In-Depth Analysis: PUBG Filing a Lawsuit Against NetEase from a Legal Perspective

By Muhammad Bilal Syahrir

Is PUBG Corp going to win their copyright case?

PUBG developers, PUBG Corp., is filing a lawsuit against NetEase for copyright infringement. Will PUBG Corp. get what they want: permanent delete of NetEase’s battle royale games? We try to answer from a legal perspective.

PUBG developers, PUBG Corp., which is owned by Korean publisher, Bluehole, has officially filed a lawsuit against Chinese publisher, NetEase. The file was charged on April 2, earlier this month.

PUBG Suing NetEase

NetEase is a publisher famously known for its titles similar to the gameplay of PUBG. Their titles include Rules of Survival and Knives Out. The two games are very similar to PUBG, starting from its gameplay, maps, etc. If you want to see the full 155 pages document from PUBG Corp., you can download it here.

Both Rules of Survival and Knives Out are both battle royale games where players are stranded in and have to be the last one alive to be the winner. The gameplay is somewhat familiar to PUBG such as the shrinking “safe zones” feature, parachuting from a plane from the start, and also the collection of vehicles and weapons.

As mentioned in our previous article, PUBG Corp. is not only suing NetEase for copying its game, but it claims to also be harming the company’s business interest.

Copyright Arguments

Here is the list of copyright materials inside the document that PUBG Corp. sent, which is approximately 30 pages. These include:

  1. the pre-game island/waiting area;
  2. the early game flyover/air jump;
  3. health and speed booster items;
  4. the means of acquiring of loot;
  5. weapon mods, attachments, gear (including the “Frying Pan”), clothing, armor, and vehicles;
  6. house and environment designs;
  7. sounds and noises;
  8. air Drops and bombardment zones (i.e. red zone);
  9. the shrinking gameplay zone (i.e. blue circle); and
  10. “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner”

PUBG Corp. is claiming that these ten materials are pure from their developed game, PUBG. The other 100 pages are compiles of proof in the form of screenshot images of the games.

Protection of Copyright

So the question would be, what can be protected by the copyright? First of all, we need to know exactly how copyright works and what categories include infringement.

Copyright generally means the protection of one’s expression of ideas. However, it does not protect the idea themselves. We can take World of Warcraft in this example. Blizzard owns the copyright of World of Warcraft‘s expression but not the idea of an RPG.

It does not have the copyright of the concept of clearing mobs to gain level, guild system, and also the pet system.

In this case, PUBG Corp. clearly owns PUBG‘s unique code, art assets, audio files as these represent its particular expression of its game design choices.

Uh-oh, PUBG is Suing Rules of Survival and Knives Out

Remember when Clash of Clans became popular and a thousand of other clone games were appearing? Well, this might be the same case with Playersunknown's Battlegrounds' (PUBG). It is confirmed that PUBG is suing clone games.

But it’s the opposite when we discuss the game mechanics. In this case, it’s the battle royale system, looting system, vehicle riding system, etc.  There are different laws based on the region that can explain this.

European laws confirm that these mechanics are not protectable ideas. In the US, however, the case is different thanks to a case called the ‘Tetris‘ case. In this particular judgment, Tetris‘ gameplay where blocks pile up together is protected by copyright.

Judging by the document sent, PUBG Corp is not suing NetEase for literally copying PUBG‘s game assets (sound effects, character model, or code). The outcome of this case will be how much can PUBG Corp. defends its argued design game mechanics to be worthy of protection.

It claims not only ownership and the visual expression of the plane jump at the start of each match but also seemingly the concept of the jump itself. As stated in the document:

The Air Jump is a copyrightable audio-visual work, individually and/or in combination with other elements of BATTLEGROUNDS”.

Want to find out more in-depth analysis of PUBG filing a lawsuit against NetEase? Go check the next page of the article and you will find your answer there.




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