A week ago, I posted about a Kuwati-based game developer who had filed a lawsuit against CBS Broadcasting. Now, informed by legal advice and opinions of others interested in this case, I’ve concluded that 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 (easily) be resolved.
The court has requested amendments to the paperwork after the wrong company was named as the Defendant, CBS Broadcasting doesn’t produce Discovery CBS Studios does, and several spelling mistakes were required to be fixed. The suit still has yet to be served.
I reached out to Kris from Creative Artists Law here in Queensland who told me, “In Australia, much like the United States, it is well-established law that ideas cannot be copyrighted. Copyright only protects the expression of ideas rather than the ideas themselves. Local copyright law consists of several elements which will have to proven in order to prove that there has been a breach of copyright. Firstly, there will have to be copyright subsisting in the material, (and) secondly, there has to be an infringement of the copyright.”
Kris further explained that it’s important to note the distinction between ideas and expression of ideas. The latter is copyrightable and the former is not. For example, an idea to make a TV show about a spaceship is not copyrightable, because it’s too generic, but something like Star Trek is a very specific expression of an idea about a show about a spaceship. A recent case that highlighted this was Star Trek Axanar, where Alec Peters attempted to argue that CBS and Paramount didn’t own the ‘idea of Star Trek’, only of course Star Trek is the expression of an idea and something which they very much do own.
Which elements of the game constitute ideas vs expressed ideas is something the court will decide, so it’s not correct to say the blog is a collection of ideas that are not copyrightable because they may in fact be. The court will therefore decide if the elements of the game are copyrightable and then if that copyright has been infringed. The other thing to note is that whilst this tardigrade concept might have only appeared in a few episodes of Star Trek Discovery it doesn’t mean that it’s not potentially a breach of copyright, because the percentage of what was copied may not be relevant.
Abdin has an uphill battle here, and even if the lawyers are working pro-bono (where have we seen this before?) time surely has to be a factor, how much of it is this guy willing to take to prove a point – especially when his original point last year was to seek assurances that HE would not be sued when, if, he releases his game. What changed? Additionally, Abdin’s supporters have begun to sound more and more like the Axanar camp, with their rhetoric of ‘if you’re not with us, then you are against us’ and also using the childish abbreviation for Discovery. Interestingly though, no one from Axanar is in support of Abdin.
I’ll continue to monitor this story and provide updates as they happen.