Activision, the largest and richest video game publisher in the world, has, since 2007, been quietly suing individuals for copyright violations in relation to its console games. Most often, Call of Duty 3 is mentioned in court documents.
Edge Online reports today that Activision is suing a New York man in federal court for copyright violations in relation to unauthorized distribution of the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty 3.
But the New York defendant is not the only target of Activision's attorneys. GamePolitics has been researching the story and we've learned that Activision has engaged in a pattern of such lawsuits, in most cases garnering big settlements from individuals who are apparently not represented by counsel and who, as part of their settlements, agree not to discuss the case.
If the tactics are reminiscent of the draconian measures used by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), that may not be an accident. Activision's lead attorney on the cases, Karin Pagnanelli, has worked on numerous copyright cases on behalf of clients in the music business.
Activision video game lawsuits uncovered by GamePolitics include cases against six defendants:
- a Washington man, apparently unrepresented by counsel, agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Wii, CoD 3 Xbox 360) to settle the case.
- a South Carolina man, also apparently unrepresented, agreed to pay Activision $25,000 to settle the case. (CoD3 Wii, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Xbox 360).
- a New Jersey man, apparently the only defendant who had an attorney, agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Xbox 360).
- a Minnesota woman, apparently with no attorney, agreed to pay Activision $1,000.
- a second South Carolina man agreed to pay Activision $100,000 (CoD 3 Wii, Cod 2 The Big Red One PS2, Tony Hawk's Project 8, Xbox 360). He too was apparently unrepresented.
- a New York man's case is still active (CoD3 Xbox 360).
It is unknown whether the copyright violations occurred in the course of file sharing, or whether there was some more complex mechanism afoot. Activision's court filings do not specify the manner in which their copyrights were violated, or how they came to learn of the violations.
GamePolitics contacted Activision's lead attorney Karin Pagnanelli several months ago while researching the lawsuits. Our call was not returned. More recently, a call to the New Jersey defendant's attorney was not returned. Nor was a call to one of the South Carolina defendants. That's perhaps not surprising. Each defendant's settlement contains language which would make anyone think twice about discussing the case:
Defendant shall not make any public statements that are inconsistent with any term of this Stipulation to Judgment and Permanent Injunction
UPDATE: Activision's attorney contacted GP to say that the cased were not based on file-sharing.
UPDATE 2: Although their identities are clearly a matter of public record in the court file, I've removed the names of the six defendants due to privacy concerns which were expressed to me.