John L. Beiswenger is not a happy man.
As of last week, the science fiction author stepped forward and served up some papers to Ubisoft, announcing that he was suing the company for copyright infringement.
According to Beiswenger, the creators of the Assassin’s Creed franchise stole the main premise of his own novel Link, a story about a scientific discovery that allows for ancestral memory to be “accessed, recalled, relived, and re-experienced” via an invention similar to AC’s animus. He also claims that the book includes themes of assassins, the bible, the Garden of Eden, and the Forbidden Fruit.
The author is asking for damages from not only the four games released since 2007, but also the guide books, comic series, and two trailers. If his request is honored, he will receive an amount no less than $1.05 million dollars. And, if the judge rules that Ubisoft did in fact infringe on his copyrights, Beiswenger could walk away with as much as $5.25 million. He also requests that the court prevent the release of Assassin’s Creed III and anything related to it.
Now, allow me to say this: I am not a huge AC fan, so this story only mildly piqued my interest from the fan standpoint. The games always remind me of a Wal-Mart bakery cake; they look pretty good on the outside, but once I sit down and get into them, it’s a disappointment, like there was a lot of potential here, but something’s…missing.
However, what Beiswenger is trying to do here is ridiculous. In the world of fiction, there is no such thing as a new story; just a new way of telling it. Meaning that, with 6 billion people walking this planet, you’re going to encounter similar ideas between creative minds. What separates them from each other is the way they’re told. Now, if this author had written a story about a young man named Desmond who was accessing his memories via a machine called the Animus that allowed him to re-live the memories of his assassin ancestor named Altair, then he might have a more compelling case. But the thing is, the idea of genetic memory recall within the realm of science fiction is not new. In fact, after this story broke on the 18th, many fans went back and found that Beiswenger’s story is similar in premise to the 1981 Alan Hathaway work titled “They Died Twice,” which deals directly with similar ideas.
And I can’t help but feel that his motives are a little suspect. Why now? The original Assassin’s Creed was released in 2007. Why wasn’t Beiswenger all over it then? Sadly, his timing and claims really only make him sound like a disgruntled author who’s simply jealous of the success of a similar franchise.
Just go play some games, John. You’ll fell better.