood gates for any developer who has ever had a similar title come up in their genre to sue their competitor? Are we about to see EA and Activision go toe to toe over Call of Duty and Battlefield being similar games? While we’re at it they both feature Free-For-All game modes as well as Capture the Flag, features that Halo also has, so are Microsoft at risk too? Hell Doom was the first FPS game and so surely they’re now able to come after any of the other thousands of FPS games for copying their idea too.
Lets get a little bit more technical about the copyright law while we’re here. Software has to share less than 30-ish percent of similar code in order for there to be a copyright issue at a base level. Now lets not forget that Fortnite has a stand alone campaign/co-op mode that features building a base and defending it from hordes of monsters. Not to mention that PUBG’s coding appears to be held together with duct tape and paper clips. The console versions of the game are riddled with stability issues and the PC version isn’t exactly flawless either. Chances are the coding similarity percentage isn’t going to be all that high.
Now I’m not saying there’s no similarity here or that their claims are completely unfounded but they are more than a little ridiculous. Sure the core concepts are the same and both games start a round in the same way, Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode was released AFTER PUBG and even says that it’s inspired by the popular game in the announcement trailer. Fortnite does differ in some big ways however and that’s what makes it a vastly different game even if the concept is the same.
Again just look at any two first person shooters from different developers… they have the same core concepts but handle completely differently. PUBG focuses on a more “realistic” experience whereas Fortnite is far more wacky and zany, something apparent not just in it’s art-style but also in the weapons such as the Boogie-Bomb or ability to turn your character into a Bush being seen as one of the most fearsome weapons in the game. Hell after the release of Marvel’s Infinity War players have been able to find the Infinity Gauntlet in game and become Thanos for a time, using the weapon to wreck all kinds of havoc.
The games involved here may be fundamentally the same 100-player Free-For-All blood bath but surely if PUBG Corp. are able to sue for copyright infringement then the writers behind the Battle Royale movies are able to get in here and claim that both games stole their original idea. No? Why not? They all feature the same concept of a group of individuals fighting to the death in order to be the last man standing because of “reasons”. Hell if we’re going down that path, and PUBG Corp. seem intent to do so, then what’s stopping the Ancient Roman Empire from suing the British Empire for stealing their idea to establish an empire? Aside from the fact that neither exist of course, but you get the point. It’s an insane claim and to expect this to pay-out for PUBG Corp. is equally ridiculous. Any judge who rules in favour of PUBG better be getting carted off to a shrink and institutionalised as soon as he stands up.
As for what’s likely to happen, if this case even gets heard? The case goes to court and after a lengthy battle the decision is made that the two games are similar, yes, but there is no copyright infringement here. That’s even assuming this case doesn’t get thrown out immediately on the grounds that it’s pretty freaking ridiculous. If this lawsuit was to take place on US soil, then perhaps it would result in an expensive legal battle that Epic Games weather without too much trouble but PUBG Corp. are forced to thrown in the towel and drop the case. If it pays out at all I will be highly surprised.
Here are a few tweets from Video Game Attorney, Ryan Morrison, which basically sum up the situation:
Getting tons of tweets asking if Bluehole has a chance here. Yes, they absolutely do. Litigation is unpredictable and judges do not understand video games. That said, in a strictly legal reading, I think this case is a huge long shot. https://t.co/evcUH84KHs
— Video Game Attorney (@MrRyanMorrison) May 29, 2018
The replies are disagreeing with him, but this is generally right. To be able to protect something it must be fixed in a tangible medium. Once created, copyright exists and protects against “substantially similar” works. https://t.co/UHDhvYjHn8
— Video Game Attorney (@MrRyanMorrison) May 29, 2018
This entire thing is simply because PUBG Corp. is jealous that Fortnite is kicking its ass. Get over yourselves PUBG Corporation, remove that shaft from your ass and work on turning your crappy game into something good rather than attacking your colleagues because you’re jealous that they put in time and effort to make something great, you impetulant children.