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Activision has found itself staring down the barrel of a copyright infringement suit initiated by writer and videographer Clayton Haugen. Haugen claims that the Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare and Call Of Duty: Warzone operator Mara is based on a character he created back in 2017 for November Renaissance, a project that he was building into a feature-film.
TorrentFreak reports that November Renaissance's lead character is Cade Janus, who is described as a "female vigilante and pariah figure" in the middle of a dystopian near-future corporate war orchestrated by a non-human intelligence over the process of human augmentation. Haugen argued that putting a woman in the lead role would "distinguish it from an over-saturated market of action and science fiction movies". I probably would have watched this, to be honest.
The project itself started life as a successful Kickstarter that first ran back in 2012, though it seems Haugen's idea for the film changed quite a bit over the years. Ultimately, it seems Haugen's primary focus was on developing his female lead. He hired an actor to portray her, and put together a series of photos of her with military props. He says all of this was registered with the US Copyright Office.
Haugen then pitched his idea to a number of film studios, and published the photos on his website and Instagram. It's at this point, Haugen claims, that Activision took these photos without his knowledge or permission and used them in a development document for Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 to show how the 2018 game's casting should "be reflective of the makeup of the modern population".
Things went further with 2019's Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. The suit alleges that Infinity Ward hired the very same model and makeup artist that Haugen had employed for the Cade Janus shoot. It even claims that the developer had the model's hair done in the exact same way, and that the Cade Janus photos were on the wall at the studio as a visual guideline. At one point, the suit claims that Activision asked the model to see if Haugen would lend her the same clothing and props from the Cade Janus shoot.
"The result was an animated character and a set of photographs that were intended to be, and were, copies of Haugen's Cade Janus Photographs," the suit reads. "The 'Mara' character is a skilled female fighter like the character that Haugen described as 'Cade Janus' in his November Renaissance Works. The 'Mara' in-game character's appearance is substantially similar to the female fighter depicted in Haugen's Cade Janus Photographs. The Defendants' game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare infringes Haugen's copyrights in his Cade Janus character and his Cade Janus Photographs."
The lawsuit goes on to provide some images as proof, although it's unclear if Haugen will be successful in his suit. While there's no denying a similarity between the two, Activision could possibly argue they were simply using the Cade Janus images as reference materials. We'll have to wait and see where this one goes.
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