UK Tabloid Pays 'Substantial Sum' To Take2 After Totally Made Up Story About Grand Theft Auto

from the but-is-that-a-good-thing? dept

One thing I've never quite understood about the UK: it has some of the most ridiculous libel laws around, that are notoriously plaintiff-friendly... and yet, its tabloids are well known for simply making stories up completely. I'm a bit confused about how those two things co-exist, but it appears to be the case. Perhaps, the answer is just that the tabloids famous for making stuff up have a decent budget set aside to pay the famed "substantial sum," any time anyone complains about a story (we once were threatened with a UK libel suit, and the solicitors mentioned "substantial sum" so many times in the letter that it felt like a code word that meant something else).

A few months ago, we wrote about how a journalist at the Daily Star apparently totally made up a story claiming that Take2 Interactive was going to create a new version of the videogame Grand Theft Auto, based on the headline-hogging story in the UK of Raoul Moat, the guy who shot three people and himself, including his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and a policeman (the new boyfriend and Moat himself died). The journalist seemed to base the story on Photoshopped images that some random person had made online of such a game, which was obviously a joke. He never checked with anyone involved at Take2 or Rockstar... but did check with the grandmother of Moat's ex-girlfriend, telling her (falsely) that such a game was being created and getting her reaction. What was even more ridiculous, was that when called on it, the reporter, Jerry Lawton, went on Facebook, and started insulting everyone who pointed out that the story was clearly bogus. It took a while, but The Daily Star finally pulled the story down, and admitted "We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication..."

Apparently, after all this happened, Take2 sued for libel, and so The Daily Star has now coughed up "a substantial sum" to the company to make amends (thanks to cc for the heads up). As ridiculous as the original story was, I'm not sure Take2 really deserves "a substantial sum" for it. Most people who would actually buy a version of GTA knew that the story was false, but that's what you get with UK libel laws, I guess. As another report on this story points out: "It should be noted that the Star, owned by Richard Desmond, has a history of publishing false stories and carrying apologies afterwards." So perhaps my original inclination was correct.


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    weneedhelp (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 2:22pm

    "We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication..."

    Seems like the norm anymore for the "professionals."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 3:52pm

    "One thing I've never quite understood about the UK: it has some of the most ridiculous libel laws around, that are notoriously plaintiff-friendly... and yet, its tabloids are well known for simply making stories up completely"

    I believe it is the human nature to go against perceived/real absurd things.

    In Italy the laws are draconian and ban a lot of free speech and it is from there where we are seeing some tools to bypass censorship, in France the same thing and it is from there some of the biggest free media projects around.

    When you push hard in one direction some people will go to the other direction it is one of those things that keep the human race alive, in case those other people are wrong the seeds for the right path are being planted on the other end.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 5:26pm

    Most people who buy GTA wouldn't care if it were TRUE.

    The most morally loathsome game I've seen. If you don't notice it as offensive, then your soul is already pretty rotten.

     

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      abc gum, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Most people who buy GTA wouldn't care if it were TRUE.

      Wow, you get out much?

       

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        out_of_the_blue, Oct 5th, 2010 @ 8:07pm

        @abc gum: Do you fantasize about murdering prostitutes?

        Is that not morally loathsome to you?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 2:26am

          Re: @abc gum: Do you fantasize about murdering prostitutes?

          Depends on the prosti, if it is the bitch that bosses me around on my job, sure I don't know anyone who never fantasized in murdering some abusive guy or girl, few actually would do it. Fantasy is a coping mechanism and pressure valve, you can make believe they are all your ex's LoL

          Although I'm not abc gum, for me that doesn't seen loathsome, loathsome is the guy who actually go on a murder spree, not the ones fantasizing or using those games to have fun.

          Otherwise I would have to play on bubble games, because almost every other game have some sort of enemy that most be destroyed in some form.

           

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          Andrew (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 11:05am

          Re: @abc gum: Do you fantasize about murdering prostitutes?

          No, but I do fantasize about killing turtles by jumping on them so hard they fly out of their shells, about repeatedly stabbing the cutest little things with smiles on their face, and about consuming enough drugs until I feel strong enough to then consume the demons that haunt and torment me.

          Oh, wait, no, that's Super Mario Bros., Dragon Warrior, and Pac-Man. My mistake. It's just that you seem new to the concept of video games and fiction, that's all.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 1:17pm

      Re: Most people who buy GTA wouldn't care if it were TRUE.

      Jack Thompson, is that you?

       

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    Malk Wheat (profile), Oct 5th, 2010 @ 7:16pm

    Firstly, I don't know how you can accuse the UK of having ridiculous libel laws for allowing people to sue others for completely fabricating information, given that in the US you can sue anyone for pretty much anything for absolutely shitloads of money against all common sense. I'm not claiming the UK system is perfect by any means (it's terrible), but I'm glad we don't have the same system you guys have - the actual occurrence in the UK of writers getting away with publishing completely false material and/or people successfully being able to sue for stupid reasons is rare. Secondly, on your comment about most people knowing that the game is false, if you lived in the UK and knew the readership of the Daily Star (and tabloids in general), you'd know that it's very likely the majority of people reading it will believe it without any doubt, thinking only "Oh, Grand theft auto's that game which lets you murder prostitutes, no surprise they're making a game about raoul moat!" - the UK tabloids are guilty of so much misinformation (that they can get away with) i don't think it's reasonable to ask whether they "deserve" to pay the "substantial sum".

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 2:33am

      Re:

      I totally agree. The reason North Americans tend to pick up on our libel laws is because their right to Free Speech should trump anything, anywhere and at any time. So someone making shit up, well it's free speech.

      Anyway, the reason the tabloids do it is very simple (see equation below).

      Revenue generated from lies > (substantial sum * 10).

       

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      abc gum, Oct 6th, 2010 @ 5:27am

      Re:

      "I don't know how you can accuse the UK of having ridiculous libel laws for allowing people to sue others for completely fabricating information"

      Possibly, it is in reference to the common phrase used here, "It's not libel if it is true" and that this is not necessarily the case in the UK.

       

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    Malak (profile), Oct 6th, 2010 @ 3:34am

    I think the substantial sum is important. You must remember that the article, one that showed the company is a horrifically bad light, was completely fictitious. It was a lie.

    Rockstar's parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software, is publicly traded. That means a real possibility of loss as a result of the paper's actions.

    Most people who would actually buy a version of GTA knew that the story was false

    I disagree, most of the kids who play it probably would, many of the parents of such kids who have read the article and play a part in the putchasing decision would not.

    I'm wholly in favour of severe financial penalties for papers that print complete, groundless damaging fiction as fact. The Star's negligence in this case was overwhelming.

     

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    Alan Fleming, Oct 7th, 2010 @ 6:46am

    The reason why more people don't sue for libel in the UK...

    Is that it's scarily expensive. A minimum of $75,000 to get *started* and a drawn-out trial can easily cost ten times that.

    And, more important, there's no public legal aid available, and very few insurers will cover the conditional fee arrangements - the UK equivalent of no-win no-fee.

    So, basically, suing for libel in the UK is limited to the a) very rich (or funded by someone who is,) b) those with a completely watertight case. Anyone else - exceedingly unlikely to be able to afford to bring a suit.

     

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