EA found guilty of recycling code from 1988 Madden title

By on July 24, 2013, 8:30 AM
lawsuit, ea, ea sports, madden, code, madden nfl, trip hawkins

Madden NFL is perhaps the most recognizable title in Electronic Arts’ long list of sports games. The football simulator officially debuted in 1988 for the Apple II series of computers, and quickly gained recognition for its ties to Hall of Famer John Madden, a Super Bowl winning coach and color commentator. 

Robin Antonick, one of the game’s primary developers during the franchise's early years, sued EA in 2011 claiming that the publisher stole much of his original code, design, and in-game features. More specifically, many of the offensive and defensive formations, as well as several user plays, may have been gleaned from the 1988 title. Today, a jury sided with Antonick, forcing EA to pay upwards of $11 million in restitution.

According to Kotaku, the verdict specifically targets code used in Madden titles published between 1990 and 1996; an era highlighted by 16-bit consoles such as the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. Rob Carey, Antonick’s attorney, was elated at the decision, saying, “This is a tremendous victory. In many ways, this trial was a test of each party’s version of events. The jury uniformly rejected the idea that this game was developed without Robin’s work. It is, if nothing, a good omen for the next phase of litigation.”

What is this upcoming litigation phase that Carey is referring to? Although Antonick will receive repayments for royalties lost between 1990 and 1996, a future lawsuit is pending for code that appears in later versions. Over the seven year span, EA’s revenues from the Madden franchise exceeded $3 billion, and it is believed that recent titles may have grossed even more.

Despite the verdict, EA strongly disputes the claims, arguing that the similarities are “utterly without merit”.  EA founder Trip Hawkins went on to say that Antonick has overvalued his impact on the franchise.

“While we’re disappointed with the jury’s verdict and will appeal, this has always been a case about games from the early 1990s, and it has no impact on today’s Madden NFL franchise,” the publisher explained in a post-verdict statement.

User Comments: 11

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VitalyT VitalyT said:

That's just so madden...

This is it, I just need to find somebody, sue the hell out of them for something and retire, happy days...

MilwaukeeMike said:

I'd say this is EA's fault for letting this happen... if they used his work without paying him then they should have to pay up. But this guy must not have been an employee of EA, or else there wouldn't be a case. Any company is allowed to use the work of their own employees.

And why didn't EA just rewrite the stuff to avoid this? I doubt Antonick was the only guy who could come up with football plays.

Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

Uh, how could EA have "stolen" his code when they own the franchise?

Seventh Reign Seventh Reign said:

I'm confused. Are they being sued because they used the same play formations? Because that would be beyond idiotic ...

1 person liked this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

That's just so madden...

This is it, I just need to find somebody, sue the hell out of them for something and retire, happy days...

Maybe you could try suing me and just maybe court will be so overwhelmed by my abject poverty that they'll give me money plus a bit extra to pay you then we both can retire.

Sean Mann Sean Mann said:

Er this is weird... Something is missing. This guy was working for EA at the time? How does he have the right to sue his ex-employer for content he created while working for them? It looks like he held a personal copyright on the game which is really dumb for EA. If they knew he had a personal copyright on the game then why not just pay him royalties?

Instead let's further fuel the litigation industry... Next dev job I have I'm going to make sure to stamp a personal copyright on it and then sue my ex-employer...

I wouldn't be overly surprised if EA can get this overturned.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

It does state in the above picture that he is the copyright owner. So apparently he does have a case if they used it...

Guest said:

Robin's suit is based on the fact that Electronic Arts used portions of the code from his work on the MS-DOS version of the game in later titles - when they didn't have the license or rights to do so.

Guest said:

I guess Bill had it right all along; EA late fail IMHO nevertheless...

Guest said:

He had the right to do what he did, but he shouldn't have waited so long. But then again, if he complained sooner; its possible he wouldn't have ended up with anything..:p From the courts perspective though, all EA did was market and sell the game + collect revenue... while Mr. Antonick owns full copyright...So, he won the case.. I personally feel 11m isn't so bad to purchase a series such as Madden....which makes a fortune... hell, I can't say I blame Antonick at all for doing what he did... It was EA's fault entirely that more research wasn't done on the full copyright of their own titles...it like..lol.. come on. Being the fact that he waited so long to take action, is probably the only reason he wasn't awarded more; But like I said above, it could also have been less...

Good for him either way... its not like EA couldn't crap a few dollars anyways... :D

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