Wrestler Booker T Sues Activision For Copyright Infringement Over Fairly Generic Character Depiction

from the no-bro dept

It's old hat by now to point out that on matters of copyright far too many people are unaware of the nuances of the law as to what constitutes infringement and what doesn't. While this is generally true, it's all the more so when it comes to how copyright covers specific characters or settings. For instance, George Lucas may have a copyright claim on the specific character of Darth Vader, but he most certainly does not have any claim to the more generic black-armored space-magician with a laser sword and a bad attitude. Copyright covers expression, in other words, not mere ideas.

Which brings us to ex-WWE wrestler Booker T and his lawsuit against Activision over a G.I. Bro character he created and a character in Black Ops 4.

Booker T. Huffman has filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision for allegedly stealing his “G.I Bro” character in the Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 video game.

Huffman filed a lawsuit today against Activision Publishing, Inc, Activision Blizzard, Inc., and Major League Gaming Corp.

The lawsuit alleges that Booker T’s character G.I Bro was copied by the Black Ops character David “Prophet” Wilkes. Booker T used the G.I Bro character in the 90s as a professional wrestler, and also created a comic book based on the character in 2015.

You can read the entire filing below, but I will tell you right up front that this isn't a strong case. Booker T is asserting copyright infringement over a character that does not share a name with his, does not share a backstory with his, and does not exist in the same setting as his. Instead, it appears the only thing the two characters do share is that both are African American gunslingers in combat gear with long hair. Seriously, that's about it. The filing itself uses these side by side images to demonstrate the "blatant copying" that has occurred.

If you think there is any kind of unique identifier in Activision's image on the right that somehow makes it a clear copy of Booker T's character, you're a crazy person. Again, to put it bluntly, it's just an African American guy with long hair in combat gear. Complicating Booker T's suit further, this is an established character in the Black Ops ethos, with this supposedly infringing depiction being simply some imagery around when Prophet was younger. The character is Prophet, full stop. It's not G.I. Bro at all and nobody is going to think otherwise, except apparently for Booker T and whatever lawyers he convinced to file this lawsuit.

And none of that even touches Booker T's own character's name, a clear homage and reference to G.I. Joe. One wonders if Hasbro wants to get involved at this point, given the stink that's being made over intellectual property rights.

Filed Under: black ops 4, booker t, characters, copyright, g.i. bro, video games
Companies: activision


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  • icon
    Gary (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 7:08pm

    Obvious Infringement

    And Hasbro will be coming for Gi Bro now that this obscure ripoff has caught their attention!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2019 @ 8:33pm

    Similarities are obvious. I hope Activision gets their asses handed to them in the lawsuit.

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

    • icon
      Matthew Cline (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 8:40pm

      Re:

      Are there more similarities beyond:

      ... both [being] African American gunslingers in combat gear with long hair.

      Or do you hold that that's enough for copyright infringement?

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 16 Feb 2019 @ 12:01am

      Similarities are obvious.

      In this specific case, aesthetic similarities alone are not enough to create a case of infringement. This also does not account for any independent inspiration from other media — change the race of and take the hair from Prophet, and you practically have Marcus Fenix from Gears of War (only without the futuristic body armor). And that does not even get into the fact that the design of his outfit is inspired by a host of other, similar outfits in other games as well as TV and movies (and possibly even real life).

      Does the appearance of Prophet look similar to that of G.I. Bro in the provided comic book image? Yes. But unless Booker can provide stronger proof than “they look the same, sucka”, he does not have a strong case for copyright infringement.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Feb 2019 @ 1:21am

      Re:

      You’ve convinced me with your side by side comparison and you impeccable logic.

      Idiot

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2019 @ 7:12am

      Re:

      Huge similarities... I mean, look at the picture of Black Widow that is clearly a ripoff in the bottom right corner!

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 11:43pm

    Booker T? The house DJ I saw a few times in the 90s was good but I didn't think he'd be a military character...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0wG82bSHa4

    Oh, different guy who co-opted that name. OK...

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 15 Feb 2019 @ 11:54pm

    Given the state of WCW at the time when Booker T was performing as G.I. Bro in that company, and assuming he believes Activision ripped him off, he might want to thank someone at Activision for at least remembering that gimmick.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Ld Elon, 16 Feb 2019 @ 12:17am

    White people make me sick... They steal everything an make up the law to support their thefts an thuggery. An you call balck people animals...

    https://www.digitalspy.com/tech/a26364393/fresh-prince-of-bel-air-carlton-dance-copyright -fight-fortnite/

    • Apparently, the dance is just a "simple routine".
    • Copyright covers expression.

    Now you go figure your shitty onesided racist law cunt.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2019 @ 4:11am

      Re:

      You seem fun.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Feb 2019 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      Copyright law works the same regardless of who originated something copyrightable or not. (Money sadly and obviously makes a difference in court, but money isn't lacking wrt the referenced dance moves, unlike other moves taken from culture or the fortnite dance move contest.)

      People constantly appropriate from Black cultures and arts, it is entirely true. Guess who is winning the culture wars in the long run?

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 16 Feb 2019 @ 3:31am

    And right after that article about Japan planning to criminalise all copyright infringement...

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 16 Feb 2019 @ 5:16am

    Toss up

    It's not G.I. Bro at all and nobody is going to think otherwise, except apparently for Booker T and whatever lawyers he convinced to file this lawsuit.

    Did he convince a lawyer, or did a scuzzbag lawyer convince him? It's kind of a toss here. Either is just as likely these days. I'd fully believe there are lawyers that scour the net looking for similarities between anything new or big, and old properties, then make pitches at the original folk about how the big bad company is stealing their precious.

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

  • identicon
    Michael Riendeau, 16 Feb 2019 @ 12:59pm

    Sounds familiar

    Didn't this happen with GTA V about that blond chick in the bikini? How did that go?

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

  • icon
    Gary (profile), 16 Feb 2019 @ 9:36pm

    Re: NONE

    So "Booker T" copies a well known musical name, Booker T. Hasbro grabs a well known term from the war, "GI Joe." Booker T (the rapper) copies a very well known action figure/cartoon with his "Gi Bro."
    But somehow "Prophet" is stealing from Booker T (The rapper.)

    Carlton copies Courtney Cox. That's Ok. But it's stealing for Fortnite to copy that basic dance step?

    Culture is built on culture. You can "own" anything you can't hold in your hand.

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

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 17 Feb 2019 @ 5:50am

    You're so vain

    You're so vain You probably think this game is about you You're so vain, I'll bet you think this game is about you Don't you? Don't you?

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


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