Photographer Clayton Haugen filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Activision and Infinity Ward over the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare operator, Mara. Haugen claims that Mara was modeled, knowingly, after his original character, Cade Janus, from his short story, “November Renaissance”.
The plaintiff also alleges that Activision went so far as to hire the same model, Twitch streamer and actress Alex Zedra, and replicated his photoshoot.
Haugen hired Zedra back in 2017 to model for him and attempted to pitch his story to Hollywood for a movie deal. He published the photos on his website and his Instagram page, eventually making a calendar with them. These photographs are easily accessible which is probably how Activision got ahold of them.
In addition to replicating the photoshoot, the complainant states that Activision also hired the same makeup professional for their shoot and asked Zedra to wear the same hair extensions as well as some of the same gear previously used.
The Complaint, Spelled Out
The legal complaint goes into detail about the alleged extent of Activision taking Haugen’s ideas without permission.
It states, “[Activision] instructed the makeup professional to prepare the talent exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs. They instructed her to style the talent’s hair exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photograph’s, even using the same hair extension.”
Haugen’s lawyers go further with their allegations and state that to “conceal their planned infringement…Defendants required the talent and the makeup professional to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements.”
It’s still up in the air as to whether or not it can be proven that Activision willingly infringed on a photographer’s copyright but it appears that Activision did, in fact, know about the Janus photographs.
The company provided a development document titled “Project Odyssey” that was dated September 8, 2017, and on page 7- underneath the heading “THE FACE OF THE NEAR FUTURE”- is a photograph of Alex Zedra as Cade Janus.
Activision appears to have wanted Zedra cast in their franchise because they sought a diverse cast of characters reflecting the modern-day population.
Infringement or Inspiration?
Clayton Haugen seeks “all monetary remedies from Defendants’ infringement, including all of their profits attributable to their infringements.” To put that into perspective, Mara was originally available as a part of Modern Warfare‘s season one battle pass, which cost around $10, plus she has access to a bunch of different skins. If Haugen wins the case, he will walk away a very rich man considering just how popular Modern Warfare is.
The entire legal document is available on Torrent Freak. And in that document are multiple pages of photographs comparing Mara to Alex Zedra. Below is page 13 of the document that shows a side-by-side comparison.
What do YOU think of the comparison?
Personally, I see too many similarities between Alex Zedra and Mara for them to be purely coincidental. And it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t the first time Activision has had to deal with a copyright infringement lawsuit.
In 2019, five-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, Booker T. Huffman, filed a lawsuit against Activision for copyright infringement on the character, Prophet, from Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.
Does Haugen have a case? I’d love to hear your thoughts.