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Rockstar sues BBC

Publisher claims upcoming film about Grand Theft Auto infringes on its trademarks

Rockstar Games has filed suit against the BBC over a new movie the broadcaster is producing. According to GameSpot, the publisher is alleging that Game Changer--a 90-minute docudrama about the real-life stories behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise--infringes on its trademarks.

"While holders of the trademarks are referenced in the film title and its promotion, Rockstar Games has had no involvement with this project," Rockstar said. "Our goal is to ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC's pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games. We have attempted multiple times to resolve this matter with the BBC without any meaningful resolution. It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property and unfortunately in this case litigation was necessary."

The film is based largely on "Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto" by David Kushner. Released in 2012, the book covers the story from Rockstar co-founders Sam and Dan Houser's first steps into gaming up through the feud with activist lawyer Jack Thompson, which reached its fever pitch with the "Hot Coffee" scandal that followed the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter films, Kill Your Darlings) plays Sam Houser in the film, with Bill Paxton (Titanic, Aliens) playing the part of Thompson.

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Latest comments (15)

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend5 years ago
Really BBC? You want to fight with a company that has almost unlimited funds and probably a damn good legal team? What with pedogate, clacksongate and now Rockstargate to name a few, its not been good for the beeb in recent years.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
Bill Paxton (Titanic, Aliens) playing the part of Thompson
Ohmygod I did not know this...

*cue the "Game Over man... Game Over" scene from Aliens.*
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What a ridiculous thing to sue over. If documentaries can only be made with the subject's permission and involvement, they might as well be renamed 'feature-length advertisements'. Clearly the BBC should respond with 'Oh, this is just satire' because apparently that defence lets you do anything you want.

Rather ironic how the primacy of 'freedom of expression' suddenly becomes far less important when someone might be expressing criticism of Rockstar, isn't it?
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Show all comments (15)
James Berg Games User Researcher 5 years ago
I didn't care about this until now - Hudson and Harry Potter playing GTA founders? I'm in.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend5 years ago
As far as I know you have to obtain permission to use content/trademarks from any companies/individuals if you are making a film/documentary about them and I guess the beeb didn't consult RockStar on the matter which is pretty silly if your entire film/project is based upon them. But then again I can only go from the patchy info, so I could be interpreting this wrong.

Otherwise it sounds like a perfectly legitimate legal issue to me, not a moral issue.

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 21st May 2015 10:15pm

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Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.5 years ago
This will be fun to watch. Trademark infringement law is really to protect against counterfeit goods or services.
Is it just a publicity stunt? Any programme like this has to get approval from the legal department within the BBC so I'd be surprised if they have over stepped the mark.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend5 years ago
Good point Julian, it could well be a publicity stunt thinking about it. Can't believe I didn't see it, DOH!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 22nd May 2015 9:49am

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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments5 years ago
"As far as I know you have to obtain permission to use content/trademarks from any companies/individuals if you are making a film/documentary about them "

Isn't it the exact opposite, to prevent censoring unfavourable reviews etc? "Nominative use"?
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Ruben Monteiro Engineer 5 years ago
So Rockstar is now a patent troll. Just what the world needs.
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship5 years ago
Aren't the Houser brothers famously private individuals? I wonder if that isn't the more likely reason for the legal action.
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Stu Johnson Technical Lead 5 years ago
Not wanting to dip more than a toe into a legal mire I know little about, the key word that jumped out to me was docudrama
i.e. created by a script writer, starring actors who may have never even heard of R* before (unlikely but..) and based upon a collection of facts and truths from a book, most probably jiggled about a bit for artistic reasoning.

Not the same a documentary about the company....

My 2p....
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend5 years ago
@Neil

Not if you want to use content belonging to the company/individual outside of fair use, IE screenshots, game play, trademarks etc. Besides as mentioned its a Docudrama which is a different animal altogether.

Still edging towards publicity stunt atm.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 22nd May 2015 11:29am

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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments5 years ago
@Darren: yeah, would assume it's not absolute or would be a loophole - plus as Stu Johnson points out the fact this is a dramatisation may change things.
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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend5 years ago
I can't wait to see what the actual outcome is; will it be a publicity stunt or is it legit?
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Shane Sweeney Academic 5 years ago
Plus it's directed by the guy who did Black Mirror (aka the best TV show ever made). This thing is going to be great.
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