Another way videogames are responsible for violence? “A furious Mayor Thomas M. Menino vowed yesterday to bill Sony Corp. for the chaos that swirled around the release of its PlayStation 3 machine after Boston police had to quell crowds grown frenzied and unruly by the hype surrounding the coveted consoles.” (Marie Szaniszlo, “Lucky few got game: Crowds go after PS3s, mayor goes after Sony”, Boston Herald, Nov. 18)(via Cutting Edge of Ecstasy, who comments).
Updating our Oct. 14 and Aug. 17 posts, Florida Judge Ronald Friedman, after viewing the game, chose not to censor it—this time. Whether that free-speech decision should be made by judges at all and whether Jack Thompson should be permitted to misuse public nuisance law in this way are, of course, the real issues. Needless to say, Thompson is dissatisfied with the ruling, protesting that the game was played by a Take Two executive in the one- or two-hour closed-door session with the judge, and that a longer session with a different player might have had a different result. (Bridget Carey, “Judge doesn’t object to video game ‘Bully'”, Miami Herald, Oct. 14) (via Bashman).
The lawyers just love to sue Rockstar Games (e.g., Aug. 17; Mar. 5; Jul. 27, 2005; Feb. 19, 2005; Dec. 29, 2003); this particularly ludicrous suit alleged that “Grand Theft Auto:San Andreas,” the first part of which takes place in an ersatz parody of Los Angeles, infringed the trademark of a local strip club, “The Play Pen” because the game’s version, “The Pig Pen,” (one of hundreds of locations in the game) had a similar name and also had a parking lot and a round awning. Judge Margaret M. Morrow rebuffed the claim. But it took 100 entries on the docket, numerous depositions of game designers, expert-witness surveys, and a 55-page judicial opinion before this common-sense issue could be resolved in court. Moreover, the PlayPen attorneys say they’ll appeal, subjecting the matter to the random-legal-opinion generation of the Ninth Circuit. (AP, Aug. 8; Trademark Blog; E.S.S. Entertainment 2000 v. Rock Star Videos, CV 05-02966 MMM (C.D. Cal. July 28, 2006)).
In the weird coincidence department, one of the junior defense attorneys in the suit is not only someone who has worked on behalf of the RIAA in their oft-criticized “spamigation” suits against individuals who allegedly illegally download songs, but a co-creator of the lonelygirl15 Internet phenomenon.
Overlawyered favorite Jack Thompson (Jun. 9, Apr. 14, ad infinitum) is perturbed that his publishing house, Tyndale House, is licensing a video game based on the Left Behind books. Thompson is especially upset that the game will offer players the option to take the role of the anti-Christ. He’s certainly entitled to break off his publishing relationship (doing so shows admirable consistency) and attempt to enlist others in a boycott, but his threat to take “legal action” on grounds of unspecified “tortious conduct” seems questionable. (via Rickey)
“Jack Thompson, the colorful Miami attorney who has become synonymous with lawsuits against video game companies, withdrew as the attorney for the plaintiffs in Fayette’s video game trial.”
…Thompson’s withdrawal comes after a hearing on a motion from the defense attorneys, who represent video game manufacturers and distributors, to revoke Thompson’s privilege to practice law in Alabama during the case. Judge James Moore granted Thompson, pro hac vice, the legal term for the temporary privilege, when the suit was filed.
Defense Attorney Jim Smith claimed that Thompson bombarded him, his co-counsel Rebecca Ward and his law firm, Blank Rome, with threatening and harassing e-mails and letters. He also accused Thompson of violating legal ethics, misrepresenting an alleged past history of disciplinary problems and attempting to poison the jury pool with frequent press releases and appearances in the news media….
Since defense attorneys filed the motion, Thompson has claimed they were “coming after” him. He said Blank Rome’s strategy has always been to attack its opponents.
(“Robert DeWitt, “Attorney in Fayette case bows out”, Tuscaloosa News, Nov. 8). More coverage: IGN, GamePolitics.com, GameSpot News, The Inquirer. For more on Thompson’s antics, see Feb. 19, Oct. 21, etc.
“Video games seem to have two purposes these days: providing entertainment and keeping attorneys busy. Very busy.” (Tresa Baldas, “Video Game Industry Explodes With Legal, Regulatory Issues”, National Law Journal, Jan. 11). For our past coverage, see, among others, Sept. 26, 2003, May 24, 2004 and this selection of pre-2003 posts.
“Republican Californian Congressman Duncan Hunter has introduced a bill titled the ‘Parents’ Empowerment Act,’ which would allow the parent or guardian of a minor to sue (in federal court) anyone who knowingly disseminates any media which contains ‘material that is harmful to minors.'” The bill would apply in cases where “a reasonable person would expect a substantial number of minors to be exposed to the material” and “the minor as a result of exposure to that material is likely to suffer personal or emotional injury or injury to mental or moral welfare.” “Compensatory damages under the bill would start at no less than $10,000 for any instance a minor is exposed to harmful entertainment products”, and liability would apparently extend to original publishers, final retailers, and everyone in between. (“House Bill Threatens Retailers”, icv2.com News, May 21; Jonah Weiland, “CBLDF: New Censorship Bill Turns Parents Into Prosecutors”, May 21; Alan Connor, “The Parents’ Empowerment Act: finding the porn in Harry Potter”, London Review of Books, May 20)(text of H.R. 4239, introduced Apr. 28, courtesy TheOrator.com). Focus on the Family, the religious-right group, likes the idea (Keith Peters, “Congress Considers Parents’ Empowerment Act”, Family News in Focus, May 3)(more on free speech and media law).
Reparations madness, cont’d: almost 200 years after a slave revolt won Haiti’s independence, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide “has launched a controversial campaign to get France to repay its former colony billions of dollars in restitution. And he has already sent Paris a bill, down to the very last cent: $21,685,135,571.48.” A legal adviser to the Aristide administration is considering taking the case to international court (Jacqueline Charles, “Aristide pushes for restitution from France”, Miami Herald, Dec. 18; Henry Samuel, “You owe us $21,685,135,571.48”, Daily Telegraph (UK), Oct. 8; “The sad bicentennial of a once fabulous sugar colony”, The Economist, Dec. 18). No word yet on whether any reparations will be offered in the opposite direction for the 1804 massacres during which newly emergent strongman Jean-Jacques Dessalines ordered the slaughter of almost the entire French population resident in Haiti, an estimated 20,000 persons. (Update: another side of the story from Tunku Varadarajan, who argues that the government of France really was “first a brutal colonizer, and then a usurious bully”.)
In other news, the highly popular videogame “Vice City”, part of the Grand Theft Auto series, has drawn fire from New York and Florida officials “and from the government of Haiti, which has threatened to sue the game’s manufacturer, New York-based Rockstar Games, its parent company, Take 2 Interactive Software Inc., and the game’s distributors. A Miami lawyer representing the Haitian government said the game violates the hate crime laws of Florida and other states. ‘It’s the kind of thing that has no business being sold because it’s not just a game,’ attorney Ira Kurzban told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. ‘It’s a teaching device for young kids and high school students. What is it teaching them? Violence, hatred and racism.'” (“Haitian, Cuban Leaders Denounce ‘Grand Theft Auto'”, WTVJ South Florida, Dec. 16). More on videogame lawsuits: Sept. 26 and links from there.
“Claims by teenage boys in Tennessee that they were acting out the Grand Theft Auto game when they shot at vehicles are threatening to put the US entertainment industry back on trial.” (Rachel Clarke, BBC, Sept. 15; “Game blamed for murder, $100 million lawsuit likely”, Out-Law.com (UK), Sept. 26). Jeff Taylor at Reason Online has the full story (“You Do Know Jack”, Sept. 10) on Miami attorney Jack Thompson, impresario of this and other litigation against videogame makers (see Apr. 3-4, 2002). Thompson is the author of a fondly remembered letter to this site (“go to Afghanistan where your anarchist, pro-drug views will be greatly rewarded” — Apr. 11, 2002) and his website stopkill.com must be seen to be believed.
Place yourself in the original position and ask: if I didn?t know how old I would be when the veil is lifted, what principles of political representation would I favor? One-(adult) person, one vote?