Activision faces copyright lawsuit over Call of Duty character

Secret ad-mara. 

A writer from North Carolina is taking Activision Blizzard, Infinity Ward and Major League Gaming Corp. to court over alleged copyright infringement.

The suit has been filed by Clayton Haugen, described as a photographer, videographer and writer, who claims his character of "Cade Janus" was copied by Activision to create Call of Duty operator Mara. According to the lawsuit, Haugen created Cade Janus as the central character for a short story called November Renaissance he hoped would be made into a film (thanks, TorrentFreak).

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Back in 2017, Haugen hired streamer Alex Zedra to portray the character in several photographs, which were shared on social media and sent to film studios, but Haugen claims these photographs were used by Activision as a guide for the creation of Mara. Haugen also says Activision actually hired Zedra to scan her likeness for the game. The lawsuit claims Activision hired the same makeup artist to reproduce the look down to the "same hair extension", and requested that Zedra ask Haugen for the same clothing worn in the original photoshoot.

"To conceal their planned infringement of Haugen's Cade Janus Photographs and his Cade Janus character, Defendants required the talent and the makeup professional to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements," the lawsuit added.

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Comparison images as shared in the lawsuit.

Haugen said he had copyrights registered for his story back in 2012 and 2013, but the photographs were only registered in December 2020 - likely to allow him to file this lawsuit. The character of Mara, meanwhile, was added to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2019 as part of the season one battle pass. Eurogamer has contacted Activision for comment.

If successful, Haugen hopes to "recover all monetary remedies from Defendants' infringement, including all of their profits attributable to their infringements," and "recover his costs, including attorney's fees, incurred in this action to the full extent permitted by 17 U.S.C." You can find a full copy of the complaint here.

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Emma Kent

Emma Kent

Reporter  |  GoneEFK

Emma was Eurogamer's summer intern in 2018 and we liked her so much we decided to keep her. Now a fully-fledged reporter, she loves asking difficult questions, smashing people at DDR and arguing about, well, everything.

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