Lawsuit Claims Capcom Stole Pictures For Resident Evil And Devil May Cry

Lawsuit Claims Capcom Stole Pictures For Resident Evil And Devil May Cry
Screenshot: Capcom

A designer is suing Capcom over improper use of licensed material, Polygon reports. According to a lawsuit filed Friday, Capcom used unlicensed photographs as art assets in Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry, and other games.

Judy A. Juracek, an author and artist, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Connecticut on Friday. In 1996, Juracek published Surfaces: Visual Research For Artists, Architects, And Designers, a compendium of detailed photographs largely focusing on surface textures and how they change over time. In addition to interviews with a handful of design experts, the book is intended to allow people to use those photos in projects. But, as Friday’s suit states, using the photos for commercial purposes requires a licensing fee, which Capcom allegedly did not pay.

Juracek supplemented the complaint with more than 100 pages of supporting documents, showing photographic comparisons between screenshots of Capcom’s video games and photographs from Surfaces. In one, you can clearly see the facade of a door in Surfaces matching the facade of a door in Resident Evil. Another photo directly mirrors the cracked-glass designed that characterises the “4″ in the Resident Evil 4 logo.

Theoretically, it is very technically possible that, in making these games, Capcom sent photographers to each and every cited location in Juracek’s tome. That seems highly unlikely, and would be a high bar to clear in court.

Friday’s suit states that Capcom owes Juracek anywhere from $US2,500 ($3,207) to $US25,000 ($32,065) per photo, and says that Capcom unlawfully used around 80 photos in total. The suit also claims Capcom could owe Juracek up to $US12 ($15) million for copyright infringement, alongside legal fees. Lawyers are requesting a jury trial.

Capcom told Polygon it is “aware of the lawsuit” but declined to comment further to the outlet.

Read Polygon’s report here, which includes an uploaded copy of the complaint and exhibits in full.

Comments

  • … plus add the Dutch films keep who is claiming they stole his creature designs for RE Village and its not looking good for them.

    Might become an Easter Egg hunt for asset devs/artists to find their materials in Capcom games.

  • As someone else pointed out elsewhere, the book itself was subject to some misleading advertising which might’ve led to this situation:

    “Looking for images of architectural materials? Surfaces offers over 1,200 outstanding, vibrantly colorful visual images of surface textures – wood, stone, marble, brick, plaster, stucco, aggregates, metal, tile, and glass – ready to be used in your designs, presentations, or comps, as backgrounds or for general visual information.”

    All of these uses to me would suggest a commercial usage included with the $200 purchase. If it’s no commercial usage and you discover that after the purchase, there’d be an argument for a breach of the consumer law, at least in this country. Can’t speak for what’d happen in America/other countries. But the photographer is hardly innocent if that’s the summary and cost slapped on the book with no disclosure of the separate use requirements.

    • Details in the fine print, of what is defined as small scale use (like architectural/civil design) versus large scale commercial use.

      Its the “backgrounds or for general visual information.” that may be of issue… since it was used in Logo design, and that logo was then copyrighted and trademarked.

      • That fine print isn’t on the box for purchase, which is why misrepresentation is a problem. There’s absolutely nothing in there to suggest any limitation to use – “ready to be used in your designs, presentations, or comps, as backgrounds or for general visual information”. That’s the problem with the marketing. There is no fine print on the packaging for when the purchase is made on that Amazon page. But according to photographer in this lawsuit, absolutely no commercial usage is allowed unless they’re contacted, but that’s not what’s contained in this marketing/puffery. You only find out that little detail after you’ve spent $200+ USD on a then worthless book when you’ve could’ve sourced a full archive of far more images from the same price elsewhere. It’s misleading and deceptive conduct, in my opinion because commercial use isn’t just Capcom as a megacorp, but anyone who uses the resources to make money, including sole traders.

        If they’ve sold the product with this blurb and then are forbidding commercial use without further steps/payment, it’s consumer fraud regardless of who bought it. As I said previously, the photographer is no saint when the description itself is misleading and it would’ve hit more people than merely Capcom.

        @namiwakiru The problem is it’s not just “ignorance” when the puffery itself is a lie according to the producer of the book. It’s the publisher and author quite possibly engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct by stating it’s “ready to be used” when it’s actually not – you need another licence to use anything. While Capcom may have screwed up, the photographer isn’t in a better position when they’re using stolen information to run their lawsuit and have possibly engaged in consumer fraud given the blurb on their book quite frankly isn’t the case by their own admission.

        • Cant judge a book by Its cover, especially when all the fine print for a book or software… is inside the product, not on the cover.

          Trademark, copyright, disclaimers, terms of use/service, liabilities, publishing rights, are on the opening pages.

          But like any fine print, it’s a legal battle to decide its validity… and nowadays courts recognise no one reads them.

          But Capcom did shoot themselves in the foot here when they copyrighted and trademarked RE4 cause they are suppose to do their own due diligence and prove they have all rights to all material used. They can fight it, maybe win maybe lose, hard to tell courts are fickle.

          • That’s not the law though. The law doesn’t give two shits about the contents when the cover and item description are the only things that a consumer can go on prior to purchase, i.e. the marketing of the product. If the description isn’t accurate and it’s misleading, then it’s misleading and deceptive conduct on the part of the publisher and author. If this is purporting to have “ready to use” assets of any kind, then it purports to be providing commercial use given it lists a number of commercial uses instead of private uses. If it doesn’t allow for commercial use in reality, then they’re outright lying to the customer, misrepresenting the nature of the product and that’s a breach of the consumer law. It’s a scumbag move on their part for all of their customers.

            Trademark and copyright has absolutely nothing to do with consumer fraud. They’re separate areas of law and fine print is irrelevant when it comes to illegal marketing practices. You either get what’s stated in the marketing, or the seller isn’t allowed to sell it. If the consumer can’t access and read relevant “fine print” due to inadequate marketing, then the product shouldn’t be on sale. Capcom screwing up doesn’t make this photographer and publisher any less scummy and dishonest themselves because of these factors.

            I’m uncertain as to how it’ll go with the trademark/copyright law in America, but over here I’d think that taking them to court with stolen data would get them a kick in relation to equity. But we’re not America and I don’t know if the same applies to them.

    • You could try to argue ignorance but the nature of research and reference manuals are well known.

      It doesn’t automatically mean Capcom or it’s employees are knowingly doing a dodgy, there’s plenty of ways this could be an honest mistake but unfortunately it’s not a valid defence in these situations.

      • See above. It has nothing to do with “ignorance”, but everything to do with misleading marketing practices.

        • What you described IS the ignorance defence/argument.

          A product description like that would be a reasonable argument for consumer complaint (refund etc) on an individual level but this is an infringement on a commercial level, very different.
          The court wouldn’t accept the argument that Capcom purchased the assets under the assumption they could be used commercially because it’s on Capcom to follow the letter of the law when purchasing a product for commercial use anyway.
          Most companies would approach the publisher/artist directly, not buy the book and check the legal section after the fact.

          I don’t even think that’s what happened, at worst a designer/artist thought they could slip it past and at best someone’s reference materials got mixed in with or mistaken for unique assets.
          (Most folks in digital design carry their personal assets and reference/research materials around with them in one shape of form, laptop, portable HD etc)
          Unfortunately that doesn’t help Capcom either and it will likely get settled as others have been saying.

          • No, that’s how the consumer law works all over the world in countries that are functional and as stated above, this isn’t just a Capcom issue, they’ve done this to every person who has purchased the book outright (see my response above to @boxhead. ). If you describe X on your packaging, you are required to provide X as the content of the product because it is *illegal* not to as a matter of the law. You not understanding how this works is precisely why lawyers exist, because ignorance has absolutely nothing to do with marketing that is being deliberately misleading to induce a purchase from customers who have been lied to by the publisher. If the box says “ready to use” and lists a number of commercial uses, then the customer will think it’s inclusive of commercial use. Since the publisher has specified there is no commercial use in spite of their marketing, it’s illegal on the part of the publisher to sell the product in the first place as it’s a misrepresentation of the good. The only “ignorance” involved stems from the stupidity of the publisher’s legal department (if they even have one) for allowing that summary to be written. My point is that this photographer is no innocent and likely put themselves into this position through their own scummy behaviour. This isn’t simply a “Capcom got sued”, but it means that they’re capable of suing others who they induced through the lies on their misleading product and who already wasted money on a then worthless book. That’s the impression I get when I actually look at what they’ve written in that summary and it’s appalling.

            The trademark/copyright is an entirely separate field and the photographer doesn’t magically become a less shit person because they’re suing Capcom. How the assets are used by most is also irrelevant, because that’s not my issue here with the situation since it’s two separate issues (even though one could’ve directly led to the other). Again, see my response above to @boxhead.

    • It’s obviously reference material, ‘…Visual Research…’ is literally in the title of the book. Even ignoring that, I think it’s a huge stretch to assume that the phrasing of the advertising material suggests that the author intends to provide purchasers with blanket permission to use their copyrighted materials for commercial purposes.

      • “Ready to use” are the key words and you don’t “reference” textures – you apply them and modify them directly, because she provided a CD with all of those materials available on them to presumably use. Maybe legal should’ve covered their arse better when the summary was written if they don’t want to be accused of misleading customers.

        • ‘Ready to use’, yes…as research and reference materials. The provision of the textures on disc does not imply that the author intends to provide blanket copyright permissions for commercial usage.

          • Updating my view on this, it turns out this photographer has images from other photographers in that book as well (as noted in the book), meaning she doesn’t even own all of the photo copyright. In addition to this, the 1996 edition *does not* have any additional licencing included in the book or CD material, meaning the blurb and its inferred grant of commercial use is literally the own print and fine print connected to that book and its purchase. Nor does she mention any agreements being contained within the book in the lawsuit. She’s also accusing Capcom of using these images for Devil May Cry, which was what, 20+ odd years ago? Somehow, despite that amount of years, she never noticed the so called usage beforehand.

            Given that information and her own infringement, I think she has even less of a leg to stand on. So not only do I think it’s consumer fraud, but she stole images from other photographers to compile the book. What a classy person.

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