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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Nixes Claims Over Baby Murlocs in ‘Warcaft’

(CN) - A federal judge has dismissed claims from a woman who claims to be the voice of baby murloc characters in the popular video game "World of Warcraft."

Amanda Lewis filed a federal complaint against Activision Blizzard and Blizzard Entertainment in March for copyright infringement and misappropriation of her voice.

While working as a "World of Warcraft" game master in Blizzard customer support, Lewis said she developed a voice and a song for baby murlocs, which she describes as a friendly "type of aquatic humanoid creature common in WoW."

Game masters assist players with "in-game issues, such as abusive language or players becoming 'stuck,' or unable to move, in the game," Lewis said.

Irvine-based Activision allegedly recorded Lewis and put her work in its game. Lewis said that the life she brought to baby murlocs helped make the character "the de facto mascot of the billion-dollar enterprise."

Blizzard allegedly handed out baby murloc merchandise at BlizzCon and other "World of Warcraft"-related events, including arena tournaments, beginning in December 2005.

The company also sells plush versions of the virtual pets through its online store, Lewis said.

The complaint notes that Blizzard did not employ Lewis to produce creative content, that she did not receive additional compensation for her creative work and that she did not assign any copyright rights to Blizzard.

She allegedly filed copyright applications for the vocal work.

But Blizzard said that the Copyright Act pre-empts Lewis' claims, which are otherwise barred by California's two-year statute of limitations.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken sided with Blizzard on Monday.

"Lewis' claim for commercial misuse of her voice ... is based entirely on the alleged use of recordings of her voice or vocal performance," Wilken wrote.

"Here, Lewis does not allege that Blizzard used or imitated any aspect of her voice that was not contained in the recordings. ...

"Because Lewis alleges unauthorized use of her voice recordings, federal copyright law preempts her claim for commercial misappropriation," the ruling adds.

Wilken dismissed two state-law claims and set a 21-day deadline for Lewis to file an amended action.

"As currently plead, Lewis's claims for commercial misuse of voice and quantum meruit are based wholly on Blizzard's use of her voice recordings and are therefore dismissed as preempted by federal copyright law," the ruling states.

Wilken ordered the parties to file a revised joint case management statement by Dec. 12.

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