EA Says It's Going To Keep Using Manufacturers' Guns In Its Games -- It's Just Done Asking Permission
from the somehow-I-think-the-NFL-won't-push-over-as-easily... dept
Given the current climate surrounding guns, violent video games and all points where the two intersect, it's not surprising that a large developer like EA would attempt to distance itself from gun manufacturers.
No, EA isn't going to stop making video games with real-life weapons in them. It's going to continue business as usual in that respect. What it is going to do is stop licensing the weapons.
[A]t least one game maker, the second largest by revenue in the United States, is publicly distancing itself from the gun industry, even as it finds ways to keep the branded guns in the games. Electronic Arts says it is severing its licensing ties to gun manufacturers - and simultaneously asserting that it has the right, and the intention, to continue to feature branded guns without a license.A rep for EA says this decision has nothing to do with the NRA's immediate willingness to lay the blame for the Newtown shooting at the feet of violent video games. But that's a rather tough sell, especially considering the hard line EA is pursuing.
Gun licensing for games has never been particularly lucrative for gun manufacturers, at least not in terms of licensing fees. Most agreements were felt to be mutually beneficial: game developers were able to craft authentic weapons and gun manufacturers received free advertising and the best kind of product placement -- right in the virtual hands of potential customers.
Now, it seems the relationship has become mutually toxic.
"It gives publicity to the particular brand of gun being used in the video game," said Brad J. Bushman, a professor at Ohio State University who has studied video game violence. "On the other hand, it's linking that gun with violent and aggressive behavior."Bushman's studies on video games and violent media have frequently resulted in dubious conclusions (to put it kindly), but if anyone's going to take him seriously, it's the NRA and gun manufacturers. What once looked like an ideal match now puts gun manufacturers' implicit endorsement of violent video games in a very unfavorable light.
EA may be able to help them out with this. It's not going to give up using real world weapons in its games -- it's just going to stop asking permission.
"We're telling a story and we have a point of view," EA's President of Labels Frank Gibeau, who leads product development of EA's biggest franchises, said in an interview. "A book doesn't pay for saying the word 'Colt,' for example."EA is going to rely on fair use and it should have a fairly strong case. More promising is the fact that gun makers haven't been very litigious in the past. According to Reuters, a gun manufacturer has yet to sue a game developer over lack of proper licensing. However, the recently introduced friction between these two industries makes EA's new "license-free" stance a bit more combative that it would be otherwise.
Put another way, EA is asserting a constitutional free speech right to use trademarks without permission in its ever-more-realistic games.
This approach almost appears to be EA throwing down the gauntlet and daring embattled gun manufacturers to wander back out into the public eye. There's no way gunmakers will look any better pursuing licensing fees or suing for breach of contract, and EA knows this. Once again, I'm not buying EA's "no harm, no foul" statement in reference to the NRA's recent attempt to toss video games under the bus.
EA may have the upper hand at the moment, but Reuters mentions a pending lawsuit that could spell trouble in the future.
Aircraft maker Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc, has argued that Electronic Arts' depiction of its helicopters in "Battlefield" was beyond fair use and amounted to a trademark infringement. EA preemptively went to court, suing Bell Helicopter to settle the issue.Should Bell prevail, EA may find gun makers willing to test the legal waters and attempt to pry EA's unlicensed guns from its cold, injunctioned fingers.