Church Of England To Sue Sony For In Game Use Of Cathedral?

from the break-out-the-lawyers dept

Brian writes in to let us know that Manchester Cathedral is contemplating suing Sony over supposed video representations of their building in a video game that involves plenty of killing. He also notes that he had no idea that what Cathedral it was in the game until this news came out, suggesting a bit of a Streisand Effect as now a lot more people are going to learn that it’s a real cathedral in the game. You can sort of understand why the folks at the Cathedral are upset, but it’s difficult to see how they have a legal claim here. Just because you dislike something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s illegal. Of course, it’s also worth noting that other press reports note that the church isn’t just threatening a lawsuit… it’s asking Sony to “contribute a large donation” to the church, which might make some cynical folks question the motives here.

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Comments on “Church Of England To Sue Sony For In Game Use Of Cathedral?”

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MrPaladin says:

If it were Islam

My question is, if this were about the Islamic religion and a Mosque shown in-game was actually a particular one as this one is… How long do you think it would take for the lawsuit to win…
Or how about a Nightclub, if this were a particular nightclub the killings were being depicted in would a nightclub owner not have a valid claim?
If it was your house depicted in the game, you’d also have a valid claim…

If they wanted a holy place to perform killings in, let them make one up with some of the known Dogma… but because this one depicts a real place of worship they have a valid complaint in my book…

ehrichweiss says:

Re: If it were Islam

They might have a valid reason to complain but they don’t have any legal grounds to stand on in this case, neither would any of your other examples typically unless certain other factors were met such as infringing on the nightclub’s trademark, or stating specifically where the place was located.

Even perpetuating the idea that you can/should sue because your public building is depicted in something you find offensive is simply asking for problems.

What’s next? Make a movie about Los Angeles being over run by zombie porn stars and the city sues? New York is depicted in a game about a terrorist attack that results in the loss of several landmarks. Should they also be able to sue? Someone writes a book of fiction about someone with your exact name with all sorts of pseudo-slander and ethnic slurs. Should you sue as well?

Dave (profile) says:


The context of this is not just that their permission was not sought but also that the Cathedral stands in an area where gun crime; particularly amongst youths; has been steadfastly growing in the past few years.

AS far as the donation goes; in the UK the government add money to anything labelled a donation (known as Gift Aid). Plus with a charitable organisaion surely any money given is effectively a donation..?

The infamous Joe says:

God v. Sony

Well, first off, the this just ri-goddamn-diculous. What are they suing *for*? Wrongful use of house of worship? They didn’t even take *pictures* of the church, it’s rendered! Is the layout of said church still under some type of copyright? It seems to me they just really want a new indoor pool and figured sony was the best bet.

Now, we can set aside whether or not they have a vaild claim– just because gun crime goes up doesn’t mean this game will have any negative effect.. maybe the church should sue gun makers, too. What if gun crime was going down.. would they still have a reason to sue?

Litigation is a last resort, not the opening attack– or at least it should be.

Count Porkula says:

Sony deserves this

Sony is one of the largest funding agents of the RIAA who sues everyone they possibly can for copyright infringement. While this is not copyright infringement, its close enough. Sony deserves a big dose of its own medicine. Such hypocrites….why do people buy stuff from this fucked up company? I don’t have one Sony product in my house (including CDs & DVDs) and never, ever will.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think weather or not the church is right on doing this is debatable.

but bottom line Sony chose a real cathedral in order to make its game more realistic and the church is trying to get a cut from that.

anyways this law suit will serve as good publicity for both, and i bet Sony will choose to give a “donation” cause that will server as additional publicity for them

Historical Reference says:

Does it matter?

I wonder if the churches made any fiscal claims against any of the WWII games that use churches as battlegrounds? IE the “righteous” battles against Nazi Germany…al a Battlefield 1942 and Medal of Honor
And in any case…it doesn’t matter, if god cared so much, he would smote the writers, CEO, and designers. As it stands…prepare yourselves for this…
If there was, either the churches would burn down or Sony would.
Come on god…pick one and exercise your judgement

MrPaladin says:

What have they done wrong?

Useing the church in a game and depctiing violence in it is the same as character assassination…

And if it were an islamic group making the lawsuit you better believe somethign would be happening, heck you cant even post a comic putting islam in a bad light without people bending over backwards not to offend them….

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Don't hit enter unless you're done.

Useing[sic] the church in a game and depctiing[sic] violence in it is the same as character assassination…

No, using giving the pope a Shotgun of Divine Wrath and a belt of Holy Hand Grenades and having him run around the church killing nuns and touching little boys would be character assassination. Using a church as a setting of a battle does not speak anything abound said church– only that some men ran in and started shooting at each other.

And if it were an islamic[sic] group making the lawsuit you better believe somethign[sic] would be happening…

Something *is* happening.. they’re suing. I think my previous statement would hold true for any religion, they set a scene of a WWII type environment (in an alternate reality, no less) where a battle spills into a church.. what church is not important, it just so happens it is *this* church.

John says:

I'll side with the church on this one

“We are shocked to see a place of learning, prayer and heritage being presented to the youth market as a location where guns can be fired.

“This is an important issue. For many young people these games offer a different sort of reality and seeing guns in Manchester Cathedral is not the sort of connection we want to make.

“Every year we invite hundreds of teenagers to come and see the cathedral and it is a shame to have Sony undermining our work.”

This is what the Dean of the cathedral had to say on the issue, quote gotten from Personally I on this I would be on the side of the church, which is pretty rare for me. Sure, most people would not recognise the church, but many kids in Manchester might, which is where the problem is located.

I havent played this game, but I dont think it would play that big a role in promoting gun violence, but it still might damage the reputation of the church by giving young people a negative association with it. I doubt the church wants peoples first thoughts when seeing the church to be ‘this looks like the part of that game with the bloody gun battle.’

nipseyrussell says:

mr palladin, you are still not making any sense
joe said it fine… is this character assassination? that is a completely ludicrous point of view. just the thought that you can not set a fictional story in a real location because you might get sued, its quite scary!
i doubt they will ever actually sue as they must know there is no case here.
I am still asking the question: what is the purported wrongdoing here: slander/defamation? copyright/trademark? the bad man pointed at me and laughed and now he must pay because i dont like it?

anonymous says:

what are you talking about?

What are you talking about? are you SO stuck on copyright claims that you have no concept of law? At least here in the states there are a NUMBER of laws the church could sue under, (slander?, its published, so it could be liable, and what about purgery, or defamation of character? just because you copy something thats out of copywright doesn’t mean its legal! and creating a bad image of someone or something CAN be constituted as a crime.)

MrPaladin says:

Sorry for not bothering with a spell checker… but anyway…

If this game was set in the Trump Tower without the Trump organisations consent, would Trump Organisation have a right to persue it?

I think because this is a Church and people are so used to pissing on christianity that they are dismissing it when they do quite have a grievance…

Norman619 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nice. You can’t come up with a valid counter argument so you make a personal attack… You show me where architectual layout is protected by copyright and where some org has successfully made this kind of silly argument and I will glady say I am wrong. But until you can do this I say STFU and get a clue.

Oh, please try to stop transfering your own shortcumings to me.

nipseyrussell says:

#26, are you talking to me? no concept of law? i simply asked what law they think was broken here!
slander? this is a fictional game set in a real place. its simply a setting for fiction. i would be completely blow away of this video game sets forth that it is a fact that this battle (with aliens) actually happened in the church, and further, if the people associated with the church are not portrayed as having done anything wrong (as opposed to being innocent victims), then there is no slander against them.
purgery? what the hell is that? do you mean perjury? what has that got to do with this?
defamation of character – see “slander” above

Shun says:

What's Manchester Cathedral's cause of action?

Leaving aside the idea that a building would want to sue a company, or vice-versa, what is the Cathedral claiming? What are the damages or what are they asking for, in equity? Maybe the law doesn’t work this way in England (I don’t know why, since the foundation of American Jurisprudence is English Common Law), but in order to sue, the Cathedral has to have been injured in some way.

What injury have they sustained. I am not talking about the people of Manchester who may, if a tenuous connection must be made, become victims of increased gun violence due to the mass publicity of this link between violence and religion (gee, never would have thought of that, myself). I am talking about the Cathedral, proper. Is what Sony doing slander? How so?

Will fewer tourists or worshipers come to the Cathedral due to its association with a violent video game? I would think the opposite would occur. More people (PS3 nuts) would want to see the real Cathedral.

Lots of film and media depict real places. The original Die Hard took place in LA. So did Heat. New York is a popular place to film. Do the residents sue Hollywood when something bad happens in their city? What about Streets of San Francisco or the Dirty Harry movies? Man, what a goldmine! Who thought suing Hollywood could be so lucrative? Oh, wait, it isn’t. They have deeper pockets and can litigate you into the ground, church or no church.

What Sony did was tasteless, probably sick, and guaranteed to piss people off. Are they liable in a civil or criminal sense? I don’t see how. If you really want to convince people that you are “right” try a little tolerance and reason.

Reasonable responses will be considered. All others will be burned at the stake or drowned.

MrPaladin says:


Even Rockstar was smart enough to completly fabricate their locations…

They did not model their nightclubs after actual nightclubs, nor did their high scale appartments use someones actual address… They altered the names of all the cars and even modeled them differently, they only seem the same because they are styled close enough to the real thing…

I think the above poster is right, if you can put yourself in the position of the church in this situation (i like his girlfriend analogy) you can see that what Sony (or the software house) did is wrong… and legal action should be taken…

Norman619 (profile) says:

Re: Norman619

Sorry but you obviously never been to Los Angeles. GTA: San Andreas was based on LA. Many of the locations in the game were real places in Los Angeles. I should knwo since I spent many years there and I have actually played the game. GTA4 is set in Liberty City which is based on NYC. If you bothered to actually do a little research you’d see this. They have recreated many location from NYC in the game VERY well. If you do a search you will find many sites where they compare the real locations to screen shots of the virtual ones. So your argument holds no water.

Norman619 (profile) says:


I know you have to get the permission of the owners to film on their property but do you need their permission to recreate the location virtually(CG)? The only reason I am aware of for the permission for filming is tresspassing. I have recreated many real world locations as game levels in many games as mods. I have even done some film quialty shorts set in real world locations. I thought I was pretty well versed in copyright law. Anyone here know anything about this? I am honestly curious.

MrPaladin says:

The Buildings I know of used by rockstar

I reviewed a comparison site and the buildings listed are iconic buildings for the town and I’d be highly surprised if they did not seek the correct permissions to use them in their game…

If any particular missions happens in these buildings and permission was not given for their use by the owners then I believe that they would be in the same situations as this church and that legal compensation would be justified even if only for the profiting from the use…

we are not even going to include the Nut Jobs out there who might get the notion of disturbing this church now its in a game… it only takes 1 nut… (I also know that a game wont make people crazy, but theres no reason to hand a nut a target, you wouldn’t want a game out their that had you as the target)

nipseyrussell says:

i’m still not getting it, what are the “proper permissions”? why must someone have permission to use a real life setting in a fiction? do you not watch movies or read books? forget video games, movies and books constantly have real life settings. there is no “permission” needed! and again, there is no slander in simply having something bad happen in the setting.

The infamous Joe says:

Your law, lawyer.

Oh dear. This is really getting silly.

they would be in the same situations as this church and that legal compensation would be justified

Justified? For *what*? The church was rendered in a video game about an alternate reality where some alien things attack the world, think: War of the Worlds. I don’t know you personally, but your way of thinking is what is driving the civilization into the ground. Just because someone makes a lot of money and you (in the general sense) are connected in some tiny way, doesn’t entitle you to a cut. If *anything* the architect would have more grounds to sue than the freakin’ church.

Nut Jobs out there who might get the notion of disturbing this church now its[sic] in a game

Oh come on, now! You can’t seriously be proposing that the church deserves money because someone might play Resistance: Fall of Man and decide to play it out in the church for real. At least, I *hope* you’re not serious. That would be suing for a possible outcome, and not even a probable one. I would like to sue you for possible damages to my wrists from typing out this response. 😉

Face, Mr. Holy Crusader– this church has no legal leg to stand on– they are only portraying the church as a greedy, litigious organization who has lost touch with the teachings of the god/man/spirit they claim to follow. If anything, they’ve done more harm to their ‘good name’ with this publicity stunt than Sony could do with any video game, in my eyes.

MrPaladin says:

I've nothing to do with their church

All I’m saying is if this were not a christian church, if it were any other organisation or religon, they would win or would be quietly settled…

PS. finally someone who understood where my name was comming from instead of typo’ing it… tho I’m not crusading on this one… just looking at it from the side of the members of the church thats being defaced in the game…

The infamous Joe says:

But seriously, folks.

is if this were not a christian[sic] church, if it were any other organisation[sic] or religon[sic], they would win or would be quietly settled.

First off, it sounds to me like you’re biased against other religions– to where they always ‘get it easy’ and you and your religion are always shat upon. That pretty much renders the rest of what you have to say, to me, as the rantings of a zealot.

Secondly, they may win or it might be quietly settled… we don’t know yet. I wouldn’t put my money on it, but in this crazy world you never can tell.

nipseyrussell says:

“Sony Admits they thought they had all the correct permissions before publishing the games…By their own admissions they understand that such things are needed….”


what they actually said was “Throughout the whole process we have sought permission where necessary.”

the permission you describe simply isnt necessary as any author or director could tell you

Buzz (profile) says:

Not cool.

Comparing this game to WWII games simply does not work. First off, WWII actually did happen (which, in itself, does not justify showing it, but it is certainly a better excuse). Second, Sony’s game essentially desecrates a still-standing structure. I, for instance, am LDS. I would definitely be extremely upset to discover any portrayal of one of our holy temples being used as a battleground. I’m not entirely sure where that cathedral ranks on the spiritual ladder, but it is a sacred construct nonetheless. Sony should have used more discretion in this area.

I do agree, however, with Techdirt pointing out the Streisand Effect. I honestly never knew about the cathedral being in the game, so they probably could have done a better job at preventing this negative exposure. Now MORE people are going to take note of their cathedral being used as a place where people’s heads are blown off. Way to go, Church of England…

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Not cool.

First off, WWII actually did happen (which, in itself, does not justify showing it, but it is certainly a better excuse).

So, you’d rather have something that could be mistaken as real (WWII battle in your church) over something that could *not* be mistaken as real? (Men fighting aliens in your church) It seems to me that the more believable the story-line, the more potential harm it could do.

Sony’s game essentially desecrates a still-standing structure.

No. No, no, no, no. No! To desecrate the structure, I’d have to actually go to the church and wage a war with aliens inside of it. If I drew a cartoon of said church and then drew some guys killing aliens in my drawn church, I would not be desecrating the *real* church. I know that reality and fantasy can get blurred these days, but get a grip.

I, for instance, am LDS.

Think your people could stop putting fliers on my car? Thanks.

I would definitely be extremely upset to discover any portrayal of one of our holy temples being used as a battleground.

That’s perfectly understandable.. some people are way too serious, and that’s fine. Being upset happens to everyone, but that doesn’t mean you get to make a big deal out of nothing. If they wanted to bring the law into it, they should have a *legal* complaint– and ‘being upset’ isn’t a legal complaint to my knowledge. (IANAL)

Sony should have used more discretion in this area.

No, people– and I include all religions, races and nationalities– need to stop being so damn sensitive. I won’t go through my life worrying about who I might offend when I speak– I’m sure just about every word out of my mouth has the potential to offend *someone*. I think the world needs to sit down and watch Blazing Saddles until they realize that a joke is just a joke, a game is just a game and a movie is just a movie. It’s a *game* and this one little detail is getting this church’s panties in a wad. Maybe, just *maybe* if the entire game revolved around the church I could understand, but it’s one part!

MrPaladin says:

Why did they use a church?

why did they even use the church?

why didn’t they use a parking garage or a church that does not even exist… make up a pretend church complete with all the regular churchy stuff… it wouldn’t make a difference to the players of the game or the games success or failure…

It is because they are using a particular church that this is even a problem…

I do however aggree that people do not need to get so offended at things, but peoplle should also not go out of their way to be offencive…

GoblinJuice says:

The Who of What?

Quick! Get Richard Dawkins on this!

In all seriousness, the Church of England has gotta get a goddamned life and stop with lame PR stunts like this.

Until this point, I always thought the CoE was, more or less, harmless. Sad to see they are taking a chapter from the Earth-Is-Young&Flat Christian’s in America… be loud, be crazy!

In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, there’s a church that is, uh, quite distinct. It’s a well known church – it’s a carbon copy of the real church. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. How come they didn’t freak out?

Jack says:

Is this an urban myth?

Can anyone verify if this “urban myth” is true or false? I had always heard that every time the Trans America building in S.F. appeared in a movie that a royalty was paid to the building’s owner. If this is indeed true, then it would seem that a recognizable rendition of any kind of a distinct building would have copyright implications. However, even copyrights are not forever. So, assuming the copyright went into effect when the building was completed, wouldn’t it have lapsed into the public domain by now?

Krimson says:

Are some of you fucking nuts?

The game involves shooting ALIENS (not people) in the RUINS of MANY British locales from an ALTERNATE UNIVERSE in which ALIENS INVADED EARTH. Anyone who thinks the church has a valid claim should die. Now. It’s little surprise there’s a gun problem in Manchester if the people there are this FUCKING STUPID.

I’d be surprised if Sony had the nuts to stand their ground though, they edited out those uniforms from The Getaway 2 after a small fuss was raised over it.

|333173|3|_||3 says:

Firstly: I don’t know for sure about Manchester Cathedral, but most old CofE churches in England and wales are former Catholic churches.
Anyone who thinks that a battle has occured in the City of Manchester since (at the very latest) the seventeenth century, is an idiot, and there were no land battles in Great Britain (the biggest fo teh British Isles) in either world war, and only the Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans in either war, which are sovreign countires.

I suppose the chuch could be angry that the game makkers are allowing thos playing as aliens to kill humnans in the church.

Concerned for the world says:

It’s hard to have respect for any of the worlds largest institutions these days, but as of now I have lost all respect for the Church of England. The end of this article makes clear that all this greedy institution is concerned about is money. This is no different than the woman who sued McDonald’s for millions of dollars because she spilled coffee on herself. In addition to that, the Church doesn’t even have their facts straight. It is not “hundreds of gunmen killing people”, nor is it rival gangs or any of such idea they are claiming, it is the defense from an alien invasion. Perhaps the US government should also sue for that scene in Independence Day when the alien spacecraft blows up the White House in such realistic special effects! They should demand withdrawal of the movie, an apology, and a substantial donation! Yeah right! There is something wrong with those greedy old buffoons to even think they’re right about this.

Dr. Engelbert Lütke Daldrup (user link) says:

church of England

I believe the church of england doesn’t know what they really want.The article says the church does not want to sue Sony but just get a sum of money for the problems started.With all respect and i apologize greatly for my speculations but the church of england can go shove it……up there royal asses.I too am part of a church but we would never bother an organization.You should feel special that your church was shown in the game,it might give you some new affiliates.

Nick says:

A simple solution

All that Insomniac games should do, is rewrite the church out of the game. Here is how:

As the soldiers run to the cathedral, they spot an alien warship flying toward them. The ship stops and hovers above the cathedral and a latch opens up beneath the ship. A huge bomb drops from the ship and blows the cathedral to bits. In modern hollywood fashion, burning chunks of the cathedral fly right at the camera. Now there would no longer be a horrible gun battle in this church!

Problem solved.

Anonymous Coward says:

Useing the church in a game and depctiing violence in it is the same as character assassination…

And if it were an islamic group making the lawsuit you better believe somethign would be happening, heck you cant even post a comic putting islam in a bad light without people bending over backwards not to offend them….

if i remember correctly the issue with the comics wasn’t because it put Islam in a bad light but it was because of the way the prophet Mohammad was being portrayed. (not that i am saying they didn’t over react)

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