Midway sued over Psi-Ops

Screenwriter accuses publisher of lifting 2004 action game's plot and characters from his 1998 screenplay.

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Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
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Nearly three years ago, Midway released Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy, a third-person stealth-action game and--alongside The Suffering and Roadkill--one of a handful of then-recent original intellectual properties the company had brought to market. However, a Los Angeles County screenwriter is now claiming that the intellectual property wasn't all that original.

Last month, William L. Crawford III filed suit against Midway, alleging that the publisher swiped the plot and characters for its game from a 1998 screenplay he wrote, also called Psi-Ops.

"The premise for the Psi-Ops screenplay is government soldiers with paranormal abilities, or 'Psi-Agents,' that fight terrorists that also have paranormal abilities," according to the lawsuit. It mentions a number of characters, including a foreign-born pyrokinetic with a troubled past; a cool and menacing mind control specialist with a slender masculine build, black hair, trench coat, and sunglasses; and a rogue Psi-Agent who establishes his own underground terrorist organization using other Psi-Agents.

The suit goes on to describe Midway's game premise as American soldiers with paranormal abilities--also called Psi-Agents--fighting terrorists who also have paranormal abilities. It then describes the game's characters in the same terms as the screenplay, including a foreign-born pyrokinetic with a troubled past; a cool and menacing operative with the power of mind control, a slender, muscular build, black hair, and sunglasses; and a rogue Psi-Agent who established an underground terrorist organization using other Psi-Agents.

As for how Midway could have known about the screenplay, Crawford's suit says he had set up Web sites with concept art and had been shopping the project around between 2000 and 2003. Crawford also said he attended the 2001 Electronic Entertainment Expo to showcase the project. The suit also says the company Crawford set up to promote his screenplay, Mindshadow Entertainment, received coverage for the Psi-Ops project in publications, including Star Wars Insider, Indie Slate, and TV Zone.

The US Copyright Office's Web site lists "Psi-ops" as a copyrighted screenplay registered by Crawford on March 26, 1998. It also has a listing for "PSI-OPS : the mindgate conspiracy" registered by Midway on July 9, 2004.

Crawford is seeking an accounting of revenue Midway derived from Psi-Ops and a share of the money, which he estimates should be no less than $1.5 million. A Midway representative said the company does not comment on legal matters.

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