‘Call of Duty’ Publishers Sued for Copyright Infringement

A well-known writer and photographer of post-apocalyptic and military-inspired images and stories has filed an infringement suit against the publishers of the video game franchise “Call of Duty,” claiming the company’s “Mara” character is copied from his copyrighted character and images.

Clayton Haugen, whose most recent production credit was as a writer for the 2020 Bruce Willis film “Hard Kill,” created a character named “Cade Janus” in 2017 as part of concept art and a story treatment to draw interest from various movie production companies. Haugen subsequently posted the protected images and character background on his website and social media to further demonstrate his talent and potentially engage other film studios. 

The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Marshall, Texas, alleges that “Call of Duty” developers used those images as well as the same model and makeup artist employed by Mr. Haugen as the basis for the “Mara” character. The lawsuit further alleges that those professionals were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements in an attempt to cover up the infringement. 

“There should be no question that this was a planned, deliberate effort to duplicate the striking images created by Mr. Haugen,” said Micah Dortch of the Dallas office of the Potts Law Firm. “The evidence included in our filing clearly shows the similarities between the original images and the digitized character, as well as the actual use of Mr. Haugen’s images.”

Defendants Activision Publishing Inc., Activision Blizzard Inc., and Major League Gaming Corp. have claimed that “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” sold more than $1 billion in downloads as well as physical copies through such retailers as GameStop in the first three months following its release in October 2019. 

Haugen is represented by Dortch and Chris Lindstrom from the Potts Law Firm and Houston attorney Patrick Zummo with the Law Offices of Patrick Zummo. The legal team previously filed an infringement lawsuit against the same defendants in 2019 on behalf of WWE Hall of Famer Booker T. Huffman. That lawsuit, currently set for trial in April, claimed a “Call of Duty” character called “Prophet” was copied from the “G.I. Bro” character created by Huffman.

The case is Clayton Haugen v. Activision Publishing, Inc., Activision Blizzard, Inc., and Major League Gaming Corp., No. 2:21-cv-00035, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall.  

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