EDITORIAL: “Tardigrades” Lawsuit Has Little Hope

In Editorial

The lawsuit filed this morning has little hope of making it to the jury trial nor being granted the injunction sought, in this blogger’s opinion.  And I’ll tell you why independent game developer Anas Abdin’s legal claims against CBS and Paramount won’t hold any water – or make any meaningful wave upon the firmament.

Examination of the thirteen page court document obtained by Trekzone reveals that Kuwaiti based Abdin demands a jury trial in the southern district of New York, an immediate injunction against the continued exhibition of the copyright infringing works, as well as payment of damages to the sum of the profit made by CBS and Netflix.  The document notes that the defendants were fully aware of the plaintiff’s copyrighted works and “willfully and improperly developed, produced, filmed and released the infringing work.”

Here’s what I see wrong… firstly, Abdin has filed the suit against CBS Broadcasting, not CBS Studios – the actual makers of Star Trek: Discovery. Secondly, the defense would have a very strong case to argue irreparable harm if the injunction was granted.  Thirdly, that sum of the profit is well over the hundreds of millions of dollars and is a significant amount of money for an inde game developer to be demanding from a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company.  I’m not saying that CBS or any other studio shouldn’t be held to account, quite the opposite, however the way Abdin has conducted himself here, the timing and the way he’s gone about this smacks of an attempt to profit off the successful series, once success has been shown. (Why now? Why not mid-season?)

Abdin has been invited onto A Trekzone Conversation, I wait to see if he’ll accept the invitation.

16 commentsOn EDITORIAL: “Tardigrades” Lawsuit Has Little Hope

  • This makes little sense.

    To your three (and a half) points:

    1. Courts, especially in the US, are quite lenient on individual plaintiffs. I suspect that even if filing suit against CBS Broadcasting would not count for this lawsuit, the court would likely help Abdin to make sure his lawsuit is correct. If another big company was suing CBS instead, there wouldn’t be such leniency.

    2. The injunction doesn’t have to be granted for the lawsuit to go ahead, but if they have broken the law and the presiding judge determines there is merit to this case, an injunction could absolutely be levelled at CBS.
    If that injunction turned out to be in error later on (i.e. CBS wins), the plaintiff (Abdin, in this case) would typically be liable for costs in damages caused by said injunction. Either way, the injunction or lack thereof alone does not prevent this lawsuit from having merit.

    3. Typically in US courts, you start off with a large claim, but the amount almost always will go down by the end of the case. I highly doubt Abdin thinks he can get the “well over hundreds of millions of dollars in profit” (though I question your mathematics on such a figure to begin with, because despite your assertions, DSC was not very successful at all), but if he started with a reasonable amount, the payout would be a pittance in comparison. Start with a large damages claim, get a more reasonable payout if you win – that’s pretty simple.

    As for “why now”, I thought that was pretty obvious. Abdin has said that he was originally unaware of Discovery. Then people told him to check it out and so he did. By that point, it was likely already mid-season.
    By the time he realised the blatant copying of his game, DSC was already well on its way, so Abdin got in contact with CBS to try to work things out amicably. After being mucked around by them, nothing came of it.
    Then recently, we had the whole big season 2 announcement/teaser/etc. – something to renew interest in DSC and indeed a sign to Abdin that DSC would be continuing; now is a good time to sue.

    Besides, you act like he should have sued sooner to do them a favour or something. Oh no, how dare he go after them now that they’re doing season 2! No, screw them, he can file suit whenever he wants, and with such blatant theft of his ideas and work, I really don’t see how he’s just out to make a quick buck (nor is he trying to profit off of a successful series, since it’s really NOT successful).
    Don’t forget that a lawsuit like this will cost a lot of time and money for everyone involved – a big company can afford to do this sort of thing for a “quick buck” sometimes, but an individual like Abdin certainly cannot typically afford such a lawsuit just to make some money.

    • Hi Anonymous, thanks for taking the time to read my EDITORIAL and writing your comment. As you’ll notice I’ve changed the acronym you used for DSC because that slur you used has no place on my website.

      To your points, I believe if it was deemed incorrect the court would request a refiling of the documents to be correct. They can’t just take whiteout to the page and magically fix everything. I absolutely know, and believe, that you should start your claim high and work your way down to what you expected, because then you are seen as agreeable and negotiable… this works in your favour as the plaintiff. Furthermore, there is no way the court will grant the injunction based on the testimony of one individual half a world away.

      And, yes, Discovery was successful because:
      a) it got people talking about it (good and bad)
      b) it doubled All Access’ revenue in the first week,
      c) it more than doubled the video views on the CBS app in the first week,

      Now, while Netflix doesn’t release ratings data we can be fairly confident that they were happy with the performance of the show based upon the fact that it’s been renewed for a second season. Netflix is financing the show too you know.

      As for the timing… well it does stink, it stinks to high heaven because it’s right after the announcement of the second season, when interest in the show is high once again after a lull since the season one final was released in February. Abdin has had almost a year of sitting on his hands before he was reminded it all existed by the news from Vegas. Yeah right.

      I firmly believe CBS has no case here, it is all coincidence… unless CBS have specific casting and plot notes that bear exact copies of the work from Tardigrades. One is an independent low budget game, the other is a multi-million dollar television series. And besides, tardigrades are real lifeforms… has anyone asked them what they think?

      • The word Anon is looking for is not “blatant”, but “alleged”.

        Leaving aside the copyright issues themselves, did the game itself ever get released? I’m failing to realize what actual financial damage has been done to the plaintiff that entitles him to the full profit gleaned by CBS and Netflix.

        • good point Dave, realising now that the game never got released this all smacks of a cash grab (even more so now.)

        • You don’t need financial damages to be awarded profits from a copyright infringement under US law. You have a statutory right to such profits on top of any financial damages if you prevail in a copyright infringement claim (17 U.S. Code § 504(a)). If it were otherwise, there would be no real disincentive to not engage in copyright infringement by large businesses like Paramount on a financially and/or operationally smaller content creator.

      • As far as I know Netflix was very unhappy with DSC, and is not financing season 2. As for the show’s numbers on CBS AA, the most optimistic reports based on CBS’ own published figures is that DSC bought in about 250k paid subscriptions. The show is an utter dumpster fire.

        • Incorrect. Netflix are continuing their agreement with CBS for season two.

          I have also edited your comment to reflect the correct abbreviation for Discovery.

  • I agree, the lawsuit has no merit, UNLESS Abdin can prove that CBS knowingly stole the idea from him, and that would require some sort of paper trail. Just alleging a lot of similarities between the two stories is not enough. If you sit ten writers down in a room and ask them to conjure up ways to travel across the universe, it’s not far fetched to think that they could independently come up with an idea which was similar to Abdin’s game. So unless he has concrete links between those writers and his game, the lawsuit is doomed to failure.
    PLUS, CBS has deep pockets, and lots of lawyers, so they will just ask for continuances, change of venue, additional time for research, etc to make it drag out as long as possible. The longer they can stall, the greater the chances that Abdin will run out of money to pay his lawyers and give up. I guarantee that CBS can make this drag out to five years or more.

    • You don’t need a paper trail to prove copyright infringement. Most copyright infringement claims, including successful ones, rely on circumstantial evidence establishing access to the plaintiff’s work and probative similarities between the works. The first element may not be hard to prove given that the game was publicly accessible for years prior to even the pre-production stages of DSC on a widely accessible free venue through Valve’s Greenlight platform. The second element is a question of fact to be determined by the bench or a jury. CBS clearly was concerned about the similarities between its Tartigrade and the game’s since it offered to remove it from the series which is not a small creative concession.

      If you were familiar with the background of this case you would know that resources to maintain the lawsuit is a non-issue. Abdin only became aware of the potential copyright infringement claim because he was approached by numerous US law firms about it with offers to represent him in a claim against CBS. The fact that so many IP practitioners would approach a content creator unsolicited to represent him in a claim he didn’t even know he might have tends to undermine the uninformed opinions of those outside the practice of law in general and IP law in particular that the case has no merit. It also implies that it’s probable that Abdin’s lawyers are representing him on a contingency fee basis which would mean he doesn’t have to worry about paying for anything outside of court filing fees that will amount to less than 5 figures even if the case drags on for years.

    • Ideas cannot be copyrighted. Posting ideas you have for a game on your personal blog on the internet does not grant you instant copyright over that material.

      • A game in development is not a mere idea. I can’t speak to the level of research you may or may not have done regarding the development of the game but there is enough out there to discover (no pun intended) for one to understand why your statement is not particularly relevant. In short, the storyline for the game was allegedly complete, a certain amount of the coding had been performed and a fair amount of video production showing either simulation of gameplay or actual gameplay had been published. This collectively constitutes copyright regardless of whether it is or is not copyright that is infringed upon by DSC content.

  • I suspect if you put additional effort into researching the full background of what led to this copyright infringement claim and how claims progress from mediation stages to the filing of a claim of IP infringement you might change your opinion about at least some of what you’ve expressed in this editorial.

    You should also be aware it is highly unlikely that Abdin will agree to a Trekzone Conversation. While I don’t know the exact structure under which that kind of interaction occurs, IP counsel in an open copyright infringement is generally going to instruct a client not to engage in any interview type format other than the extremely limited kind that Abdin engaged in previously with vetted questions and answers that only have to do with the background of the claim and only with regards to facts or assertions of facts which are now a matter of public record in prior similar interactions (I won’t post any links here as I don’t know if that would violate any policies you might have but they are not hard to unearth with fairly simple browser searches).

    • A further editorial will be released today, a week on from the initial information. But to your point, Abdin seems to have been pursued by the “ambulance chasers” of IP infringement and he seems to have been sold a version of events that will not be (easily) resolved.

      To your other point about the interview, I agree that he will not join me for A Trekzone Conversation – he will not want to answer questions that do not support his narrative.

  • I only see 2 people commenting but what is extremely obvious about this case is the extreme lack of source material. Most fans on both sides of the argument seem to have decided the outcome based on a single 2 minute video.
    A big problem with the source material is that the game Epoch and the game Tardigrades are 2 different games. Most have claimed guilty after seeing a Tardigrade and a blonde guy that looks like the actor in Discovery. But as someone pointed out the original blonde male is burly with a big chin and sideburns and the second blonde looks like a perfect copy of the actor.

    The bottom line no one has presented any substantial evidence and what has been shown so far is not enough to win a case ( I realize some fans are quick to claim guilty or not guilty).
    But it is seems evident the game dev altered the characters looks more than CBS altered the human to look like a game.
    How would it benefit CBS ? “We need to only audition actors that looks exactly like this game we found”
    That’s a real stretch

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