Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Game Law - How 'Right of Publicity' Is The New Issue with Video Games

Worthy of a reblog, Gamasutra contributor Stephen McArthur, the Video Game Lawyer, provides a fantastic summary of how video games are able to get away with including "celebrity" likeness in their products. Other then the swarm of of #GamerGate, Right of Publicity, as McArthur points out, has been making news throughout the year for gaming and has become a noteworthy issue.

Earlier this year Electronic Arts went against the NCAA for including player's likeness in their annual Football game. The NCAA ended their longstanding contract with EA over it, a huge blow to EA and casual gamers everywhere given the growth of the product over the past decade.

Lindsay Lohan filed a civil suit with the New York Supreme Court over a character in GTA5 named Lacey Jonas. Jonas is a starlet in the GTA5 world and has several mishaps with the paparazzi and public intoxication that, Lohan claims, mirror her life. And apparently selfies were also created by Lohan, because she had an issue about that too in the lawsuit. Last month she amended the suit to include the bikini-clad, blonde hair woman on the cover art, taking a photo of herself on her phone in one hand, and giving the peace sign with the other. "The Plaintiff has been using the peace sign hand gesture for years before and after its use in the video game." Because no one made the peace sign before Lindsay Lohan?

And then there's the Panama dictator who attempted to sue Activision while he's in prison on crimes against humanity for his image being used in Call of Duty. The lawsuit was thrown out last month.

These are just a few of more recent examples, but it could easily be argued that every game has some form of image likeness, which can be protected by state and federal laws. That First Amendment is a tricky beast. the most interesting thing I found is that some of the laws that video games look towards for protection is not in the freedom of speech, but with their local, state governments. Many provide rules and ordinances that allow for more freedom, and in some cases more restriction, for parody and image use without the consent of the original owner. And dead celebrities are a different matter entirely, some having 0 representation through next of kin that books, movies, and television are all equal game to using likeness without having to clue relatives in. I'll let McArthur's post take it away from here. This is a great, Tuesday morning read.


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