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By Blake Brittain
Sept. 26 — The developers of the World of Warcraft computer game were entitled to attorneys' fees following the dismissal of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by a former employee whose voice was used in the game, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Sept. 25 (Lewis v. Activision Blizzard, Inc.
Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that attorneys' fees were justified under federal law based on factors outlined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Jackson v. Axton, 25 F.3d 884, 31 U.S.P.Q.2d 1037 (9th Cir. 1994), all of which favored video game giant, Activision Blizzard.
First, Activision had complete success in the suit. The court also determined that the suit was “objectively unreasonable and bordered on frivolous,” as content creation was one of Lewis's official responsibilities outlined in her employee manual.
Lewis's motivation was also questionable, the court said, based on its determination that her $1.2 million settlement demand and failure to respond to Activision's $15,000 settlement offer were unreasonable.
Finally, the court said that “deterring such meritless claims supports the objective of the Copyright Act.”
The court granted $152,104 in attorneys' fees for the federal claim, but reduced this amount to $15,000 based on Lewis's financial situation.
The court also ruled that Activision was entitled to $13,757 under California state law, and it awarded $1,901.30 in costs.
Amanda Lewis of Santa Rosa, Calif., was employed as a “game master” for Blizzard Entertainment Inc.'s immensely popular World of Warcraft online role-playing game from 2005 to 2006, responding to in-game customer service issues. During her tenure, Lewis and other game masters performed voiceover work at Blizzard's invitation.
Lewis believed that her voiceovers would only be used in promotional videos, but after leaving the company she discovered that her voiceovers were being used in the game itself.
Lewis sued Blizzard, which later merged with video game giant Activision, for copyright infringement under federal law and for infringing her right of publicity under state law in 2010.
The district court granted summary judgment to Activision Blizzard in 2013, ruling that Lewis had no copyright interest in the voiceover because it was a work made for hire within the scope of her employment (204 PTD, 10/22/13).
Lewis was represented by Alan Edward Engle of Meador & Engle, Anaheim Hills, Calif. Blizzard was represented by Karin G. Pagnanelli and Marc E. Mayer of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, Los Angeles.
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