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GTA Parody Elements Pulled From Simpsons Game

Zonk posted more than 5 years ago | from the unfunny-lawyers dept.

Games 46

The Grand Theft Auto section of the game is still there, but 1up is reporting that EA's The Simpsons game won't have any overt themes from the Rockstar title. That section is now labeled 'Mob Rules'. "Lead designer Greg Rizzer commented that 'if we make fun of Grand Theft Auto, we're not going to hurt the sales of Grand Theft Auto... But yeah, we've definitely had some reactions -- we've had to pull stuff from the game.' Otherwise, the trailer looks untouched, so it seems that the title was the major problem and not the parody game content itself ... Rockstar does have a point -- it's not as if they've ever used an existing work as inspiration for satire. Oh wait."

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46 comments

What bitter irony (4, Interesting)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 5 years ago | (#21100735)

The GTA series makes fun of pretty much anything even remotely fitting into the game and they're not shy about it (think a huge pink plastic dildo found in a police station restroom), and now that. What a shame.

Re:What bitter irony (1)

SendBot (29932) | more than 5 years ago | (#21103419)

With all the cars they use in the game with festive renames, they owe the public at least that much liberty in parodizing them.

Re:What bitter irony (2)

Dutch Gun (899105) | more than 5 years ago | (#21104735)

Well, in the end, legally-driven or not, it makes Rockstar look like a bunch of whiners. Harmonix, who's Guitar Hero was parodied, thought it was hilarious and wanted a bunch of copies for themselves. Someone at Rockstar should ask if the slight chance this would cause any legal problems in the future is worth the bad publicity from looking like a bunch of very uncool killjoys.

Not everyone has been a spoil-sport, though. Harmonix, for instance, was so enamored with the "Sitar Hero" parody poster (with Apu playing a 60-button sitar controller) that they asked for 20 copies. "They just loved it so much."
http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3163412 [1up.com]

 

The ironing is delicious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21104985)

The ironing is delicious.

Knee-jerk (4, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 5 years ago | (#21100793)

I know the general reaction around here is "But Rockstar does stuff like that all the time!" but did you all ever think that maybe Rockstar wanted that part of the game changed due to the controversy that Manhunt has been generating? Perhaps they don't want themselves to be associated in a game that has the kind of audience that The Simpsons generally attracts in an attempt to avoid more negative publicity?

Think about it...The Simpsons has done some messed up things on their show, but most parnts don't seem to have a problem with their kids watching the show...those same parents would likely have a problem with their kids playing a GTA type game, and if the name is different they might not notice...

Yes, I'm aware how much of a stretch this is and yes I'm aware that my post only sorta made sense...but you get the idea.

Re:Knee-jerk (1)

achilles777033 (1090811) | more than 5 years ago | (#21100929)

The Simpsons has done some messed up things on their show, but most parnts don't seem to have a problem with their kids watching the show
And this is exactly why Rockstar shouldn't have a problem being associated with a Simpsons Title. If the simpsons is parodying it, it can't be that bad, can it? If the parents let their kids play "Grand Theft Scratchy" cause its a Simpsons title, maybe they won't notice GTA tossed into the cart too?

Re:Knee-jerk (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101035)

I'm sure someone would make a fuss about the Simpsons being a "gateway drug" to more mature games like GTA. It's in R*'s best interest to keep minors away from their mature games: 1. so that they don't get sued over kids acting stupid and 2. so that the government doesn't deem the ESRB ineffective in stopping children from playing mature games.

I don't necessarily think that was their motive, but I can see where the gp post is coming from.

Re:Knee-jerk (2, Insightful)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 5 years ago | (#21100935)

The only problem I have with it, is that Grand Theft Auto was an actual term wayyy before the game came out. Its similar in case to that one Guitar Hero-like game that had the name Rockstar in it... Rockstar is just a word, so when that crappy rock singer says "I wanna be a rockstar", it has NOTHING to do with the company that created a series of games named after an official phrase for when someone goes on a car stealing spree.

Re:Knee-jerk (1)

azuredrake (1069906) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101299)

Technically, "Grand theft auto" does not mean a spree of carjacking - Auto is a modifier on the crime of Grand Theft, which is any theft valued over $1,000. Thus, Grand Theft Auto is when you steal something worth more than $1000, and that thing happens to be a car. You would, of course, be charged with a count of this felony for every car you stole in a spree.

Simpsons Hit and Run (3, Insightful)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#21100953)

Interesting decision considering the game Simpsons Hit and Run was basically a complete parody/ripoff of Grand Theft Auto set in the Simpsons universe.

Re:Simpsons Hit and Run (1)

anti-human 1 (911677) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101703)

Actually it was considerably closer to Crazy Taxi. Hit and Run didn't really have much depth. Crazy taxi just had punk rock clips in the background.

Re:Simpsons Hit and Run (2, Interesting)

NonSequor (230139) | more than 5 years ago | (#21102227)

Road Rage was the Crazy Taxi knock off. Hit and Run was definitely a GTA knock off.

Re:Simpsons Hit and Run (1)

Doc Lazarus (1081525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21117477)

Indeed. In fact, shouldn't there be another Hit and Run game? I remember having tons of fun with that but it was way too vehicle-based. If they could really do a GTA ripoff with it, then that would be the best game ever.

This story is incorrect. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21101123)

See subject.

I liked GTA, but now... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#21101247)

There's nothing I hate more than FUCKING HYPOCRITES!

Parody is protected free speech (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101313)

The constitution guarantees your right to parody.

I think what is really happening here is that EA and Rockstar are in the same business, and are just being polite to one another. It isn't in either companies' interest to get into any form of legal battle - that would just make the public's perception of "mature" video games even worse.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (3, Interesting)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101365)

Parody may be protected, but trademark violations are not. From what we've seen the content of the game remains unchanged, but EA has been forced to change the chapter's name from "Grand Theft Scratchy" to "Mob Rules". Rockstar is clearly using the trademark violation line to do this, not a "don't parody us" sort of thing.

That being said... I thought "grand theft auto" was a very standard English word with a lot of history prior to Rockstar's usage, can they REALLY claim trademark on it?

Re:Parody is protected free speech (3, Interesting)

Prien715 (251944) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101499)

That being said... I thought "grand theft auto" was a very standard English word with a lot of history prior to Rockstar's usage, can they REALLY claim trademark on it?

Trademark always applies to a specific domain. Think of "Windows". No, they're not going to sue you for having a house with glass panes. They will come a-callin' if you write a software package with the same name though. Think of any of the MS product names in fact, "Office", "Word", or "Excel". All of these are common English words, much more so than the phrase Grand Theft Auto.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101573)

Think of any of the MS product names in fact, "Office", "Word", or "Excel". All of these are common English words, much more so than the phrase Grand Theft Auto.

I don't agree with your conclusion. The offical name of those products is Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, etc. Even the shortcuts installed all follow that same pattern, probably because they'd not be able to register a trademark simply as "Word." If you can find a trademark registration for Word that refers to MS Word, you'd have a point. I don't think you will though.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#21102847)

The offical name of those products is Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, etc. Even the shortcuts installed all follow that same pattern, probably because they'd not be able to register a trademark simply as "Word."

True, but a mark does not need to be an EXACT replice of an existing trademark to be problematic. It is often enough to be substantially similar, e.g. "Lindows" vs. "Microsoft Windows", "Grand Theft Scratchy" vs. "Grand Theft Auto", etc.

Often, but not always: apparently "Office" isn't unique enough to be protected, since we've had products named "Corel Office Suite", "OpenOffice.org", etc.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#21111683)

True, it doesn't have to be exact, but it has to be very close. The two examples you sited never went to court and the parties settled. So legally there is still doubt as to whether or not eithr of those are valid cases.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21108549)

Disagree all you like, but you'd be wrong.

Trademark also applies to part of a name, not just the entire thing. If I wrote a word processor and called it " Word", Microsoft would have every right to force me to change it. In the same line of reasoning, a product called "Grand Theft Gordo" (so long as it's a software application) could be challenged by Rockstar for being too similar to their own trademark.

Surely you knew this, and just felt like arguing or something.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101533)

"Grand Theft Auto" is a term that, when applied to video games, brings to mind Rockstar's line of games. For another company to release a "Grand Theft" video game would be confusing and might lead some to think that the game was released by Rockstar as well. This is a perfect example of how trademark should be applied. Now if "Grand Theft Scratchy" was the name of a TV Series and it referred to what happened to the title character (Scratchy) after he committed Grand Theft Auto (the crime, not the game), then Rockstar wouldn't have cause to complain.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

Boronx (228853) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101539)

They should just change the name to Grand Snatch Scratchy and be done with it.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (2, Informative)

burris (122191) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101731)

You absolutely can use a trademark to parodize/satirize the trademark itself or the trademark holder. The SCOTUS has held this to be protected speech. See the many examples of using Mickey Mouse and the trademark mouse ears to poke fun at Disney.

On the other hand, you can't use a trademark to make fun of something unrelated. You can't appropriate Hasbro's Monopoly trademarks to make fun of Microsoft, for instance.

Couldn't they have come up with a better name? (1)

Bonkerjerks (1179005) | more than 5 years ago | (#21102655)

Grand Theft Otto Apu: Bulletproof Saint's Moe Or gone the movie/tv rout: They Call Me Mr. Wiggum! Hill Street Yellows Springfield Highway Patrol (SHiPs) starring Lou and Eddie Mob Rules is a lame name. :)

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 5 years ago | (#21103507)

google for "grand theft -rockstar" and you will find some interesting links on page one.

For one, the Wiki definition says "Grand Theft" is a legal term. "Grand Theft Auto" is a 1977 movie. Now, Grand Theft Auto the movie and Grand Theft Auto the game can hardly be mixed up, but I absolutely agree that the creators of GTA the game should not be able to claim monopoly on all terms "Grand Theft foo".

Re:Parody is protected free speech (1)

absoluteflatness (913952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21108203)

Of course, the owners of Monopoly (Hasbro), can claim, as you called it, "monopoly" on the name Monopoly in the spheres of board games, and/or games in general, but not on all uses of the legal term "monopoly".

So, Rockstar (or possibly Take-Two) very likely have some kind of claim to stake here. All the valid counter-arguments aside, including that the names are not exactly the same, and that this use is a parody, EA probably made the decision to change the name rather than face any legal murkiness (or bad press associated with the GTA brand). In the scheme of things, does the name of a sub-game really make that big of a difference?

My trademark argument above would have probably been more readable without using the game Monopoly as my example, but I just couldn't resist.

Re:Parody is protected free speech (2, Insightful)

crankyspice (63953) | more than 5 years ago | (#21103587)

I thought "grand theft auto" was a very standard English word with a lot of history prior to Rockstar's usage, can they REALLY claim trademark on it?

It's a descriptive term ordinarily, yes, but within the specific context of electronic gaming it's acquired (at least arguably) sufficient 'secondary meaning' to be a 'source identifier' for Rockstar's series, and can therefore be protected by trademark.

EA Legal are a bunch of wusses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21107617)

EA Legal has always been very over-paranoid about a lot of things. They're known for demanding all kinds of things removed from games on the premise that it MIGHT get them sued by someone, somewhere. They work under the idea that even if they would probably win, it's just not worth the money to fight it, especially for their licensed titles, that aren't exactly their big moneymakers.

Am I the only one... (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101553)

... who played Simpson's Hit & Run? Way cool game, BTW, and I usually hate timed mission stuff.

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | more than 5 years ago | (#21101915)

I initially wrote it off as cheesy, but an ex-girlfriend owned it and I got roped into playing. I must admit, it was quite fun. It also had the advantage of being simple enough for a whole group of people to play.

Re:Am I the only one... (1)

EricWright (16803) | more than 5 years ago | (#21103125)

Nope... I played it all the way through. I am the most casual sort of gamer (a few hours a month max), but it hooked me pretty good. It didn't hurt that I'm a huge fan of the Simpsons, even though the quality has been lagging for years.

Oddity in the achievements list (1)

Whyte Panther (868438) | more than 5 years ago | (#21103269)

Someone leaked the achievements list for the Xbox 360 version of The Simpsons Game, and the list implied that there were separate levels named "Mob Rules" and "Grand Theft Scratchy"... So have they really changed the game at all, or just the marketing?

Re:Oddity in the achievements list (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21109163)

Probably just the title and anything likely to be seen as infringing on GTA. I can't imagine what they could possibly put into a Simpsons branded game which would be confusing to the consumer or would water down the GTA trademark.

They may have had to change a few of the models they used, but I can't imagine that they had to change the entire sequence just to avoid possibly being sued.

Grand Theft Scratchy? (1)

Supurcell (834022) | more than 6 years ago | (#21111365)

I'm glad they pulled this section of the game. With a name like "Grand Theft Scratchy", how good could it be? If it were up to me, I would've called it "Grand Theft Otto".

Re:Grand Theft Scratchy? (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 6 years ago | (#21114247)

That would have made even more sense beyond the obvious pun, since Otto is the bus driver!

Huh (1)

British (51765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21113209)

I love GTA. I love The Simpsons. Wish these two would get along a bit better. C'mon, the GTA franchise is untouchable. There have been attempts to unseat it, and have failed miserably(driver, etc). Don't see any watering down of trademarks. The Simpsons pokes fun at pop culture all the time. GTA parodies have shown up in an auto insurance commercial. Dave chappelle did a skit about it. Rockstar has nothing to worry about.

Perhaps EA should just calmly pull Rockstar aside, lean in and say softly. "We're EA. We buy game companies every hour. Don't fuck with us."

Re:Huh (1)

Salamande (461392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21114169)

Perhaps EA should just calmly pull Rockstar aside, lean in and say softly. "We're EA. We buy game companies every hour. Don't fuck with us."
Take Two isn't exactly an indie outfit. EA doesn't have that much weight.
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