Take Two Warns Jack Thompson Over Manhunt 2

August 31, 2007 -
The legal settlement between Manhunt 2 publisher Take Two Interactive and controversial attorney Jack Thompson continues to erode.

In June GamePolitics reported on the first sign of cracks in the April agreement between the parties (see: Take Two-Thompson Settlement Crumbling?). The relationship hasn't gotten any smoother in the interim.

An e-mail exchange between the anti-game activist and Gena Feist, T2's VP and Associate General Counsel, shows that Thompson was warned that the software publisher believed he was violating the terms of settlement. Thompson characterized Take Two's e-mails as "threats", writing:
Take-Two is threatening me because of the exercise of my rights, under our settlement agreement, to criticize the company's practices...

For its part, Take Two declined to comment.  

GamePolitics received the following copies of the e-mail exchange from Thompson. For readability and privacy reasons, GP has stripped e-mail addresses, cc's, signatures and the like from the originals.

While they provide a fascinating glimpse into the longstanding struggle between Thompson and Take Two, it's important to remember that there may be additional e-mails which we haven't received. Also, the exchange came to us cut-and-pasted into five e-mails from Thompson, which then had to be re-assembled in proper order. The sequence of time stamps between Thompson and Feist doesn't match up exactly. We're not sure what to make of that, but we've attempted to place the e-mails in what seems to be their correct sequence based on context.

The exchange was triggered by an e-mail Thompson sent to on Monday to Take Two chairman Strauss Zelnick, CEO Ben Feder, the Federal Trade Commission, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an attorney for Blank Rome, and GP.

-----------------------------------

From: Jack Thompson

Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 4:55 PM

Subject: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

Dear Mr. Zelnick and Mr. Feder:

Congratulations on receiving a "Mature" rating for Manhunt 2.  You'll live to regret it (trust me), so enjoy it while you can.

I want to bring to your attention the fact that at www.rockstargames.com anyone of any age can order Manhunt 2 and receive it, with no age verification whatsoever.  Asking a 14-year-old if he's 17 is not age verification, now is it?

You also know that the use of a bank card as an age verifier is a violation of all bank card agreements, right?

Govern yourselves accordingly, if you can.

Regards, Jack Thompson

----------------------------------

From: Gena Feist

To: Jack Thompson

Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 2:47 PM

Subject: FW: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

Mr. Thompson,Your statements regarding our practices are false, as you know or should have known.

The Take Two website verifies age in two ways. First, consumers who purchase M or RP rated games certify that they are at least 17 years of age. Numerous websites use the same method for verifying age in connection with sales of movies and games. Second, we verify age through the use of a credit card number in connection with a transaction. Such transaction based verification is acceptable to both credit card companies and the FTC (see, e.g. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/coppa.shtm).

We demand that you cease making these false statements about our online sales practices.  Your dissemination of knowingly false statements for the purpose of adversely affecting Take-Two's business is actionable and we reserve all of our rights under the settlement agreement and state and federal law.

Not only are your statements clearly false, but they were made in an email publicly disseminated to both the FTC and the press. Please be assured that I am happy to answer any questions you have concerning our practices in a private communications. It is for this very reason that our settlement agreement designates a legal contact for you at Take Two.

If you continue to make false statements to an audience of press and public officials, however, we will have no choice but to take action against you.

Sincerely,
Gena


-----------------------------------

From: Jack Thompson

To: Gena Feist (T2 NY)

Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 3:39 PM

Subject: Re: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

As you should be aware, credit cards cannot be used to verify the age of buyers. Kids have credit cards, and they use parents' credit cards. You have then got to be kidding me.

Take-Two is welcome to use age verification software that is available for on-line alcohol, firearm and other purchases of adult material. Stop lying.

Thanks

Jack Thompson, Attorney

-----------------------------------

From: "Gena Feist (T2 NY)"
To: "Jack Thompson"
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 5:30 PM
Subject: RE: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

Jack, give it a break. I am happy to answer your questions and correct any misapprehensions that you have but I will not engage in this type of discussion with you. I am not a liar, I didn't threaten you, and I wont get roped into this type of dialogue. Don't bother writing back because I will not answer any further communications along these lines.

------------------------------------

From: Jack Thompson
To: Gena Feist
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 5:28 PM
Subject: Re: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

Surely you are not taking the position that I am not allowed to communicate with the government about Take-Two's actions, are you?  If you are, then please know that that position renders the agreement unenforceable as a matter of public policy, since the law is settled that no agreement that restricts a citizen's petition rights to the government is enforceable. 

Are you seriously suggesting that an agreement that does not restrict me in that fashion does restrict me? Becasue [sic] if you are, then I have a new civil rights claim agains [sic] Take-Two.

Jack Thompson

-----------------------------------

From: Gena Feist
To: "Jack Thompson"
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 5:20 PM
Subject: Re: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

Jack,

I appreciate that you directed this message to me alone. In regards to your comments below, I understand that you disagree with the use of a credit card transaction as age verification but it is accepted by the FTC and the retail industry as verification of age.

You are on notice that we use two industry and government accepted forms of age verification. Please do not repeat your false claims publicly or make claims that I/the company are lying about this matter.

We entered into the settlement agreement because we did not want to engage in unnecessary litigation with you, but I assure you that we will enforce the terms of the agreement if necessary and that any suit will include a claim for our legal fees under paragraph 11.

Sincerely,
Gena


----------------------------------

From: "Jack Thompson"
To: "Gena Feist (T2 NY)"
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 6:17 PM
Subject: Re: Letter to Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick, Ben Feder Re Manhunt 2

What is wrong with you?  You threaten me with enforcement of the agreement, and I ask you how I have violated it.  Are you nuts?

Jack Thompson, Attorney

-----------------------------------

For all GamePolitics coverage of the Take Two-Thompson settlement, click here. You can also read the terms of the settlement and decide for yourself who's right.

Comments

Anyone remember the time that Jack emailed Scott from VGCats? That was the funniest thing he ever did. What really made it perfect was when Jack claimed that Scott initiated the email chain, and threatened to sue him if he didn't stop, and then Scott emailed the original mail from Jack, who then said he never said anything like that.

And times up on my little contest. Guts-splattering FPS = Metroid Prime (Rated T for Teen). RPG Decapitation of a dark skinned woman = .hack//G.U. Vol. 1 Rebirth (Rated T for Teen). Mandatory crashing race game = Anyone? Anyone? Burnout 3 (Rated, guess what, T for Teen)

Who wants to bet there'll be a flap about the gay marriage in .hack//G.U. Vol 3. Redemption?

I am disturbed by the violence threatened toward JT. Even in jest, this is exactly the type of thing that he argues we will do.

@JT

Let's settle this to the pain:
To the pain means the first thing you lose will be your feet, below the ankles, then your hands at the wrists, next your nose. The next thing you lose will be your left eye, followed by your right. Your ears you keep, and I'll tell you why:so that every shriek of every child at seeing your hideousness will be yours to cherish -- every babe that weeps at your approach, every woman who cries out, "Dear God, what is that thing?" will echo in your perfect ears. That is what "to the pain" means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in freakish misery forever.

And I'm not bluffing :P

@NecroSen

I was thinking that too. I've never tried to buy a firearm online, but I have taken an interest in accessing other *ahem* age-restricted content. I've never, ever seen any "age verification software" that didn't involve credit cards. And anyway, how would that even work? How does one write a program that can tell the biological age of the user? It boggles the mind.

Gotta love how he's whining about "his civil rights" when he's the one slandering them.

Nice one, Kharne!

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

Is it just me, or does Gena's link lead to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which says nothing about age-verification?

I've heard that at least one bank in America has stated that credit cards are not suitable for age-verification, though it may have meant that it would not verify the age of its cardholders - whereas a third-party might well do that.

Age-verification is a hot topic on Second Life at the moment, and apparently Linden Lab (or the third party that does their verification for them) believes that credit cards are not appropriate for age-verification.

I think the card discussion might be a question of wording- what Jack says in his email is:

"You also know that the use of a bank card as an age verifier is a violation of all bank card agreements, right?"

Two things spring to mind- the term "bank card agreements" implies that while the FTC might well give the OK for bank cards as age verification, the contract that Take-Two have signed with whomever handles the rockstargames.com store's CC transactions- or the card holder's agreement- might say that you can't do it, which presumably would override the FTC. He also stops short of saying it's illegal. Given that other sites use cards for age verification, this is unlikely, however.

Secondly- a "bank card" might be different to a "credit card", in that a *bank* card might only let you take money out of your account, (or even just use a cashpoint but not buy things directly) while a *credit* card allows you to borrow money from your credit company- and verify your age with it.

The latter is more likely- we have this distinction in the UK, and it would make sense for both cards to have different rules from one another- and there is, of course, an outside chance that Jack's right on this one as the US might have different rules to the UK ones I'm basing this on, but it's still information worth considering.

/b

That's not the point, Jack was trying to get Take Two to associate their games with things like Firearms and Porn.

Ms. Feist did an excellent job of ignoring his BS and staying focused and on message. Really this is a great example of how to maintain control of the conversation when dealing with Jack and I think several of the more excitable posters here would do well to learn from it.

Goosey,

From the FTC:

Access Verification

At a parent's request, operators must disclose the general kinds of personal information they collect online from children (for example, name, address, telephone number, email address, hobbies), as well as the specific information collected from children who visit their sites. Operators must use reasonable procedures to ensure they are dealing with the child's parent before they provide access to the child's specific information.

They can use a variety of methods to verify the parent's identity, including:

*

obtaining a signed form from the parent via postal mail or facsimile;
*

accepting and verifying a credit card number;
*

taking calls from parents on a toll-free telephone number staffed by trained personnel;
*

email accompanied by digital signature;
*

email accompanied by a PIN or password obtained through one of the verification methods above.

Operators who follow one of these procedures acting in good faith to a request for parental access are protected from liability under federal and state law for inadvertent disclosures of a child's information to someone who purports to be a parent.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

I personally don't care if a 14-year-old plays a Mature-rated game. Heck, I was one of them.

"As you should be aware, credit cards cannot be used to verify the age of buyers. Kids have credit cards, and they use parents’ credit cards. You have then got to be kidding me."

Sure, some kids might have credit cards. And if a parent is responsible enough, they'll remove the game once they see the credit card bill, the game itself, etc, IF they deem that it's inappropriate for the child. As for using the parents' credit cards, that whole process could stop right there, at the parents' wallets.

The more obvious thing here is that clearly, the parents aren't as concerned as you are, seeing as how video games don't turn people into hardened criminals.

On the other hand, T2 should really just block his emails and ignore the whackjob altogether.

 GP: Actually, T2 has set up his own e-mail box to channel his incoming to one person, which, I believe, is Gina Feist. Everyone takes a stab at reasoning with him at some point or another. Sadly, history is the best teacher in that regard.

Didn't his psych eval state that he would curtail the ad hominem attacks? Guess not. I'm sure the rest of the evaluation was on the up-and-up, though.

Speaking of Jack-o-boy's legal documents, I still can't believe that people can't spend the 2 seconds to run a basic spell checker on their documents. Even if he was the best lawyer in the world, throwing around legal documents wrought with spelling and grammar mistakes makes for a poor impression.

i couldnt help but make that edit that blackice mentioned. :P

In these emails, Gena sounds like a mature adult. Jack is saying "you can't sue me." Real "mature."

That's nice, but which edit would that be? (I have huge holes in my memory.)



PS: sorry about the double post, my browser hiccuped

this one: http://www.geocities.com/dm_stormwind/jt-cowboy.jpg

(bleh, doesnt seem to want to let me use html tags to show the pic)

You need to be 18 to own and use a credit card. If you are under 18, you can have one but need a legal adult guardian to co-sign for it. I'll also point out it is NOT illegal in any way to sell a game rated M to a minor.

Take 2 is doing nothing wrong here.

Jack needs to learn when to keep his trap shut.

God that was funny! Everyone, you have got to see that!

Shit, that made my day.

Can we really trust someone who cannot spell to try to stick up for "the children"? (I don't believe what he does help children in anyway.) Not only is he a moron, but he also doesn't have the common sense to hit the spell check button before sending off his treat of an email.
Kudos to Gena for having the patience to deal with this man/boy/baby. I would've got so mad at the computer screen for letting me read such stupidity, I would've kicked my laptop.
I truly wish, for all the past, present, and future gamers, that Take Two takes him on in court, and whoops his ass.
(Jack, in case you read this, that's not a threat.)

Dennis, I've been meaning to ask you something for awhile now. How air-tight is your identification of the emails you receive and the posts you allow through the filters as being from the actual Jack Thompson? Moreover, is the material he has posted/made available on GP submissible in a legal arena?

Like, say, his disbarment proceedings? His psych eval? A public nuisance hearing? =P

@Lumi

Or, possibly, a firing squad?

~the1jeffy,

Credit cards may be appropriate to ascertain parental consent for a child's actions, or to disclose a child's information to a parent, but that's not quite the same thing as providing unsuitable content or items to a child.

A letter dated November 30, 2001 from Aristotle (the third-party Linden Lab uses to whom I referred before) to the FTC regarding COPPA highlights the inappropriateness of credit cards for this task: http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/coppa2/comments/aristotle.htm

I don't know if the FTC ever took any action in response to that letter; all I know is that COPPA isn't addressing the issue of 'proof of age' specifically; only as regards to gathering parental consent.

I'm British, so maybe my understanding of the US law is a bit hazy: is it legal for a minor to purchase an M-rated game with parental consent?

M rated games are like R-rated movies. All that matters is the purchase, and all that someone needs to purchase it is a legal guardian/parent who allows it.

Even then, it's not 'illegal' for a minor to purchase it. No one's going to go prison for buying or selling it like that, it's just more of a retailer rule. They have the final say on whether they will sell a game to a minor.

Wait, so credit cards are good verification for porn and other products that you need to be 18+ to buy, but not for games?

Wow. Just wow. Jack is even more pathetic then I thought.

@ Chuma

This may sound cruel, but I don't care if his actions eventually lead to his financial ruin that hurts his family. I don't even care if his kid gets beaten up at school because he's a 'Jack' ass. It's not my fault, nor would it be Take Two's. It would be a direct result of Jack's idiocy, so I would blame no one but him. We must be held responsible for our own actions, and that includes the results of bad decisions.

Don't worry, though. I'll bet his wife divorces him when it becomes obvious he's on the verge of losing it all. Then, his fall would be complete. All because he doesn't like a form of media.

By the way. I'm NOT condoning beating up his son. I would still hope that any little hellion that decided to assault him would be punished properly. It's just that I'd realize it was a direct result of his father's actions. Whatcha wanna bet he would, too?

@ WarOtter

That seems a little.... extreme. Even for a guy I hate. ALOT! (see my comments to chuma)

Yes..

@Gameboy

Oh come on! how is that extreme!? True, i'd rather kill him through torture rather than cripple him, but hate is something that should be expressed!

Oh, Jack, you can't sue me for this. You don't know who I am.

Amazing. This man calls himself a professional? I've seen more appropriately worded letters come from the hands of fifth graders. An exchange between professionals should never include the words "Are you nuts"... EVER.

Goosey,

"Credit cards may be appropriate to ascertain parental consent for a child’s actions,"

So we agree then? I'm lost as to your issue, I guess. Jack has inadvertently started a good discussion, once again through no fault of his own. Aristotle has sent an letter to the FTC stating valid concerns, but still, the FTC rules are explicit - currently a Credit Card is implied parental consent.

This is by no means fool-proof, and for alcohol, tobacco, or firearms online sales, further age/identity verification is warranted and required under the FTC. But you aren't seriously comparing video game purchases to these things, right? Second Life, or other MMO's are a different issue altogether, having a very real risk of child predators. But buying a rated M game has no such risks.

The real question, and the one Jack with never ask, is: Is stricter regulation of M or R rated content needed for online sales? I say no. For AO or NC-17 or Un-rated or, perhaps, MMO's, maybe.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

Oh man...that's just amazing.

-P

Ack, damn browser. Sorry 'bout the double post.

Found that pic and thought it might be relevant. Who knew?

"You’ll live to regret it (trust me), so enjoy it while you can."

Wow, that sure sounds like a personal threat to me.

Interesting fact: Like a snake, Jack Thompson is cold blooded. As a result, he doesn't start moving actively until the sun fully rises. He can also be seen lying on rocks attempting to absorb their heat.

@ BlackIce

Yea, but crippling him financially is so much more rewarding and it avoids all those pesky 'moral' questions. Wouldn't you rather see him destitute waiting for food in line at a soup kitchen?

Besides, WHEN Jack finally crawls out from under his rock all he'll see is some immature gamer wishing him bodily harm. All that does is give him ammo

This will only lead to bad things for Thompson...if this behavior continues and is then made public than he will continue to lose all the credibility he has with the sheep who actually believe him.

It would be amazing if gamers would file a class action lawsuit for slander and harrasment against thompson...with all the inflammatory remarks and insults I could see a win.

Mike

@Gameboy

Fine, we'll play it your way.

I can't speak for all states, but Maryland residents operating the web and/or software that enter "contracts" thru a push of a button are binding. If you claim thru a checkbox that your age is 17-or-older in MD, you'd better be 17-or-older or you become responsible for the content you're "exposed" to. The check-box/button option admits that the control of the internet content is ultimately the responsibility of the end-user. When that comes to minors, that means the parents. Even so, since the ESRB is an industry practice, age-verification for M-rated games is merely a bona-fide attempt to match the end-user with appropriate content. Failure to comply has no ramifications, save those of industry self-regulation, and this argument is moot.

However, the decision to effectively render private communications public by forwarding to Game Politics is reprehensible at best, but also shows which party is making the most effort to abide by their end of the settlement, and that would be Take Two.

@Josh Martz

These picures are great. You seen the Cowboy Jack one? (tallimar's pic)

*pictures not picures. We need an Edit button.

Yeah, that one was pretty good!

[...] Read more about it over at Game Politics. Game Politics: Take Two Warns Jack Thompson Over Manhunt 2 [...]

~the1jeffy,

I'm saying there's a difference between getting parental consent for some things than others. When I was 10 I went on a school trip to Amsterdam: I needed parental consent for that, but I don't think that parental consent would have covered the school taking us into the sex museum. Likewise, there are things on the internet that are suitable for children that still require parental consent that don't come to the level of supplying 'adult content'.

The issue with Second Life is (ostensibly) about accessing user-created 'adult content', which is pretty much the same thing. Although there is a difference in that the providers don't have direct control over what content is provided, but it's supposed to be the same issue of access to adult content.

Yeah, lets see here. He started a chain of emails accusing the company's VP of being a liar, nuts, and the like. Nice harassment.

so what jack is saying is basically compaired to a child making a deal to his/her parent to eat their vegitables in order to have dessert. jack of course going on a rampage and stealing the ice cream whilst trying to sue the parent.

jack grow up and face the fact you might need to get a real job.

@gameboy

While I find some of the implications disturbing - and actively agree with others, I must admit that "Jack Thompson, Wal-Mart greeter", would be delicious schadenfreude indeed.
 
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