19 August 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

CBS, Netflix prevail in ‘Star Trek’ copyright suit

A video game creator has had his copyright infringement suit over the “Star Trek: Discovery” television series thrown out by a federal appeals court.

In its decision, issued yesterday, August 17, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of the suit on summary judgment, in a win for  CBS and  Netflix.

The case was brought by Anas Osama Ibrahim Abdin, creator of the concept for a video game called “Tardigrades”.

The game centres on an ancient society capable of intergalactic travel, while it also features space-travelling versions of tardigrades.

Tardigrades are water-dwelling micro-animals which have been shown to be capable of surviving exposure to outer space conditions.

Tardigrade-like creatures feature in “Discovery”, most notably in the form of the Ripper character. This became the basis of Abdin’s copyright complaint against CBS and Netflix.

Abdin was initially unsuccessful at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, which found any similarities between the video game and the Star Trek spin off to be unprotectable.

The “Tardigrades” creator appealed to the Second Circuit, which yesterday upheld the district court’s findings.

According to the Second Circuit, “Abdin's space-traveling tardigrade is an unprotectable idea because it is a generalised expression of a scientific fact—namely, the known ability of a tardigrade to survive in space”.

Furthermore, the court found, it was “unclear what role the nameless tardigrade plays in the video game”, whereas Ripper is “very much at the center of a fully developed story” in the first season of ‘Discovery’.

“In sum, even assuming Abdin's original expressions of a space traveling tardigrade may be protectible under copyright law, an independent comparison of the works reveals that there is no substantial similarity between the protectible features of Abdin's tardigrade and Ripper,” the decision said.

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