May 12 2014
Rockstar Games Inc. and Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. are among the defendants named in a lawsuit filed May 9, 2014 in Iowa federal court, in which the plaintiff alleges that a song incorporated into the videogame “Grand Theft Auto V” infringes his copyrights.
The Plaintiff (a musician and Iowa resident) alleges that he sold original musical “beats” to Georgia-based Bangladesh Records, Inc., which in turn incorporated the beats into the song “Too Hood” featuring artists Gucci Mane and Ciara Harris. According to Plaintiff, Bangladesh represented to Plaintiff that “Too Hood” would not be publicly released, and that Plaintiff would therefore not be compensated. Plaintiff claims that in 2013, he discovered that “Too Hood” had in fact been incorporated into GTA V without Plaintiff’s knowledge or permission, and in violation of his copyrights. In the lawsuit, Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction which would prevent the unauthorized sale, reproduction, or distribution of his alleged copyrighted work (and apparently of GTA V, in which the work is purportedly incorporated), as well as actual damages.
The lawsuit is Crawford v. Bangladesh Records, Inc., et al. (S.D. IA 2014), Case No. 4:14-cv-00189.
This is the latest lawsuit directed to GTA V alleging the misappropriation of individual intellectual property rights. On February 24, 2014, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. and Rockstar Games were sued in New York state court by Karen Gravano (daughter of alleged mobster Salvatore “Sammy The Bull” Gravano), who alleges that defendants misappropriated her likeness for use in a game character in violation of her state law rights of publicity. Defendants have moved to dismiss the lawsuit, citing (among other things) their First Amendment rights to original expression.
(A comprehensive discussion of the law in relation to First Amendment rights vs. individual rights to publicity in videogames appears at http://videogamerlaw.com/intellectual-property-rights-vs-the-first-amendment-in-the-video-game-industry/ )