Activision sued over female Call of Duty character

In 2019, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare publisher Activision Blizzard introduced a new character to its game: an operator named Mara. A writer and photographer is now alleging that the company intentionally modeled Mara after his own character, Cade Janus, from a short story called November Renaissance.

Plaintiff Clayton Haugen filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in a Texas court on Tuesday, according to court documents first published by Torrent Freak. He alleged that Activision Blizzard and developer Infinity Ward willfully intended to model Mara after Cade Janus — including hiring the same model, Alex Zedra, to reproduce the photoshoot and scan her likeness for use in the game. Haugen said developer posted his Cade Janus photographs on the photography studio wall during the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare shoot.

Haugen said he originally hired Zedra in 2017 to model as Cade Janus before he pitched the story to movie studios. He later published photos on his website, in a calendar, and on Instagram.

“In addition to hiring the same talent, they also hired the same makeup professional who had prepared the talent for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs,” lawyers wrote in the complaint. “They instructed the makeup professional to prepare the talent exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs. They instructed her to style the talent’s hair exactly as she had done for Haugen’s Cade Janus Photographs, even using the same hair piece extension.”

Haugen alleges that Activision Blizzard and Infinity Ward required the model and makeup artist to sign non-disclosure agreements to “conceal their planned infringement.”

Image: Clayton Haugen/Activision Blizzard via complaint

The character Mara, alongside another character named Nikto, was added to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2019. The character was available as part of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare season one battle pass, which was available originally for 1,000 COD points, or around $10. A number of skins are available for the character for additional COD points. One, the Kawaii Cat skin, puts Mara in a cat-eared military helmet and unlocks a kitten charm, called “Nyan Nyan,” that dangles from her weapon. The bundle costs 2,400 COD points.

Neither Haugen nor Activision Blizzard has responded to Polygon’s request for comment.

You can read a full copy of the complaint below.