Gizmodo editor-in-chief sues Apple, alleging ‘Tetris’ movie on TV+ rips off his book


In March, Apple TV+ premiered its new “Tetris” movie starring Taron Egerton, which is based on true events and tells the story around bringing the hit puzzle game to the United States.

A new lawsuit, however, accuses Apple, the Tetris Company, and others of ripping off a book written by Gizmodo’s editor-in-chief as the basis of the film.

As reported by Reuters, the lawsuit was filed by Dan Ackerman against Apple, screenwriter Noah Pink, Marv Studios, the Tetris Company, and others. The lawsuit alleges that “Tetris” is “substantially similar in almost all material respects” to his book published in 2016 entitled “The Tetris Effect.”

The lawsuit says:

The movie entitled “Tetris” demonstrated the confiscation of Dan Ackerman’s original work and creation of his book “The Tetris Effect.”

Plaintiff Ackerman’s book took a unique approach to writing about the real history of Tetris, as it not only applied the historical record, but also layered his own original research and ingenuity to create a compelling narrative non-fiction book in the style of a Cold War spy thriller.

Mr. Ackerman’s literary masterpiece, unlike other articles and writings, dispelled of the emphasis on the actual gameplay and fans, and instead concentrated on the surrounding narrative, action sequences, and adversarial relationship between the players.

This was the identical approach Defendants adopted for the Tetris Film, without notable material distinction, but often resonating the exact same feel, tone, approach, and scenes as the book introduced several years prior.

As demonstrated herein, it becomes readily apparent that the Tetris film is substantially similar in almost all material respects including specific chapters and pages of said book that were simply adopted from the book to the film, without Plaintiff’s knowledge, authorization, or consent.

Ackerman says that he sent a pre-release copy of “The Tetris Effect” to the Tetris Company in July 2016. CEO Maya Rogers, however, allegedly instructed the company not to “license any of the Tetris intellectual property, such as its name and image, for any motion picture or television project.”

The lawsuit goes further to say that the Tetris Company sent a cease and desist letter to Ackerman’s agent, threatening legal action if Ackerman “continued to pursue” any licensing options, such as TV shows and movies, for his book.

A major source of revenue for a writer, such as Mr. Ackerman, is to option or license their work for film and television. Therefore, Tetris Company was not attempting to halt any dissemination of any alleged copyright infringement, but rather, to have constituted an economic attack on the whole of Mr. Ackerman’s business so they could pursue the opportunities presented by Mr. Ackerman’s book to the exclusion of Mr. Ackerman’s business opportunities without having to credit or fairly compensate him.

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Instead, the lawsuit says the Tetris Company subsequently started work on its own film project related to the company’s history, allegedly using Ackerman’s work as the basis for the screenplay.

After having reviewed the entire book that Mr. Ackerman wrote, Ms. Rogers then used Mr. Ackerman’s work, for which Defendant Pink developed a screenplay, the contents of which was taken from the book and deceptively made into a film project without Plaintiff’s knowledge or consent, which included the lack of any optioning or licensing rights.

Tetris Company refused to license any Tetris IP for any project associated with Mr. Ackerman’s book. This was done at the direction and behest of Ms. Rogers so that she and the Tetris Company could pursue their own project and opportunities based on Mr. Ackerman’s book without compensating him.

The book “manuscript” of Tetris Effect, was used by Ms. Rogers and Mr. Pink to construct Mr. Pink’s screenplay, and presented Mr. Pink’s screenplay as his original creation, even though it was clearly based on Mr. Ackerman’s book.

In March of 2023, when the “Tetris” trailer debuted, Ackerman “immediately recognized the substantial similarity” to his book. A cease and desist letter was then sent, demanding that “the movie not be broadcast until certain legal issues were addressed.” The lawsuit says that Apple was aware of a cease and desist but proceeded with releasing the movie on Apple TV+ a week later.

Through the lawsuit, Ackerman is seeking:

  • Actual and compensatory damages in an amount equal to 3% of the total production budget of the Tetris film
  • Punitive damages equal to 3% of the total production budget of the Tetris film
  • For an award of prejudgment interest and post-judgment interest in the maximum amount permitted by law
  • For such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper

The “Tetris” movie has been well-received by viewers and critics, garnering an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Third-party data also suggested the film was among the top 10 most-streamed TV shows and movies in the week following its release.

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