‘Billion Dollar Battle’: Google Earth Lawsuit Inspires Netflix Series

Debuted on Netflix this Thursday (7) the series ‘Billion Dollar Battle: The Google Earth Case’. The German production tells the story of two young inventors in the country who created Terravision 1994 and fight for recognition as creators of the algorithm that runs Google Earth . It’s a battle that portrays the losing side in the war for job recognition.

The four-episode miniseries is based on true events and was created by Oliver Ziegenbalg and Robert Thalheim. In 2014, the company ART + COM, based in Berlin, the capital of Germany, sued Google for patent infringement. The company claims the stark similarities between the two map services.


“’The Social Network’ was told from the perspective of the winner, or the antagonist: Mark Zuckerberg. We tell our story from the perspective of the Winklevoss brothers, the handsome losers”, said screenwriter Ziegenbalg, in an interview with the American magazine Variety . He was referring to the movie ‘The Social Network’, released in 2010 and directed by David Fincher.

In that movie, director Robert Thalheim recalled, the audience doesn’t like the protagonist. “We wanted to have characters that you would like to follow throughout the process,” he explained. Thus, the series goes back and forth between the 1990s, with the early days of Juri Müller and Carsten Schlüter, played by Marius Ahrendt and Leonard Schleicher in the younger version, respectively, and the trial.

Initially, the creators envisioned the series as a movie, but took the opportunity to offer a longer format. In ‘Billion Dollar Battle: The Google Earth Affair’, they show the city of Berlin after reunification, with techno clubs, experimental art scene and hackers, who weren’t taken seriously. Ziegenbalg and Thalheim remember that they lived in the city at that time and remember what it was like.

The Billion Dollar Code
The series takes place between the 1990s and 2010, with the story of the duo that created the algorithm. Image: Netflix/Disclosure

“In a movie, everything would have to be significantly reduced. Now, we could devote the entire episode to judging only, citing all the technical and financial experts. We always mention ‘ Chernobyl ‘ as an example, where in one episode this guy appears because he has to kill all the dogs and then disappears again. That would never have worked in a movie,” commented Ziegenbalg.

The creators also took the opportunity to point out that at no time the duo that developed Terravision 1994 sought them out to tell the story. As a screenwriter and director, they didn’t go after Google. “We never approached them. They would never have shipped anyway, because these big tech companies want to control and protect their company’s image. We just took the risk, deciding to name them, and now we’ll see. We don’t know how they will react or if they will sue us.”

The production’s cast has a familiar face on Netflix’s German series. Actor Mark Waschke, the Noah of the acclaimed ‘Dark’ series, is a member of ‘Billion Dollar Battle: The Google Earth Affair’ and can be seen in the production trailer. He and Mišel Matičević play the protagonists in the most current scenes of the series.

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