Ubisoft sues over Assassin's Creed leak

Publisher believes disc-replication firm responsible for 700,000 pirated prerelease downloads of its PC action game.

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Ubisoft's hit action game Assassin's Creed was released on the PC in April, but in appropriately Altair-like fashion, a pirated version of the game sneaked onto the Internet two months earlier. Obviously unhappy with the leak, the publisher has decided to take the matter to court and make someone pay.

Last month, Ubisoft filed suit against Charlotte, North Carolina-based Optical Experts Manufacturing, the company that it had contracted to reproduce copies of the game disc. The publisher alleges that "an extraordinary breach of trust and gross negligence" on the part of OEM allowed one of the company's employees to take a copy of the game home early and post it on the Internet in late February, six weeks before the game arrived in stores.

The publisher alleges that OEM had agreed to abide by--and thereafter ignored--an array of security procedures that could have prevented the leak. Ubisoft further alleges that OEM admitted to not following through on its security commitments and causing the leak. One such security procedure was to prevent copies of the game from ever leaving OEM's premises.

Ubisoft said that it tracked the earliest connections to the pirated copy of the game online and found that they were coming from the home of an OEM employee. An OEM-manufactured copy of the game was later found at the employee's residence, though the suit doesn't specify when that copy was found.

According to the industry-tracking NPD Group, the PC edition of the game sold more than 40,000 copies at US retailers through June. Ubisoft claims that the leaked edition of the game was downloaded more than 700,000 times, costing the publisher millions of dollars.

In addition to lost sales as a direct result of piracy, the publisher also claimed its reputation was hurt by the leak as well. Ubisoft says that it included a bug in the prerelease Assassin's Creed for security reasons that would cause the game to crash partway through. The bug was supposedly removed from the retail edition, but a mix of negative reviews of the leaked, bug-equipped pirated version of the game and legitimate reviews of the retail edition created customer confusion and caused "irreparable harm" to its reputation, Ubisoft said.

Ubisoft is suing OEM for copyright infringement, breach of contract, and negligence. It is asking for damages and legal fees relating to all three claims, in the amount of no less than $10 million each for the breach of contract and negligence claims.

Neither OEM nor Ubisoft returned GameSpot's requests for comment as of press time.

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