Video Game Law Blog

July 17, 2006

Las Vegas officials are concerned about their city being the setting for Ubisoft's upcoming 'Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas"?. They are worried that hyper-realistic images (the game is designed for next-generation consoles) of terrorist activity in Las Vegas could deter tourists and harm the city's economy. The mayor has gone so far as to say that the game may not be entitled to free speech protection, although it's unclear what underlies that assertion.

Using real locations as settings for 'what-if"? scenarios adds verisimilitude to many works of fiction, including video games. One newspaper points out that Las Vegas has been the setting for many movies, including 'Ocean's Eleven"?, 'Diamonds are Forever"?, 'Con Air"?, and 'Domino"?. Given the common use of real settings in fictional works, why do video games seem to be attracting more attention recently?  (The issue is not just limited to cities "? recall that Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, found special meaning in the fact that Mercenaries 2 is set in his country [see here ].) Perhaps it is just increased awareness of, and sensitivity about, video games (and, in the Rainbow Six case, terrorism). Or perhaps it's because video games have to actually recreate settings instead of just using real cities as backdrops.  Or maybe it's something else. Whatever the reason, if complaints like this continue to arise then game designers may have to think carefully about the settings used in their games.  The ramifications for the video game industry could be significant — getting clearance to use an individual's image and personality, or a song, or a particular brand and model of car in a video game is arguably different (and more straightforward) than trying to get similar clearances with respect to a whole city.

Of course, the legal issues involved are complex.  Las Vegas officials are checking to see whether any of the city's trade-marks are infringed in the Rainbow Six Vegas, and casino companies are doing the same with respect to trade-marks and copyrights.  As always, stay tuned to see if anything further develops.

Coverage here

And at GamePolitics (see July 13, 2006)