Apple's recently-released Tetris movie has found itself in the middle of a legal tussle thanks to the efforts of Gizmodo editor-in-chief Dan Ackerman, who has claimed that the film is an unauthorised adaptation of his book, The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World (thanks, The Guardian).
Released in 2016, Ackerman's book charts the story of Alexey Pajitnov's famous puzzler, from its creation in Soviet Russia to its eventual licencing to Nintendo, which bundled it with the Game Boy to amazing commercial success.
"Dan Ackerman reveals how Tetris became one of the world's first viral hits, passed from player to player, eventually breaking through the Iron Curtain into the West," reads the book's synopsis. "British, American, and Japanese moguls waged a bitter fight over the rights, sending their fixers racing around the globe to secure backroom deals, while a secretive Soviet organization named ELORG chased down the game's growing global profits."
If you've already seen Apple's Tetris movie – which is directed by Jon S. Baird and stars Taron Egerton as Henk Rogers and Nikita Yefremov as Alexey Pajitnov – then the narrative presented in Ackerman's book will be very familiar. Both are based on the real-world battle to secure the rights to Tetris, but Ackerman claims he sent a pre-production edition of his book to the Tetris Company in 2016, which he says then copied it for the movie – and threatened to sue him if he tried to create his own movie or TV version.
Ackerman claims the company refused to license its IP for projects related to the book and actively dissuaded producers who were interested in adapting it for film and TV. Furthermore, it sent him a "strongly worded cease and desist letter."
Ackerman's suit – filed in the Manhattan federal court – is seeking damages equaling at least 6% of the film’s $80m budget. The complaint states that The Tetris Company CEO, Maya Rogers (Henk's daughter) and screenwriter Noah Pink copied Ackerman’s book to forge the Tetris screenplay, with work beginning in 2017, the year after the book's publication. Ackerman claims the film has "liberally borrowed numerous specific sections and events of the book" and was "similar in almost all material respects" to it.
The lawsuit "aims to right a wrong and provide the respect and justice to the work, diligence and ownership of someone who is entitled to such respect and acknowledgment under the law," according to Ackerman’s attorney, Kevin Landau.