Dan Ackerman, editor-in-chief of the tech website Gizmodo, has sued Apple and other parties over the 2023 Apple TV Plus film Tetris. He alleges that they ripped off his 2016 book The Tetris Effect about the popular video game and adapted it without his permission. He filed the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court on August 7, 2023.
In his lawsuit, Ackerman accuses Apple and the Tetris Company of copyright infringement, unfair competition, and illegally interfering with his business relations. He is seeking compensation of at least 6% of the film’s estimated $80 million production budget, which would be in the region of $5 million.
The lawsuit outlines Ackerman’s years of correspondence with the Tetris Company as he wrote his book. He also sent a pre-publication copy to Maya Rogers in 2016, in her capacity as CEO of The Tetris Company, which controls the rights to the game. Ackerman claims that the Tetris Company blocked his own attempts to sell film and TV rights to his book, only to have them draw heavily from the way he juxtaposed the game’s release against the backdrop of the Cold War era.
It’s standard practice in Hollywood, when working with a real-life story, to buy the option for a book or magazine article about it – even if the producers don’t intend to adapt this source material all that closely. In part, this practice exists specifically to protect the producers against legal claims such as Ackerman’s, by giving them a form of ownership over one version of the historical record.
Perhaps Apple and The Tetris Company felt they didn’t need to take this step, since they had the creators of the game and the principal characters of the story – Henk Rogers and Alexey Pajitnov, who were also the principal sources for Ackerman’s book – on board as producers. Ackerman’s version of events is one of many they could have optioned, they may argue, but the original story is theirs to tell.
Given that both the Tetris movie and The Tetris Effect book draw on real historical facts, which are not generally protected by copyright law, Ackerman’s case may be difficult.
However, Ackerman’s main claim is that Apple, the Tetris Company, the Tetris film’s producers, and screenwriter Noah Pink copied “the exact same feel, tone, approach, and scenes” from The Tetris Effect based on his framing of the Tetris story as a “Cold War thriller with a political intrigue angle.”
Ackerman claims that the way the film tells the story is “similar in almost all material respects” to his “Cold War spy thriller” with Henk Rogers as the “heroic protagonist.” In fact, Ackerman claims that the film “liberally borrowed numerous specific sections and events of the book.” The lawsuit lists, scene by scene, 22 incidences of this, complete with time codes.
Given that context, the court will need to decide if the movie is indeed so close to Ackerman’s book as to constitute an unauthorized adaptation of it.
Tetris is the classic tile-matching puzzle game that was created by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 while he was working at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The game became popular in the Soviet Union and was later exported to other countries, including the United States. The game’s popularity grew rapidly, and it has since become one of the most widely recognized and beloved video games of all time. Tetris has been praised for its simple yet addictive gameplay, as well as its iconic music and graphics.
The game’s name is derived from the Greek word “tetra,” which means “four,” and refers to the four-block shapes called “tetrominoes” that make up the game pieces. The game is played on a rectangular grid, and players need to manipulate falling blocks to create a horizontal wall without gaps. As you complete rows, they disappear and you earn points. The game will gradually increase the speed at which the blocks fall to give you a challenge. The game ends when the blocks reach the top of the screen.
Over the years, Tetris has been released on a wide variety of platforms including arcade machines, home video game consoles, personal computers, and mobile devices. The game has also been adapted into numerous sequels and spin-offs, as well as inspired countless imitators and clones. If you’re interested in playing Tetris online, there are many websites that offer free versions of the game. Some popular options include Tetris Friends and Tetris.com.
The 2023 Apple Original film Tetris is a science fiction thriller directed by Jon S. Baird and starring Taron Egerton, Morgan Freeman, and Nathalie Emmanuel. It follows a group of Cold War-era spies who are tasked with investigating a mysterious signal that is being transmitted from the Soviet Union. The signal turns out to be a game called Tetris, which has the power to alter reality itself. The film has been criticized by some for its convoluted plot. However, it has also been praised for its visual effects and actors’ performances.
Tetris is currently available for streaming on the Apple TV Plus platform. If you have an Apple TV Plus subscription, you can watch the movie on your Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, or Mac. If you don’t have a subscription, you can sign up for a free trial of Apple TV Plus and watch the movie during the trial period. If you wonder why it’s rated R, the sole reason for this movie’s R rating in the U.S. is profane language. Specifically, the f-word is used roughly two dozen times. Other than that, characters in various scenes smoke cigarettes and the movie has one kiss scene. Oh, and there are two brief scenes of men being beaten up by the KGB.
The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World is the 2016 book by Dan Ackerman that provides an informative and intriguing account of the history of one of the world’s most popular video games.
The book begins with the story of how computer researcher Alexey Pajitnov programmed the first version of Tetris using outdated software in Soviet Russia, before it spread westward and went viral. The story focuses on Henk Rogers, the Dutch-American entrepreneur who was instrumental in securing the rights for the game for Nintendo’s Game Boy version, in a 1989 wrangle with Soviet authorities that also involved shady British media mogul Robert Maxwell and others.
The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World delves into the early days of Cold War-era computer programming, the people and companies who sought control of the intellectual property, and how playing Tetris physically impacts our brains. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of this iconic game, I highly recommend reading The Tetris Effect! You can purchase the book on Amazon.
Have you read the book and watched the movie? Do you think they’re substantially similar enough to warrant a lawsuit?