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The MKR Group, an independent movie producer that holds the rights to George Romero's zombie movie Dawn of the Dead, has sued Capcom for copyright infringement. They allege that Capcom's 2006 Xbox 360 game Dead Rising, which centers on a journalist fighting his way through a zombie-infested mall, is an unauthorized remake of their film.
MKR’s complaints, filed Monday, reads: "Both works are dark comedies. In both, the recreational activities of the zombies and absurdly grotesque 'kill scenes' provide unexpected comedic relief. Both works provided thoughtful social commentary on the 'mall culture' zeitgeist, in addition to serving up a sizable portion of sensationalistic violence."
I don't think anyone at Capcom would argue that the game wasn't inspired by Dawn of the Dead. The movie is pretty much required viewing for any zombie flick fan. Can you really file copyright lawsuits based on the similarity of premise though? If Dead Rising had completely aped the plot or dialogue of the movie, I could see the legal argument, but the game doesn't do either of those things. I can't think of a film, video game, novel, or song that doesn't share its concept with another work. Imagine Dreamworks suing Activision for making Call of Duty because COD and Saving Private Ryan both portray squads of American soldiers in World War 2. Making a zombie movie in a mall doesn't automatically preclude anyone else from making any sort of creative work involving zombies in a mall.
Perhaps MKR will argue that Dead Rising hurts their chances of producing an official Dawn of the Dead game? But would it really hurt them? Look how many damn WW2 games there have been. I've stormed the beaches at Normandy in about five different games and don't recall ever being bored by the experience. I think similarities in plot or concept are easily overcome in video games by differences in gameplay or execution. If MKR licensed a Dawn of the Dead game that ended up being extremely fun, no gamer would snub it just because they've already played a game featuring zombies in a mall.
No one confuses the game for an adaptation of the movie, either. Capcom already slapped a disclaimer on the game that reads "This game was not developed, approved or licensed by the owners or creators of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead." Furthermore, Capcom spokesman told Reuters that Dead Rising is no longer being produced, and I can't imagine they'd make another Romero-inspired game after this headache. I don't think MKR can expect any more than that.