On January 22, 2014, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer overturned a multi-million dollar jury award against EA sports in a copyright infringement case. The underlying action was originally brought against the video game giant by Robin Antonick, a programmer who was initially given credit and royalties for creating the first edition of ‘Madden Football’ in 1988. Antonick alleged that subsequent versions of the game were created using his own source code, violating copyright infringement laws and entitling him to compensation. A federal jury agreed with Antonick in July of last year, awarding him over $3 million in damages plus interest that could have exceeded $7 million.
Judge Breyer, however, believed that there was no evidence suggesting that Antonick’s work had been copied by EA Sports in later versions of the intensely popular video game franchise. His ruling was premised on the fact that the jurors were never shown the later versions of the video game side by side with Antonick’s creation, precluding them from making a fair determination of whether copyright infringement had in fact occurred. Judge Breyer stated, “the jury had no basis for evaluating whether the changes [to subsequent Madden games] altered each subsequent game.” Accordingly, the Judge believed that a reasonable juror could not conclude that any of the subsequent Madden versions were infringing works.
Attorneys for EA sports expressed their satisfaction with the ruling, noting “there is no evidence that any of the (later) games are virtually identical to the . . . game that Robin Antonick programmed.” Antonick’s attorneys stated that they were in the process of putting together an appeal, and opined that “the evidence showed [EA Sports] used his source code without permission.”