Bissoon-Dath et al v. Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc. et al
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Case No. 10-15783, Filed On April 9, 2010
Back in 2008, Plaintiff Jonathan Bissoon-Dath and Jennifer-Barrette-Herzog filed a lawsuit against Sony, alleging that the games “God of War” and “God of War II” infringed upon their copyrights for five pieces of work. According to the District Court opinion, these works include: “two treatments, ‘Theseus: A Screenplay Treatment’ and ‘The Adventures of Owen’, and two screenplays, ‘Olympiad Version A’ and ‘Olympiad.’ ‘Owen’ included an original illustrated map of the ‘Island at the Edge of the Living World.'”
Dath, the author of the works of fiction, claimed that he submitted his work to agents who did business with Sony, and submitted at least one piece of work, “Olympiad,” to an affiliated Sony entity. Herzog created the map for “Owen” that was sent with Dath’s written work. The plaintiffs pointed to the similarities between their work and “God of War” to support their claim of copyright infringement. For example, the plaintiffs claimed that both “Owen” and “God of War” focused upon a hero chosen by Zeus and Athena to save Athens from its destruction by Ares. The plaintiffs also believed that the main characters in both works were similar since they feel partially responsible for the deaths of their families even though they are not really to blame.
The District Court Judge was not convinced by these arguments and granted Sony’s motion for summary judgment. The Judge applied an “extrinsic test” examining ” “articulable similarities between the plot, themes, dialogue, mood, settings, pace, characters, and sequence of events” in order to find substantial similarity and copyright infringement. The court found that the dialogue and naration between the two works was dissimilar while the plots were only similar at a very generalized level. In connection with this finding, Judge Patel noted that plots and ideas are not protected by copyright, and the elements that plaintiffs’ used in their works had been used countless times throughout history. Since the judge did not find “God of War” to be substantially similar to any of plaintiffs’ works, Sony’s motion for summary judgment was granted.
On July 29, 2011, a judge for the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s opinion.