A lawsuit filed in Texas court alleges that Activision and Infinity Ward committed copyright infringement when creating the character Mara in 2019 reboot Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare. The lawsuit was brought by writer and photographer Clayton Haugen, who claims that Mara infringes a character he created called “Cade Janus”. The real-life model for both Mara and Cade Janus are the same person, Alex Zedra, an actress and Twitch streamer.
Haugen is a writer and photographer who hoped to make a feature film called November Renaissance, and who successfully Kickstarted a short film of the same name in 2017. Around this time he hired actress Alex Zedra to portray ‘Cade Janus’, a character intended for the movie, and took a series of photographs of her in that role.
Haugen’s lawsuit, as reported by TorrentFreak, alleges that those photos of Cade Janus were placed on “the wall of the studio” while Infinty Ward created the character of Mara for Modern Warfare.
The lawsuit further claims that Activision and Infinity Ward hired Zedra, as well as the same makeup artist Haugen had used, and directed the makeup artist “to do the talent’s makeup exactly as she had for Haugen’s Cade Janus photographs.” It also alleges that Activision asked Zedra to borrow the same clothing and gear used in the ‘Cade Janus’ photoshoot from Haugen himself.
Part of the infringement allegations relate not just to Mara’s appearance in-game, but photos taken with Zedra as part of the marketing of Modern Warfare in 2019. Haugen alleges that these photographs, seen below, are “substantially similar”:
Predicting whether a lawsuit like this has legs seems like a fool’s game. If you hire an actress to play two characters, those characters are going to look pretty similar. If they’re both characters who wear combat gear, they’re going to look more similar still. If the Cade Janus photos were specifically used as reference, however, then maybe? What do I know.
The complaint, which you can read in full here, argues that Haugen is “entitled to recover all monetary remedies from Defendants’ infringement, including all of their profits attributable to their infringements, to the full extent permitted…”. The lawsuit points out that Activision said at the end of 2019 that the game had earned over $1 billion (around £731 million) in revenue.
As an aside, the lawsuit mentions that Haugen provided the story for the 2020 Bruce Willis movie Hard Kill.
I’ve reached out to Activision and Haugen for comment and will update the story should either party respond.