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Dead Rising wins copyright case

Capcom's zombie mall horror game determined not substantially similar to George Romero's zombie mall horror flick.


Earlier this year, the producer of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead filed suit against Capcom, claiming the zombies-in-a-mall action game Dead Rising ripped off the classic 1979 horror film. However, once the complaint got before a judge, the producer's case fell apart like the rotting, fleshy husks at the still-beating heart of the dispute.

Last month, United States Magistrate Judge Richard Seeborg granted Capcom's motion to dismiss the suit, saying that The MKR Group (the producer's company) "has not identified any similarity between Dead Rising and any protected element of Dawn of the Dead. Rather, the few similarities MKR has alleged are driven by the wholly unprotectable concept of humans battling zombies in a mall during a zombie outbreak."

According to the judge's decision, The MKR Group listed the following principal similarities between Dawn of the Dead and Dead Rising:

--Both works are set in a bi-level shopping mall.
--The mall has a gun shop, in which action takes place.
--The mall is located in a rural area with the National Guard patrolling its environs.
--Both works are set in motion by a helicopter that takes the lead characters to a mall besieged by zombies.
--Many of the zombies wear plaid shirts.
--Both works feature a subtext critique of sensationalistic journalism through their use of tough, cynical journalists with short brown hair and leather jackets as a lead male character.
--Both works feature the creative use of items such as propane tanks, chainsaws, and vehicles to kill zombies.
--Both works are a parody of rampant consumerism.
--Both works use music in the mall for comedic effect.
--Dead Rising's use of the word "hell" references the tagline for Dawn of the Dead's release ("When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.").

While the judge determined that a review of the movie and the video game revealed "profound differences," he didn't side with Capcom on every issue. Dozens of zombie movies and games the publisher introduced as exhibits to establish genre conventions were thrown out because Capcom submitted them with synopses pulled from the user-editable Wikipedia.

And when the judge did agree with Capcom, it wasn't always in a complimentary way. Specifically, in stating that Dead Rising didn't crib the anticonsumerism theme of Dawn of the Dead, Judge Seeborg found the zombie game devoid of any social commentary at all.

"To the extent that Dead Rising may be deemed to posses a theme," Seeborg wrote, "it is confined to the killing of zombies in the process of attempting to unlock the cause of the zombie infestation. The social commentary MKR draws from Dawn of the Dead, in other words, appears totally absent from the combat focus found in Dead Rising."

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