NetEase has won a plagiarism lawsuit against the producers of the film Soul Gods League of Masters, with the defendant being ordered to pay 300 thousand yuan ($41.5k) in compensation.
The suit alleges that there were significant similarities between the film and the NetEase game Onmyoji. All compensation awarded to NetEase will be donated to animal welfare charities.
The alleged similarities include similarities between multiple characters, including overall shape and colour scheme, as well as the use of “soul gods” in the film’s promotion. In a statement of apology released following the ruling, the defendant stated that these similarities arose “due to the lack of rigorous review.”
Card battler Onmyoji was first released in 2016, with Soul Gods League of Masters first being released in 2020. NetEase first became aware of the similarities between the titles soon before release, and quickly launched the lawsuit.
Onmyoji is based on the popular anime of the same name. It quickly emerged as a strong performer in NetEase’s portfolio, however it lost some traction later on. This did little to hamper NetEase’s confidence in the title, who began work on a live-action film adaptation of the game in 2018, which was released in 2021 under the title The Yinyang Master. It’s possible, therefore, that NetEase feared that Soul Gods League of Masters could attract attention away from its own attempts to adapt the game.
Although the court has found that NetEase’s IP rights were infringed upon in this case, it’s worth noting that the company itself has faced several accusations of copyright infringement in recent years. Pop star Jay Chou launched his own suit against the gaming giant earlier this year. The company also lost another lawsuit filed by Riot in December, who accused NetEase of plagiarism due to similarities between Valorant and the NetEase title Hyper Front.
We listed NetEase as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022.