legality of featuring very famous people in a game?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by tolworthy, Sep 21, 2010.

  1. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    I realise this may be a question for a lawyer, but what are the precedents for using very famous people in games - e.g. the serving US president for example? I'm considering making a little game based on Obama's biography - nothing controversial, sticking with well known events. My gut feeling is that this would be legally very safe, especially if the word "unofficial" was prominent, but I'd like a second opinion!
     
  2. electronicStar

    Original Member

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    <IANAL>
    On a commercial point of view you aren't breaking any IP, but keep in mind that the peron in question has the possibility to sue you if he doesn't like what you're saying.
    Obama is probably to busy to reply to all the personal offences but another person could sue for a very futile reason especially if they have commercial or marketing contracts with other entities governing their public life. Especially if you aren't paying them.
     
    #2 electronicStar, Sep 21, 2010
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2010
  3. Wrote A Game or Two

    Wrote A Game or Two New Member

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    Even if done with the best of intentions, you may find yourself being visited by some real life MIB's (Secret Service) who will want to pry into every detail of your private life to make sure you're not some nutjob who wants to assassinate the guy.

    If you're really, really, REALLY set on doing this and you're really really REALLY set on using the real life sitting President as your subject, I recommend contacting the White House and getting the official OK to proceed. Who knows, word may get to him about it and you might even get to meet the guy in person, which (regardless of your political leanings) would be pretty darn cool I think.

    Sure sounds interesting - that's not a "game idea" you hear every day. :cool:
     
  4. Jasmine

    Jasmine New Member

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    Some famous people are like brands. I think you'd have to be careful to separate the person from their brand image. And even then, there are problems if the game character does anything which could tarnish that person's image, which could be considered libelous.

    I'm sure I read some time ago that in England there is a law about not depicting the royal family in comedy (or something like that). If that is true, I'm not sure how Spitting Image got away with their stuff in the 1980s.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0xrjOSfR0w
     
  5. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    A friend of mine did an iphone game with obama in it (a fighting game) and apple rejected it because of the usage of real people without their permission. Dunno if that was on legal grounds or not. I guess you could call it sattire if you are taking that stance, but I think in general its open to liability.
     
  6. sake-bento

    sake-bento New Member

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    Legally, I think you're fine. Whether or not you'll get into some sticky business depends on the nature of the game. If it's a very factual, almost biographical sort of game, you're probably fine. If it's not really grounded in reality or meant for entertainment you might have some issue.

    Precedent says that you create a character named "Gobama" or something similar but not the same. Then leave a disclaimer about how all the characters are fiction, ALA Law & Order.
     
  7. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    Thanks for the advice. This is still at the speculative stage, but my idea is to do a straight bio, with the only fictional part being an intro featuring the Founding Fathers. Asking the White House for permission is an interesting idea - I suppose it's worth the cost of a stamp on the email....
     
  8. cliffski

    Moderator Original Member

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    I sent obama a free copy of Democracy 2. In fact I sent it to all the candidates at the time (hilary, mccain etc).
    The only people to bother replying were obamas team, none of the teams even ran the game once.
    but... Obamas people didn't reply as such, they just stuck me on their mailing list without asking me.
    So I got spammed with updates about obama for weeks until my emails telling them where to shove their emails finally got through.

    I pointed out to them that they should stop assuming anyone who contacts them is in their fan club, and that I'd sent McCain the same email. That finally shut them up I think :D
     
  9. tolworthy

    tolworthy New Member

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    LOL - I still get spam from sites I visited to promote my game. Some of them - sites that appear large and well financed - always ignore the "take me off your list" button.
     
  10. jb143

    jb143 New Member

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    More than likely you would just get a computer/intern generated auto-response.
     
  11. Escapee

    Original Member

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    Really ? Why isn't this guy in jail ? :D http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cva7n3EX7s
     
  12. bantamcitygames

    Administrator Original Member Indie Author Greenlit

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    I think you can use the 'likeness' of famous people in parodies, but I don't think this necessarily holds up if your information is biographical in nature.

    Sorry, no sources to back that up, but I seem to remember this from somewhere.
     

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