YOLANDA VS. MICHAEL Tardigrades game developer Anas Abdin alleges in his lawsuit that Star Trek: Discovery‘s lead character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green, right), is copied from his videogame’s “Yolanda, a female of African descent with messy, curly hair.”

Tardigrades Developer Raises Stakes in 'Discovery' Lawsuit

Judge Extends CBS, Netflix’s Due Date 30 Days to Answer Star Trek Copyright Complaint

If plaintiff Anas Abdin has his way, every copy of Star Trek: Discovery will be recalled and destroyed, with the series’ profits going to him, according to his latest copyright complaint against CBS and Netflix. Abdin’s filing of an amended suit prompted a federal judge October 29, 2018, to approve an extension for the defendants to respond.

Abdin has alleged Discovery‘s producers copied substantial portions of his unpublished videogame, Tardigrades, in developing the newest Star Trek series for the CBS All Access streaming service, and internationally for Netflix.

CBS and Netflix were due to file their answer November 6 but agreed to wait for Abdin to amend his original legal complaint against them for a second time. Accordingly, U.S. district Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald extended the time to respond to November 25.

DOWNLOAD the 16-page, second amended legal complaint, filed October 29, 2018, alleging copyright infringement in Star Trek: Discovery by CBS and Netflix of plaintiff Anas Abdin’s unreleased videogame, “Tardigrades.”

Second Amended Complaint

The 16-page amended complaint — three pages longer than the last — elaborates on the nature of the claims by the plaintiff, Abdin, an Egyptian citizen who resides in Kuwait. It is more specific about the damages he is seeking for the alleged copyright infringement.

'Discussions Ad Nauseam'

In an October 22 letter to Buchwald, Abdin’s attorney, John Johnson, asked the judge to allow another amended complaint following discussions “ad nauseam since mid-September”1) with defense attorneys from CBS’ law firm, Loeb & Loeb, which is also representing Netflix in the matter so far.

« Upon information and belief, the defendants accessed the plaintiff’s widely distributed works. » — Anas Abdin’s Copyright Suit Against CBS and Netflix

Added Defendants

“We have supplied the defendant with a substantive copy of the proposed amended complaint,” Johnson wrote. “Our changes were highlighted. Plaintiff demonstrated to the defendant that plaintiff added wholly owned and controlled corporate subsidiaries of the defendant CBS, one additional cause of action, and additional substantive facts regarding plaintiff’s lawsuit.”2)

The complaint added CBS All Access as a specified defendant, as well as CBS Interactive, the company under which All Access is administered.

Added Exhibits

Johnson also pointed to a number of exhibits attached to the amended complaint. The exhibits consisted of news articles about the Tardigrades game, its relationship to Discovery and documents Abdin said he had posted publicly describing his game before the Star Trek series aired, all of which he claimed Discovery‘s producers had access to years before.

COPYRIGHT CERTIFICATE The copyright registration listed in the U.S. Copyright Office’s database for Anas Abdin’s Tardigrades refers to Tardigrades as “text, artwork,” not a videogame.

Source: U.S. Copyright Office

The 'Original Work'

One of the changes in the amended complaint was a more detailed description of what constituted Abdin’s “original work” from which Discovery‘s creators had infringed. Instead of the Tardigrades game itself, which remains incomplete and unpublished, the complaint specifies what was infringed was Abdin’s description of the game as represented in a variety of articles and postings on Internet forums and social media platforms from May 2014 to July 2017:

Between May of 2014 and July of 2017, Plaintiff completed and published several forum articles, artwork, and videos for a science fiction manuscript for an upcoming video game/game storyboard. While some of the content in these articles was factual, some portions of the article were changed or embellished by Plaintiff. Plaintiff published these articles in Adventure Game Studio Forums, Anas-tronaut Blog, YouTube, Steam Games, and Reddit between May of 2014 and July of 2017 (“the Original Work”).3)

The complaint does not describe in what way Abdin “changed or embellished” some portions of the articles on which his copyright claim appeared to be based.

Access to the Original Work

The complaint attempts to make the case that easy availability of Abdin’s Tardigrades posts on the Internet was tantamount to the defendants actually reading Abdin’s copyrighted works, stating, “Upon information and belief, the defendants accessed the plaintiff’s widely distributed works.”

TARDIGRADES A detailed description of the videogame’s story and characters is included among the exhibits in the amended legal complaint filed October 29, 2018, in U.S. district court. DOWNLOAD 2.5MB PDF

But the facts presented by the plaintiff do not appear to add up to that conclusion. Instead, the complaint lists total view counts for various Internet forums and social media platforms on the theory that it ipso facto demonstrates Discovery‘s producers had accessed Abdin’s posts. The complaint points to:

  • Adventure Game Studio forum, an online gaming forum with “an estimated 1 million guests and users.”
  • Reddit, with 1.5 billion visits in the past six months.
  • YouTube, with 28.9 billion visits in the past six months.
  • Steam and its game development community, with millions of views per day.4)

Those impressive statistics omit actual viewer metrics for Abdin’s own Tardigrades posts on each of those platforms, and elide the fact those millions (and billions) of views are spread among literally billions of posts and videos.5) Without Abdin’s specific metrics, his claim Discovery‘s creators ever accessed his material remains unsubstantiated.

Exhibit F

The amended complaint included Exhibit F, a November 2017 article in which Abdin discussed the similarities between his Tardigrades and Discovery. That article from the website Rock Paper Shotgun, according to Abdin, “purportedly … prompted CBS’ vice president for legal affairs to contact [Abdin].”6)

However, that article makes no mention of such contact. In fact, writer John Walker made a point of saying, “We got in touch with CBS for this story and they declined to comment.”7)

Example: Copied Costumes?

Among the items listed in the lawsuit as copied by Discovery from Tardigrades are the Trek series’ uniforms. The complaint describes Tardigrades as featuring uniforms depicting characters’ ranks, for example:

“Heretofore, the Star Trek series has not used any uniform styled, or colored in this manner, until plaintiff’s [Tardigrades] was published.” Abdin called the style “a total departure from prior Star Trek uniforms,” and therefore had to have been copied from Tardigrades.

TOTAL DEPARTURE? The Tardigrades suit claims Discovery‘s uniforms represent “a total departure from prior Star Trek uniforms.” But blue jumpsuits highlighted in gold (and other departmental colors and ranks) are reminiscent of Enterprise‘s uniforms, which debuted 13 years before Abdin’s uniform design. (Left, middle photos from Abdin lawsuit, Exhibit B; right photo, CBS/Paramount)

Seeking Damages

The amended complaint adds more detail about what Abdin seeks from the lawsuit:

  • Statutory damages of up to $150,000 per Discovery broadcast.
  • Actual damages and CBS/Netflix’s profits from the show.
  • Recalling and destroying all copies of Discovery.
  • Attorneys’ fees and costs.
  • A permanent injunction.


The amended complaint changes its request for an immediate preliminary injunction to a permanent one, which would ostensibly be issued should Abdin succeed in his claims against CBS and Netflix.

Example: Copied Costumes II

The lawsuit also alleges Discovery copied white medical uniforms from Tardigrades: “The Star Trek series has not used any uniform styled, or colored in this manner, until [Tardigrades] was published.”9)

MEDICAL UNIFORMS Despite the lawsuit’s claim Discovery copied Tardigrades’ white medical uniform, similar Starfleet medical uniforms appeared in Star Trek (2009) and as far back as Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), predating Tardigrades. (Images 1 and 2/Exhibit B, Abdin lawsuit; Images 3 and 4/Paramount Pictures)

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1) , 2)
John Johnson letter to Judge Naomi Buchwald, “First Letter Motion for Conference re:8 Amended Complaint 2,” Docket 22, Abdin v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. et al., 10/24/18.
U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, civil docket for case # 1:18-cv-07543, Abdin v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. et al., document 24-1, pp. 3-4, ¶10, 10/29/18.
U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, civil docket for case # 1:18-cv-07543, Abdin v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. et al., document 24-1, pp. 4, ¶11 and 13, 10/29/18.
According to Google, 5 billion different videos are viewed every day on YouTube.
U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, civil docket for case # 1:18-cv-07543, Abdin v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. et al., document 24-1, p. 8, ¶22, 10/29/18.
John Walker, "A Tale of Two Tardigrades," Rockpapershotgun.com, 11/8/17.
8) , 9)
U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, civil docket for case # 1:18-cv-07543, Abdin v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc. et al., document 24-1, p. 6 ¶18, 10/29/18.
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