Activision Blizzard is being sued over allegations that they willfully copied a character to incorporate them in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Calyton Haugen alleges that the Modern Warfare multiplayer character Mara, introduced in Season One of the game’s post-launch content updates, is a reproduction of Cade Janus, a character that featured in his short story November Renaissance. You can see the full filing hosted on TorrentFreak.
This isn’t just a case of “Huh, I guess the look kind of similar,” though. Hauen asserts that Activision deliberately recreated his work, hiring the same model, Alex Zedra, and then copying the exact look and style of Cade Janus for a photoshoot to bring her likeness into the game.
Haugen’s lawyers wrote, “In addition to hiring the same talent, they also hired the same makeup professional who had prepared the talent for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs. They instructed the makeup professional to prepare the talent exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs. They instructed her to style the talent’s hair exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs, even using the same hair piece extension.”
Again, that’s not all that’s alleged here, as both the model and makeup artist were bound by non-disclosure agreements in order to, as the complaint puts it, “conceal their planned infringement.”
Haugen explains that he hired Zedra in 2017 to model as Cade Janus so he could pitch his story to movie studios. Photos were then published online via his website and Instagram, and used in a calendar.
Zedra was not simply used for an in-game likeness, but also to appear in promotional material for the game. One of the examples in the filing is particularly damning, though, taking one of Haugen’s photos and running it through image editing tools to change the colour balance, recolour her scarf, add a headset and make other tweaks. It is undoubtedly ripped from Haugen’s phot.
The character Mara was added to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2019 and made available as part of the reward track for the Season One battle pass. She was monetised further with a Kawaii Cat skin with a cat-eared helmet and kitten charm for her weapons, costing 2,400 COD point, or around $24.