Rockstar: Balls of … cotton?

Apparently Rockstar didn’t care for The Simpsons Game parodying GTA:

“The game begins with Bart wanting to play a game called Grand Theft Scratchy. Of course this is a parody of Grand Theft Auto. And Marge immediately takes it away from him. She tries to clean up the town and stop the game from being distributed in Springfield because Marge is against video game violence. She uses horrific violence to stop video game violence… in a video game… That’s called irony. The people who make Grand Theft Auto – they spazzed out like little babies.”


Marge is against video game violence.

That isn’t enough of a crackpot point-of-view just yet. The parody would reinforce the notion that GTA is obscenely violent before even getting to the ironic part of the bit.

It’d be like an MMO developer backing a spoof of their MMO in which Marge gets addicted to an MMO and forgets to feed Maggie.

Make fun, sure. Make fun of the game, even make fun of an ignorant stereotype – most racial humor is based on that.

But reinforcing a negative stereotype in the middle of the war on culture is just dumb, unless you’re playing for the other team.

They could have parodied the game if not for that I betcha.

Did you seriously say ‘war on culture’?

It’s a bit like the War On Christmas, only with fewer dead reindeer and elves….

Parody is protected, so there’s no reason that the makers of the Simpsons game couldn’t have gone ahead with it if they wanted to and if it was parody. Evidently their lawyers felt it was too derivative to be considered parody, though, and advised things be changed up slightly.

You have to admit; it was a blatant rip-off of GTA. Same artwork, same font, same everything; probably just a couple items too much. Change the title and a bit of art and you’re clear, still parodying but not pilfering.

Yeh, I should have read the linkage first… it sounds more lawyerly than anything else.

Is it the war of culture?

I dunno, whatever their crusade against western civilization not being the society they think it ought to be is…

On the other half of your reply, Jeff :) Its more about how Rockstar reacted.

The thing about the Simpsons is that they don’t neccessarily mock a point of view, but mock it taken to extremes or unquestioning acceptance of a point of view.

Parody often challenges us to question ourselves.

One would have thought Rockstar might have chuckled seeing Marge portray the role of Jack Thompson and then said “we can’t have that now” instead of their very knee-jerk reaction.

Who knows, maybe their reaction is a continuation of the pardoy – big, hairy Rockstar deeply hurt by yellow cartoon characters. Not sure I believe it ;)

“Parody” is a “defense” against a claim of trademark infringement. And it is not absolute. One of the classic cases was the “Mutant of Omaha” t-shirt based on the Mutual of Omaha bank which sponsored the Marlin Perkin’s Wild Kingdom show on ABC many moons ago (on Sunday Nights before the World of Disney). The shirt and other items were essentially advocating an ‘anti-nuclear’ view point.

They were found to be infringing the trademark, because of the likelihood (revealed in surveys) of confusion of the source of the shirts, i.e., whether Mutual of Omaha had authorized them, etc. As I recall, a key point was that using Mutual’s trademark was not strictly necessary in making the ‘anti-nuclear” statement. (I suspect that part is a product of the defense lawyers floating the ‘anti-nuclear’ thing as justification for the shirt and it back-firing).

If the point of using GTA trademarks is to parody GTA, you’re on better ground under that analysis. However, doing that in a game, the point is to Sell Games. And that is the same market GTA is in, which is a BIG RED FLAG!

Things get a lot tighter when you’re competing in the same market and using someone else’s trademarks. It makes it much more likely that a consumer would believe that the use of GTA’s marks were authorized.

If you want to do that, you need permission (or you shouldn’t be in a position where you can make business decisions of any kind). And with permission comes strings, such as those implied in a comment above, e.g., “You want to use our stuff for this? Fine. But for that? No. Hey, you’re using our stuff, we want it to be like this or you can’t use it at all.”

The big general exception is Comparative Advertising, but those have to be factually correct, and lawyers review the hell out of those. There are things like “McDonald’s hamburgers have twice as much lard as Wendy’s hamburgers.”

Furthermore, because of the nature of trademarks, if they aren’t going to give permission, Rockstar pretty much MUST do the Cease and Desist or We Sue You Tango. To remain silent on it invites the dreaded “Naked License,” which would risk the trademark. Not a good idea when your trademark is so valuable (well over a billion US$ in gross retail revenues for the GTA brand, probably 2 billion).

Trademarks are use them (and don’t let anyone else without permission) or lose them propositions.

(I am a lawyer – but I’m not your lawyer – and I don’t practice so I could be wrong – caveat lector).

Bloo, you were right about a certain phone call. Caveat Doctor.

I was thinking of making a movie about Hannibal’s younger brother; Caveat.


mutherfucker! When my spidey senses work, it is always a bad thing. I must be able to unconsciously sense how stupid/evil other people can be at times.

kfsone, I just don’t think they reacted in the manner they’re being described.

This started with Rockstar being one of a number of game companies that had a problem with it:

a number of games companies were upset by the game parodies littered throughout The Simpsons, including Rockstar.

“Someone” asked for their GTA-parody poster to be taken down at Leipzig. At the time, the lead designer there said:

I don’t know who specifically at Rockstar. I’m guessing probably more than anyone it was a lawyer. The people who work on that product, I doubt they were like, ‘Stop that!’

I wouldn’t want my game rebranded like this, if my game happened to be ground zero for the war against violent video games.

But apparently, Rockstar’s not even the only company that has objected to EA using their IP.

So now the level has been renamed, and they’re saying this:

The people who make Grand Theft Auto, they spazzed out like little babies.

And this:

“They’re supposed to be rock stars; that’s not a big Rockstar move – to be afraid of The Simpsons making fun of their game.”

The developers working on GTA4 wouldn’t have contacted another company, lawyers would have. And even those wouldn’t have contacted these dudes, but would have contacted EA’s lawyers instead.

So EA’s lawyers got a letter from Rockstar’s lawyers, and this is how these guys describe that. Spazzing out, babies, afraid of being mocked.

He also said:

when you do parody, it’s a sign of respect…

Yeah, they are just oozing respect for Rockstar all over the place.

Then he appealed to the old, “If I don’t think I’m going to hurt your sales, then I ought to be able to do anything I want to with your IP”-argument – but phrased so as not to be so obviously stupid.

I doubt there was any spazzing out involved in the letters from one lawyer to another – or whatever the Latin term for spazzing out is, I guess.

I also doubt any of these guys would be in the loop to know one way or the other.

To hear them describe it – yeah, it sounds like Rockstar developers threw a hissy fit, cried and whined, until finally EA’s lawyers forced the Simpson’s team to – oh golly! – rename their GTA level.

But I just don’t think they are describing it accurately.

And I think they’re whining about it a bit too much.

I guess the “shock value” (outside the Simpson’s developers) is Rockstar’s lawyers being … lawyers, like anyone elses ;)

BTW – Do note there is a question mark next to the topic ;)

I doubt there was any spazzing out involved in the letters from one lawyer to another – or whatever the Latin term for spazzing out is, I guess.

“Cease and Desist” letters are how lawyers introduce themselves.

The closest Latin phrase I can think of is “non compos mentis” – “not having control of your mind”. But that lacks the flavor of spastic. “Spasticus” is the etymolgical root in Latin, but don’t ask me to conjugate it.

Well, yeh… I suppose it runs contrary to their “bad boys of game development”-image.

It’s not as weird as when the Hell’s Angels trademarked their logo and sicked lawyers on assorted folk.

Can’t imagine getting a cease and desist from the Hell’s Angels.

“Say… shouldn’t you guys just kick me in the stomach or something?”

I used to have a house sitter (younger sister, eldery grandmother, computer addict and musician parents working nights) who’s common-law hubby was one of the coolest guys I knew. It was a total shock to find he was a ‘hells angel’. Course, that’s England so *shrug* :)

Leave a Reply

Name and email address are required. Your email address will not be published.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

%d bloggers like this: