Topless Wizards More Modding Issues For Video Game Publishers

Video Game Law Blog

May 05, 2006

First there was the revelation that a mod (a downloadable software modification) for Grand Theft Auto San Andreas used hidden code in the video game to allow the gangster protagonist to engage in virtual sex. When that mod came to the attention of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, it imposed an 'adults only"? rating on GTA San Andreas, resulting in the publisher, Take-Two Interactive, having to pull the video game from shelves, edit the game and consequently incur millions of dollars in losses. Adding further insult to injury, Take-Two has been forced to defend itself in various resulting legal actions.

Now, there are reports by the ESRB that a mod for Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion, a highly popular fantasy-themed video game co-published by Take-Two and Bethesda Softworks, accesses an art file in the game to make female characters appear topless. Citing the 'topless"? mod, as well as the fact that the game publishers understated the detail and intensity of the blood and gore in the game, the ESRB has changed its rating on the game from 'teen"? to 'mature"? – i.e. unsuitable for those under 17.  A spokesperson for Take-Two said that he doesn't expect that the ratings change will have a financial impact.

From a legal standpoint, the fact that, in both cases, a third-party downloadable mod appears to have accessed hidden code in the game itself, raises interesting questions about a video game publisher's liability for the effects of that mod.

Coverage at