The creators of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat have sued 5th Cell and Warner Brothers over the use of their copyrighted memes in Scribblenauts.
Eurogamer reports Nyan Cat was copyrighted in 2011 by Christopher Orlando Torres and Charles Schmidt. Both Keyboard Cat (properly called fatso) and Nyan Cat have appeared in all three Scribblenauts games beginning in 2009.
"I have no issues with Nyan Cat being enjoyed by millions of fans as a meme, and I have never tried to prevent people from making creative uses of it that contribute artistically and are not for profit," said Torres.
"But this is a commercial use, and these companies themselves are protectors of their own intellectual property."
The pair claim their work was used without proper authorization in order to promote sales of the games.
"For the past three years, WB, along with game developer 5th, have knowingly and intentionally infringed plaintiffs’ copyrights and trademarks by using ‘Nyan Cat’ and Fatso’s image in WB’s top selling ‘Scribblenauts’ games," reads the legal filing.
The case is interesting because it raises the question of the validity of a copyright on a meme: a self-contained idea that spreads through human interaction and replicates and mutates similarly to a gene.
What’s more, although footage of "Keyboard Cat" dates back to 1984, the meme wasn’t copyrighted until after it originially appeared in the Scribblenauts game, which was copyrighted when released in 2009.
On the other hand, Torres points out that other companies have sought permission to use his and Schmidt’s work.
The pair seek an unspecified amount in damages.