Judge Reminds Vexatious Human Being That Ideas -- Even Techno-Dragons With Guns -- Are Not Protected By Copyright

from the oh,-and-also-this-was-some-sort-of-hate-crime,-apparently dept

When someone accuses someone else of "stealing their ideas" in a legal filing, there's a good chance the lawsuit is doomed to fail. Ideas aren't protected. Expressions of those ideas are, but only as long as there's something significantly original about the expression(s) in question. Simply declaring that someone "stole" something isn't going to cut it.

In a dismissal that runs longer than the complaint preceding it, a New York district court breaks it all down for the pro se complainant. Here are the original allegations.

In January 2014, L'Poni Baldwin published a book called The Society on Da Run: Dragons and Cicadas. This book infringes on my book Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate, which was published in 2005.

Ms. Baldwin's book involves "Space Dragons", which are identical to the space dragons in Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate. Ms. Baldwin also used a "Dragon God," which is identical to the dragon god Dennagon in my book Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate.

Ms. Baldwin also combines futuristic technology and dragons in her book, which is a copy of the fact that I used futuristic technology and dragons in my book. She also includes a dragon city and spaceships, which were also in my writing.

Furthermore, she has another book called Tarnished: Tales of Broken Dragons and 300 Other Stories. This book involves aliens fighting dragons, which is identical to the concept of one of my comic books, Dragons Vs. Aliens.

In addition, she has another book called Dragonworld ETC, which is a ripoff of a term I used in Dragons. Dragonworld in my writing referred to the dragons' homeworld.

In her saga, she also makes use of "cybernetic dragons", which was a creature in my book (except in Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate, they were called Technodragons). She also has the dragons using weapons, which is a ripoff of my world where the dragons use swords and guns.
All this leads up to perhaps one of the most unlikely allegations to ever grace a copyright infringement complaint.
As my book came out in 2005, it is my belief that she stole my writing. Research indicates that she is black. As I am a well-known Asian Supremacist, I believe she may have done this as an act of retaliation.
The complainant, Kenneth Eng, ain't lying. His editorials (read: racist screeds) got AsianWeek in hot water back in 2007. Using the "voice of Asian America" as a vehicle for a rant entitled "Why I Hate Blacks" wasn't well-received. Apparently, this is what Eng does when not writing dragons-and-guns books. (He also posts videos praising the Virginia Tech shooter and gets arrested for assault and harassment in his down time.)

This bit of race-baiting paranoia is referenced in a footnote by Judge Vitaliano but the bulk of the dismissal is a reminder that ideas -- especially those that are "significantly common" -- simply aren't copyrightable. Not only that, but even given the amount of leeway granted pro se complainants, one of the key ingredients to a successful lawsuit is actually stating an actionable claim.
It is clear that Eng, as told by him in his complaint, has seized hold of similarities between his ideas, as expressed in "Dragons: Lexicon Triumvirate," and Baldwin's, as expressed in her own works. Far from being "original" in a legal sense, the ideas which Eng purports to own are similarly common in the corpus of American science fiction and fantasy. Moreover, plaintiff entirely fails to identify how Baldwin's expressions are in any way substantially similar to his own, and even the most cursory comparison of the works in question can make clear that the authors express their common ideas quite differently.

For instance, Eng alleges that the "dragon gods" in Baldwin's stories are "identical" to what the character Dennagon becomes in his own novel. But, where Eng's supreme dragon realized singular, limitless power through contact with the titular Lexicon artifact, and made himself one with eternity itself, the "dragon gods" of Baldwin's writings are many, less-than-omnipotent, and preoccupied with mundane concerns.
Kudos to the judge for being willing to wade into roughly comparable texts dealing with dragons, techno-dragons, gun-wielding dragons and dragon gods in order to make this point. Eng was asking for a mere $10 million for this imagined violation and the judge hasn't entirely closed the door on this particular case. Eng will be allowed to re-plead, even though it seems clear that doing so will probably be a waste of everyone's time (except possibly Eng's, who very obviously needs some sort of constructive hobby).
For the foregoing reasons, Eng has failed to state a claim of copyright infringement upon which relief may be granted. These claims must be dismissed, but without prejudice and with leave to amend, should Eng be able in good faith to identify any protected expression in his work-rather than unprotectable ideas or concepts that defendant has allegedly infringed.
In the meantime, Eng is pursuing another infringement lawsuit against "Fox Group Legal" and variety of linked names for supposedly stealing his script entitled "The Theory of Everything." According to Eng, he submitted (presumably unsolicited) his script to production company Circle of Confusion in 2009 and now notes this company (which has produced a lot of Walking Dead episodes) is apparently utilizing a bunch of Eng's script elements in its produced work. (I'm extrapolating a lot here. The filing's wording leaves a lot to be desired.)

Eng is seeking $5 million "from all parties," of which there are four or five, depending on which page of the filing you read. This could mean Eng expects a $20-25 million payoff, or something more in the range of $1 million per defendant. Again, Eng's wording is less than precise but as written, it tends to indicate the latter. Oddly, unlike most copyright lawsuits, Eng expressly designates that he would prefer no jury trial.

Even terrible people can have their copyright infringed, but even the best people can't claim that general/universal ideas are somehow solely their property and that anyone else who thinks it would be cool if a dragon carried a gun/lived in the future "stole" their work. Eng shouldn't have his lawsuits disregarded simply because he's unpleasant. But measuring them solely on their merits isn't likely to raise anyone's estimation of him.






Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 5:45am

    Ms. Baldwin also combines futuristic technology and dragons in her book, which is a copy of the fact that I used futuristic technology and dragons in my book. She also includes a dragon city and spaceships, which were also in my writing.

    Holy f***ing originality! Futuristic technology AND dragons in one place? Nobody has done that since - what, wasn't that in 40 year old Marvel comics? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fin_Fang_Foom

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 5:54am

    Judge! He stole my idea!

    Your honor, the defendant cannot counter sue me and make ridiculous counter claims in his answers to my complaint.

    I did it first in the original complaint! He is stealing my idea. The record clearly shows that I, me, I was the first one in this case to make a jackass of myself! I have a copyright on that!

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 6:05am

    Kudos to the judge for being willing to wade into roughly comparable texts dealing with dragons, techno-dragons, gun-wielding dragons and dragon gods in order to make this point.
    The guy deserves a medal. (And maybe some Tolkien, as a palate cleanser.)

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Rubicant, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 6:12am

    Um, excuse me? I was making a jackass of myself all the way back in 2001, while riding a dragon..........in space. I am the true owner of jackassitry, and dragons, and space!

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 6:42am

    As my book came out in 2005, it is my belief that she stole my writing. Research indicates that she is black. As I am a well-known Asian Supremacist, I believe she may have done this as an act of retaliation.

    IMHO, this is quite a huge leap of [il]logic. I am hoping that when Baldwin was asked if she knew of Eng's writings, she answered, "Who?"

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    zip, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 6:43am

    print vs. software

    Maybe if this guy had put his 'Space Dragon' ideas into computer software, might the court outcome have been different?

    Something I'm trying to figure out is why simple ideas expressed in the form of computer software (or firmware) are patentable, while the same ideas expressed in book form are not patentable. The actual text of each is covered by copyright anyway, but for the idea itself, why is the distribution medium the defining factor of whether a simple idea is patentable?

    Or maybe the question I should be asking is, if simple, non-technical ideas are patentable as software or business-methods, why can't these exact same ideas be patented as book material?

     

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  7.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 6:49am

    I'm still waiting for the estate of Algis Budrys to sue over the movie 'Edge of Tomorrow' for "ripping off" his book 'Rouge Moon'. Which uses the idea of fighting, "dying", and then coming back for more fighting.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 6:50am

    Dear Kenneth Eng,

    I assure you, none of the three people (four, now that the judge read them, I guess) that managed to get through your awful books stole your ideas.

    - The internet

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 7:14am

    Futuristic technology and dragons

    Really?

    Shadowrun (first edition: 1989) is well-known for its seamless blending of the cyberpunk (of which futuristic high technology is an important component) and fantasy (including elfs, dwarves, orcs, trolls, ...and dragons) genres.

    Its most well-known tagline is "Watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon." The dragon in question being Lofwyr, the CEO of one of the top high-technology mega-corporations.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    IANADG, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 7:17am

    In your legal filings, do not refer to your dragon gods by name. Use page numbers.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    tomczerniawski, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 7:29am

    Terra Malatora.

    If you know what this means, congratulations. If you don't, it's best you not try to find out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 7:42am

    Re: print vs. software

    Or maybe the question I should be asking is, if simple, non-technical ideas are patentable as software or business-methods, why can't these exact same ideas be patented as book material?

    Theoretically, ideas aren't patentable, only inventions. One could I think legitimately argue that business methods are nothing more than ideas, and that's one of the problems with them.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 7:59am

    Re: print vs. software

    Master of orion did space dragons as random encounters in the mid 90s.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Case, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 8:56am


    Ms. Baldwin also combines futuristic technology and dragons in her book, which is a copy of the fact that I used futuristic technology and dragons in my book.


    Uh huh, so Man Meets Magic and Machine...that sounds strangely familiar for a grand new invention made in 2005...

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 9:22am

    Re: Futuristic technology and dragons

    Don't Forget RIFTS by Palladium Books, which dates only a couple years after Shaddowrun. It has dragons as a playable class which might occasionally tote a laser gun, and sling spells at the same time.

    RPG nerds have been giving dragons laser guns and computers for a long time now.

    Because it's crazy; crazy awesome.

     

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  16.  
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    Mason Wheeler (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 10:33am

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:14am

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Dirkmaster (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:25am

    Re:

    Isn't the idea of fighting, dying, and coming back for more fighting about 3/4th of Valhalla?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Michael, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 11:29am

    When did "Asian Supremacist" become a thing?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re:

    Eh, I'd say it's split 50/50 between 'fight, die, get back up and fight again' and 'drink, feast and party hard'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Re:

    But Rogue Moon lacks the "reset to the same point in time" aspect of the resurrection that Edge of Tommorrow has. And everything else is different, too, so I assume you were being sarcastic.

    I saw EoT a couple nights ago, it's meh OK, despite Tom.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    There have been racist douches of every race since forever.

    Just like the folk who think the Home Team is righteously morally superior to the Visiting Team.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 12:51pm

    Unsolicited manuscripts

    My step-brother once interned at a smallish but successful movie production company.

    One of his weekly tasks was to photograph and log each piece of mail suspected of containing an unsolicited manuscript or story treatment, confirm that's what it was, then shred it, while another intern videotaped the process. They then sent back a form letter. Despite this, there was a list of "regulars" who sent in treatments frequently.

    He actually had to give a deposition about it a few years later when one of the regulars sued.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    JP Jones (profile), Jun 10th, 2014 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re: print vs. software

    Master of Orion II is still one of my favorite games ever. No idea why...no other 4X game has captured my imagination (or time) like that game.

    And it totally had space dragons =)

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    tahuti, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 2:16pm

    Re: Futuristic technology and dragons

    Rifts from 1990 includes cybernetic dragons, while Shadowrun has dragons in cyberpunk setting,they are not augmented.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Futuristic technology and dragons

    That's very true.

    Again: Crazy, crazy awesome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 4:21pm

    Whatever drugs he's on aren't working and he sounds like a thoroughly nasty and vicious little man. I'm waiting for the Techno Smerfs (intentional misspelling) with B.F.G's and floating cities in space fighting other evil merchandising.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 4:58pm

    The "Dragon God" idea was done in books at least as far back as 1977 with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual as "Bahamut" and "Tiamat" (unnamed versions of the same Dragon Gods appeared in the first D&D supplement "Greyhawk" by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz in 1975). I'd say that predates Eng's idea by about thirty years.

    I bet Kennith try-Eng though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jun 10th, 2014 @ 5:09pm

    Re:

    Although technically, neither Bahamut nor Tiamat were described as a deity until 2nd Editions "Draconomicon" in 1990. Still predates by 15 years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Lurker Keith, Jun 11th, 2014 @ 12:30am

    I guess he's never watched Digimon

    Since MetalGreymon could be argued as not being a dragon type, check out Digimon Adventure's (original series) Machinedramon. & this is just one. I chose him because his name is derived from Machine, dra (short for dragon) & mon (short for monster). There are probably hundreds (if not more) of armed/ weaponized cyberdragons in Digimon alone! & I watched it, dubbed, in the 90's! Yugioh also has a bunch!

    Searching for the URL, & to verify I correctly remembered Machinedramon was in the original series, I also came across Commandramon (also linked from his page is Sealsdramon & Tankdramon, as evolutions). Granted, it looks like Commandramon wasn't seen until 2010.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    Sheogorath (profile), Jun 14th, 2014 @ 9:31pm

    I invite you to sue my ass, Mr. Eng

    Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC, Dragonworld ETC.
    Go ahead, waste attorneys fees in attempting to sue me over something that's too short to have a copyright on it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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