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Church will face "uphill battle" if suing Sony, says legal expert

A specialist games and copyright lawyer has told <i>GamesIndustry.biz</i> that the Church of England would find it difficult to win a case against Sony over Resistance: Fall of Man.

A specialist games and copyright lawyer has told GamesIndustry.biz that the Church of England could find it difficult to win a legal case against Sony over Resistance: Fall of Man.

News emerged over the weekend that Church authorities have complained to Sony about the depiction of Manchester Cathedral in the game. Some reports have stated that the Church may pursue legal action against the company.

But according to Alex Chapman of Campbell Hooper solicitors,"The Church will have an uphill battle in a legal claim against Sony, and indeed it is likely that there is no basis for a claim."

Chapman explained that there is a provision in the UK's 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents act which "explicitly states that it is not copyright infringement to represent certain artistic works that are on public display". This includes buildings and sculptures which are "permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public".

"Therefore," Chapman continued, "The inclusion of the Cathedral in the game could not be considered to be an infringement of any copyright in it."

He went on to add that due to its age, it is unlikely Manchester Cathedral has any copyright remaining on it - as copyright expires 70 years after the person who created the work dies.

"What all this means is that public buildings are generally fair game for inclusion in videogames, films et cetera, and it is something that their owners just have to accept," said Chapman.

"What isn't fair game, however, is if the building is presented in a way that could be said to be defamatory in relation to those associated with it and this might be what the Church is more concerned about.

"Also if the representation of the building could be argued to have become so closely associated with a business that its representation amounts to a false endorsement of Sony or its products, or it is registered as a trademark, there may be issues."

But Chapman concluded, "In each case however my impression is that the Church will have some difficulty in pursuing Sony. There is no law against insensitivity and as with many matters of this kind, it is the public reaction that might be more damaging than the legal one."

Sony today issued a follow-up comment to the statement it released yesterday, confirming that it is in talks with the Church but declining to offer further information.

"We have spoken to the Manchester Cathedral authorities and will be dealing directly with them from now on," the statement reads. "We do not anticipate making any further public comment in the immediate future."

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.