Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds studio Krafton has sued Apple, Google, YouTube and free-to-play gaming company Garena over two mobile games, Free Fire (originally called Free Fire: Battlegrounds) and Free Fire: Max, as it says “detailed” copies several aspects “of the groundbreaking Battle Royale game.
Garena began selling Free Fire in Singapore in 2017, shortly after the launch of PUBG, according to the lawsuit (via The Verge). It apparently led to a complaint and a settlement, but that settlement did not include any license agreement or permission to distribute the game. Despite that, a mobile version of the game appeared on the App Store and Google Play the same year, followed by Free Fire Max in 2018.
The suit claims that both games duplicate PUBG features, including the “unique game-opening” air-drop “feature, the game structure and gameplay, the combination and choice of weapons, armor, and unique objects, locations, and the overall choice of color schemes, materials, and textures. . “
Krafton claims that Garena has earned “hundreds of millions of dollars” globally through in-app sales and in-app purchases. It also points a finger at Apple and Google, which have banked on in-app purchases (each taking a percentage of purchases through their in-game payment processing systems), while rejecting Krafton’s requests to stop distributing the games.
YouTube is also named as an accused of hosting (and refusing to remove) videos featuring Free Fire and Free Fire Max gameplay, as well as the Chinese feature film Biubiubiu, “an unauthorized adaptation of Battlegrounds, which depicts a live-action dramatized version of Battlegrounds gameplay. “
Video game analyst Daniel Ahmad actually pointed out the possibility of copyright infringement in July 2021:
Here is the official poster that might be infringing copyright? Who knows tbh. But PUBG (PC) and Peacekeeper Elite (Mobile) are extremely popular in China, and it’s not surprising to see a movie like this being made. It will be released on August 6 on Youku (Chinese only) pic.twitter.com/bfmKb0JCKeJuly 24, 2021
Interestingly, prior to his efforts to get Biubiubiu removed, Krafton filed a copyright infringement notice over another PUBG-like film called Run Amuck. In that case, YouTube took action (although the film is still available), which Krafton sees as evidence of a double standard at work: “Unlike in the case of Biubiubiu, the Run Amuck videos were posted by individual users, who no doubt lack it. “Deep pockets are needed to fully indemnify YouTube from liability for copyright infringement,” the lawsuit states.
Krafton also cites a similar case filed by Ubisoft against Google, Apple and game developer Ejoy in May 2020 over a Rainbow Six Siege mobile clone. “Apple and Google refused to comply with a video game developer’s request that they remove an infringing game from their respective stores,” the lawsuit states. “It was only after the developer filed a lawsuit against the infringing developer and Apple and Google that the infringing developer removed the app itself. It is essential that neither Apple nor Google ever took any action on their own.”
In that case, Ubisoft withdrew its case against all parties after the Rainbow Six Siege clone was removed from sale, and it is possible that the same could happen in this case. For now, however, Krafton is seeking a ban on the sale of Free Fire and Free Fire Max, the posting of videos with either games and the Biubiubiu movie, and all sorts of financial damages. The amounts involved can be significant: Garena is not very well known, but in 2020 its parent holding company Sea Ltd. reported revenues of over $ 2 billion in the “digital entertainment” category alone.
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