The laws on copyright can be a bit confusing at times. There are minuscule loopholes or petty mistakes one can make when filing a lawsuit.
Of course, the gaming industry has had its fair share of bizarre accusations throughout the years. Here are just some that showcased how some groups have pushed their luck in the legal department.
1. The other “Scrolls”
In 2012, Bethesda and Mojang went head-to-head in a lawsuit over a single word. Mojang (creators of Minecraft) had announced a digital card game called Scrolls. They had originally planned to get the word trademarked when Bethesda filed a lawsuit for infringement of their trademark for Elder Scrolls.
Of course, Bethesda lost that one. Aside from it being a weird flex of their franchise, Bethesda didn’t have a strong case against Mojang.
The two companies ended in an agreement and allowed Mojang to used the word for that specific game, but not for any sequel or other game. Mojang didn’t see it as a loss and was just happy to be able to develop it. Currently, the game is called Caller’s Bane.
2. Whose song is it anyway?
This game really had it out for them as they reigned over the music genre in gaming during the PS2 era. However, Detroit rock band The Romantics filed a lawsuit against Activision. Apparently, the band said that they have not given the rights for their hit song “That’s What I Like About You” to the company.
The main problem boiled down to ownership. The game had rights to a cover version of the song but the band argued that it sounded too similar to their original master.
In the end, it was found that the song didn’t even belong to the band in the first place. The judge threw their case after learning that the lead singer wasn’t part of all this and that EMI Entertainment World – whom the band worked with in the 70’s – owned the rights to the original song.
This was also the same company that gave the rights to the game for a cover version. Unfortunately, The Romantics wasn’t able to get any royalties from song’s inclusion in the game.
3. GTA and Violence allegations
Linking violence in games to violence in real life isn’t so much as a surprise, given that this became a hot topic in the past few months due to unfortunate mass shootings. The popular Grand Theft Auto series is one of those franchises that get hit with the most blame in the gaming industry in terms of being an influence to these kinds of heinous acts.
An example of this was when a lawsuit was filed against the game’s publishers and developers when a teen boy had shot two police officers and claimed that it was Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s fault. According to the statement, the boy was allegedly imitating scenes from the video game. A year later, a 14-year old had shot his father, stepmother, and stepsister. Once again, this led to the conclusion that it was because of the teen’s obsession with the same game.
In the end, the reasoning wasn’t substantial enough to justify the notion of selling violent video games to minors as being an accomplice to murder. It simply doesn’t add up in court. Unfortunately though, it didn’t stop people from blaming GTA or games in general for violence done in the real world.
4. The nonexistent Mortal Kombat fatality
Speaking of which, if you think the lawsuits against GTA were weird, you won’t believe how many people have sued Mortal Kombat for their depiction of violence.
The first murder case involving the franchise happened in 1997 when a thirteen year-old had stabbed another teen in the chest. The victim’s mother blamed the boy’s obsession of Mortal Kombat. She cited that he was imitating Cyrax and his fatality where in he headlocks his enemy and stabs them in the chest.
Of course, the allegation was absurd in itself because the fatality never even existed to begin with. The case was dropped but this didn’t stop accusations from 1999-2015.
5. Tale of two Kongs
In 1982, when Nintendo had been the big talk of early video games, Universal Studios filed a lawsuit against their game “Donkey Kong”. The suit claimed that it was an infringement of their movie King Kong. Universal even gave Nintendo three options: stop using Donkey Kong in games, get a license from Universal, or be sued.
This was a 4-year case that ended in the most hilarious way. Universal had caused its own demise when Nintendo’s side discovered that Universal had also won a lawsuit against them for the 1970’s remake. They had claimed that the rights were in public domain, yet a decade later they claimed that it was theirs. Talk about a good laugh. Nintendo won in the end.
These were quite the stories indeed. It just goes to show how much people are willing to go for their own personal gain or agenda. Which lawsuit was your favorite? Do you have any other stories like these? Share your thoughts below.
Photo credits: The feature photo has been done by Timon Studler.
Sources: Alex Knapp (Forbes) / Ben Kuchera (Ars Technica) / Rebecca Leung (CBS News) / Tim Surette (Gamespot) / Wayback Machine / Craig Majaski (Nintendo Times)