Capcom sued by photographer for $12 million for using her photos in over 200 infringements

Jun 7, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Capcom sued by photographer for $12 million for using her photos in over 200 infringements

Jun 7, 2021

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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There’s a big myth out there that if you “alter” a portion of an image, the image is longer subject to copyright laws. Crop it down, scale it, change its colour, modify a few pixels here and there and you can claim “transformative” under Fair Use… Right? Wrong, as games creator Capcom is finding out after they were hit with a $12,000,000 lawsuit.

Polygon reports that the suit was filed by designer Judy A. Juracek who alleges that Capcom has used photos from her copyrighted book, Surfaces, in a number of games, including Resident Evil 4, Devil May Cry and other games. Surfaces is a collection of photographs of more than 1,200 textures, designed as a “visual research” reference for artists.

Juracek’s book was published in 1996 and came with an accompanying CD-ROM containing the textures, allowing artists to easily view them digitally on-screen as a reference. Importantly, however, the book doesn’t come with a license to actually use the images for commercial use. They’re purely for visual reference. Juracek says that she requires that anybody needing commercial use contact her directly for a license. She says that Capcom never purchased a license or even contacted her, but cites at least 80 photographs of hers that were used across Capcom’s games in more than 200 instances.

According to the suit filed in a Connecticut court on Friday, some of the evidence comes from the 2020 Capcom data breach, which led to the launch plans of Resident Evil Village being leaked, along with the personal information of thousands of people including customers, shareholders and employees. Also included in the information were “high resolution images of artwork used in Resident Evil and other games”, Juracek says. Artwork that she believes was created from her copyrighted photographs.

The nail in the coffin for Capcom, backing up her beliefs is that they didn’t even bother to change the filenames from the originals on the CD-ROM that came with the Surfaces book, according to Juracek.

Juracek is seeking up to $12 million in damages on a count of copyright infringement as well as damages for “false copyright management and removal of copyright management” which could be a further $2,500 to $25,000 for each photograph used.

A Capcom representative responded to Polygon, telling them that they are “aware of the lawsuit” but that they have “no further comment”.

This will be an interesting one to keep an eye on. It’s also a good reminder to folks that even though an image might have been published 25 years ago, people are still going to notice if you steal their stuff.

[via Polygon]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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35 responses to “Capcom sued by photographer for $12 million for using her photos in over 200 infringements”

  1. madara Avatar
    madara

    You would really think they would be cautious when using textures. They could have saved some money by reaching an agreement with the original author.

    1. _Siro_ Avatar
      _Siro_

      Honestly, if they put some effort in and just customized it better than just crops, trims, and colors. For example, that sheep. If they made one ear shorter or pointed a different way, shorten the snout. Shit, they could’ve even changed it to where there’s only one grape bunch on the right side and two on the left. They deserve this lawsuit for being incredibly lazy. For someone to recognize their textures which are so miniscule to notice most of the time…you know you messed up.

      1. Pokemon Tamer Avatar
        Pokemon Tamer

        Technically they used the photos as reference and made 3D polygon versions for the games they didn’t copy or steal anything technically.

        1. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
          Arthur_P_Dent

          So, you’re OK with plagiarism?

          1. Rezerlius Carnelius Mazretin Avatar
            Rezerlius Carnelius Mazretin

            I truly doubt Capcom stole her artwork and used it as their own besides during the ’90s Resident Evil was in its early stages and finding its own footing there were only using her artwork as references Capcom is not evil if that’s what you’re thinking ?‍♂️ They do have their own art department And they are aware of the lawsuit so that goes to show they’re not ignoring it ?

          2. Timothyf7 Avatar
            Timothyf7

            So they did their own artwork and had textures with the same file name as the Plaintiff’s? Really? Did you read the article?

            “The nail in the coffin for Capcom, backing up her beliefs is that they didn’t even bother to change the filenames from the originals on the CD-ROM that came with the Surfaces book, according to Juracek.”

      2. James Caskey Avatar
        James Caskey

        That’s… not true at all.

  • Samiul Avatar
    Samiul

    It’s crazy cuz how the hell did it take 16 years to finally sue Capcom just cause they used infringements?

    1. keyne Avatar
      keyne

      If you read the article, perhaps it will tell you!

      1. James A Robertson Avatar
        James A Robertson

        It happened during a data breach, if it didnt happen i dont think this person would of known at all. Or atleast thats what i understood from it.

    2. Pachino 3:16 Avatar
      Pachino 3:16

      She needed money

  • PhallicMetaphor Avatar
    PhallicMetaphor

    You could get away with this on the 80’s and 90s because of how niche gaming was and the lack of the internet. I wonder if they started using the book late 90s because the likelyhood of getting caught was extremely low and new people kept coming in using the textures without knowing where they came from, or more specifically they didn’t own the license.

  • Michael Avatar
    Michael

    They literally could have cooked some sugar in a pan and hit it with a hammer. 12 million though? Try justifying that amount. Do people usually get a percentage of all profits for selling textures used in artwork?

    1. James Caskey Avatar
      James Caskey

      Maybe not, but they do normally get paid.

  • Pachino 3:16 Avatar
    Pachino 3:16

    Everybody out for a quick buck these days, $12,000,000. Maybe that would make up for the crappy books she made that didn’t sell

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      How do you know they’re crappy or that they didn’t sell?

      1. Pachino 3:16 Avatar
        Pachino 3:16

        Because I just know.. some things you just know

        1. Kaouthia Avatar
          Kaouthia

          So, you mean you don’t know?

          1. Pachino 3:16 Avatar
            Pachino 3:16

            Don’t you know? I said some things you just know. Ya know?

          2. Kaouthia Avatar
            Kaouthia

            No, I don’t know, but I’m not the one claiming whether they did or not as a fact. You don’t know this either, no matter how much you think you do.

  • crystalclear Avatar
    crystalclear

    This was a different era where this was wrong but mostly innocent and there was no concept back then (pre-internet era) of a tiny zoomed in pic of something else being shown as infringing etc. It was of course but videogames were very niche with young naive programmers that probably misunderstood her work as sort of open source. I agree with the suit and deserving compensation but 12 million instantly made me go from sympathizing with her to viewing her as a money hungry blood sucker.

    Maybe 500k and even that is a real stretch.

    1. Lucas Morel Avatar
      Lucas Morel

      If they had just used it for 1 game then I could see 500gs as ok but they used the same textures on 4 different ones that she knows of. These games were 60 to 65 a piece after taxes. I was in high school when Devil May Cry was released. I’m 35 years old now. All these games sold on Multiplatforms and they sold well. So I believe 12 million is justified since they’ve been making millions copy and pasting her work for over 2 decades.

      1. Oscar Cruz Mora Avatar
        Oscar Cruz Mora

        Specially since Devil May cry 1/2/3 have been re-released on PS2/PS3/PS4 hardcopy and download version, and most likely PS5 will have it too. I know for sure I bought a copy of each gaming system every time they came out because the graphics improved every time as gaming engines in general advanced further with all world tech

    2. James Caskey Avatar
      James Caskey

      show your work lol

  • Sahar Avatar
    Sahar

    Fvckkk noooo this would definitely ruin the RE4 Remake

    1. Rezerlius Carnelius Mazretin Avatar
      Rezerlius Carnelius Mazretin

      Resident Evil 4 does not need a remake That is a waste of money and resources and I will never preorder it or support it either The game is great the way it is so leave it alone ?

  • Fernando Guajardo Avatar
    Fernando Guajardo

    Just imagine playing playing Capcom games in court to prove that not just the logo but my work is all over the game when you play it. Lol see this mansion infeasted with bio organic weapons and my pictures on the wall. Oh wait there’s one more picture of my work in this mega man game, if you just give me a moment to get threw Dr. Willy’s bosses with out getting hit……. F**k smashes controller, and sayes forget it.?

  • That guy Avatar
    That guy

    C’mon guys, clearly the 12m includes pain and suffering, and emotional damages.

  • Opinionatedreturns Avatar
    Opinionatedreturns

    Just hire her to create some art for the game franchise since they love her work so much.. why not?.. if someone has the style that you love for your project. Collaborate and create a masterpiece together. Greedy mfs..

  • Rezerlius Carnelius Mazretin Avatar
    Rezerlius Carnelius Mazretin

    Once again she is another one that demands millions of dollars over something that is out of her control People will do anything to get money by suing a company that makes billions of dollars It’s not surprising and she should be ashamed of yourself asking for 12 million I consider that excessive and downright greedy?‍♂️ Even if she made those artwork she doesn’t officially own them It seems she forgot during the ’90s any artwork is an open source project and can be used commercially without a license if you don’t believe me do your own damn research I’m not going to spell it out for you ?‍♂️ Capcom only used them as references not as their own?‍♂️I’m sorry But her 12 million lawsuit doesn’t make logical sense at all And I highly doubt she will win the lawsuit Capcom did win several lawsuits against them over things they didn’t do Business people are just using the lawsuit strategy Which is the fastest way to earn millions of dollars?‍♂️ At the cost of losing respect and reputation ?‍♂️ It’s the same crap with The Joy-Con infringement lawsuit ?‍♂️ Nintendo won the lawsuit ?‍♂️ You’re messing with the three most powerful companies in the world Microsoft Sony and Nintendo or Capcom if you are going to create a lawsuit against them you better have a damn legit reason ?‍♂️ like and comment

  • Doug Birling Avatar
    Doug Birling

    I find it amazing that people are justifying a corporation stealing from an individual… there are laws, and they broke the law… It’s really that simple. Why are we ok with letting corporations break the law?

  • Perry Mason Avatar
    Perry Mason

    I wonder if the people who created the textures and sculptures will be suing the photographer who obviously stole their work without written permission.

  • Jim Photoman Avatar
    Jim Photoman

    Shouldn’t she be honored that they used her images? Just think of the exposure she’s getting! I’m being sarcastic; they were lazy and should pay the price!

  • Tom Freda Avatar
    Tom Freda

    To anyone thinking she’s asking too much … I’ve dealt with many, many copyright infringements of my photos. I even hired my son to track them down and take a commission for each one he finds. The tradition going way back to early stock agency days in the seventies and eighties (for infringements and lying about distribution or print runs) is that you hit them hard with a shocker price, then settle for less after negotiations.

    So I predict we’ll hear a few months from now that she settled out-of-court. The figure won’t be disclosed, but I’m guessing it’ll be in the hundreds of thousands, not millions.

  • angrybanana Avatar
    angrybanana

    Shouldn’t really feel any sympathy for gaming companies getting sued. They’d sue you to oblivion if you infringe on their copyright.