Sony May Sue Over PlayStation Controller in “Early Death” Ad

At this point, British government health campaign Change4Life probably wishes it had gone in a different direction with its most recent ad campaign.

As has been widely reported, the ad, which visually links playing video games with an early death, has generated official complaints to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority by British game development group Tiga and game business website MCV.

Now, reports MCV, Sony Europe is considering the filing of a lawsuit over the ad’s unauthorized use of what appears to be a PlayStation controller:

A source close to Sony revealed to MCV that the agency behind the ad, The Gate, had not contacted the platform holder to ask about using a controller that bears a close likeness to PlayStation’s pad.

The ad forms part of the Government’s Change4Life Campaign, and was created by agency The Gate in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK.

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  1. JDKJ says:

    I would have thought that the "elected officials" part of "protections and immunities for elected officials" made clear that my observation bore no relevance to an advertisment — unless, unbeknow to me, there is general confusion afoot of an advertisement as an elected official.

  2. JDKJ says:

    Because I am not readily familiar with UK law, I can’t answer your questions based on that law, but in the United States, the answer to both questions is: "If you are going to depict a product in a negative fashion and the product is recognizable or easily confused, you’d be well advised to seek permission in order to avoid potential liability." In the United States, while you don’t neccessarily have to seek consent to depict someone’s product prior to such depiction if the depiction is a so-called "fair use," if you depict the product without prior consent and the product is falsely depicted with obvious harm to the product’s image (as I believe Sony can legitimately claim in the instant case), then you run a clear risk of being sued by the product’s owner.

    To use your example, if in the background of your street scene wide shot an on-camera extra can seen drinking from a can of Coca-Cola and immediately thereafter keeling over dead while foaming at the mouth in an apparent case of lethal food poisoning, how do you think the makers of Coca-Cola are going to respond? I’d be surprised if they didn’t sue your ass. And, on the hypothetical facts, they’d stand a better-that-good chance of winning their lawsuit. On this side of the puddle, that’s how it works.

    And, while I confess to less than perfect understanding of the UK’s law on the matter, the mere fact that a company like Sony, with a small army of very competent inside and outside legal counsel, thinks that they have a basis to bring legal action, suggests to me that their claim may not be as baseless as you think it is. 

  3. State says:

    You’ve decided what we you want the picture to say, but that it not what it says, isn’t your fault that you’ve attributed the picture of a child with a controller with the words "Do nothing" and "Death" to mean "Games = Death", the advert clearly doesn’t mention games and it is you that has decided that it does. I see no difference in your views with those of some famous others claiming GTA contains rape, you’re making up content that doesn’t exist.

    Also I believe that Goverment campaigns (perhaps even health campaigns) can be exempt from Advertising Standards.


  4. GusTav2 says:

    That immunity only applies to comments made within the Houses of Parliament, Vaz is careful to confine his comments to the House; it would not apply to this ad.

  5. GusTav2 says:

    But as this is in the UK, US law is irrelevant. The UK’s rules on passing off do not apply in this situation. As the Sony brand does not appear they will find it very difficult to claim regarding the image; their brand is not being used without their consent.

    The kid is also wearing clothes and sitting on a sofa, do those manufacturers also have to give permission? If I was filming a wide shot in a TV programme of a street scene would I have to get permission from the manufacturers of all products shown?

    By bringing such an action all Sony would do would be to firmly associate their brand with the childhood obesity problem and paint themselves as suing well respected UK charities for ‘protecting children’ – another PR victory for a games company.

    I suggest they keep their heads down and let this non story-pass.

  6. TBoneTony says:

    I guess that is just an example of one rule for the politicians, and other rule for the rest of us.

    But yeah, if only us gamers can be able to have our say and point to the evidence that many politicians don’t know about.

    I kinda wished I took more attention in politics so I could become a politician some day that talks more about how there have been so much political slander in history.

    Kinda lowsy since they get paid so much.

  7. JDKJ says:

    I believe the British, much like the Americans, have created a host of protections and immunities for elected officials against claims of slander and libel provided the statements are made in their official capacities and especially if made on the floor of a legislative body during debate.   

  8. TBoneTony says:

    A picture says OVER 9,000 words.

    Also a picture can also say OVER 9,000 misleading words.

    I would rather see Sony sue the UK government for slander than just for something like this.

    Even the Sony PSP was reported to contain games with rape, (Statement by Keith Vass after also mentioning that he has got no idea what a Playstation was)

    Perhaps Sony should just sue Keith Vass for all his political slander against videogames and also missprepresenting the Byron Review.


  9. JDKJ says:

    @MartyB and Chandra (sorry, meant to hit "reply"):

    Under the law — at least the law in the United States — it doesn’t neccessarily have to be a PlayStation controller for Sony to have a good case against the advertiser. Even if it isn’t in fact Sony’s controller, if there’s still a likelihood (i.e., it is more probable than not) that a reasonable person would confuse the controller actually depicted with Sony’s controller, then Sony has a good case against the advertiser. Of course, if the reasonable person would conclude that it isn’t a controller at all but, rather, is a pair of binoculars, then Sony doesn’t have a winning case. 

  10. Hannah says:

    The picture implies that lazy kids play video games all day.  This is true, and it is something that many many mothers (including mine) can attest to.

    It doesn’t demonize video games in the slightest — as the GIANT TEXT clearly states, it is meant to warn people against doing nothing (and yes, playing video games all day counts as doing nothing) and encourage them to get off their rapidly-enlarging hindquarters and get some exercise.  This is a good message and one that we should all support.  If I ever have children, I certainly won’t let them spend the whole day in front of any kind of game — it’s just common sense to teach moderation, limit activities that can easily consume a significant amount of time, and encourage physical activity to balance out more sedentary forms of entertainment, and for those who lack common sense, well… that’s what this ad campaign is for.

    Also, as I pointed out in another post, any sedentary activity could have been used in the ad — I suspect they picked gaming largely because it’s so popular.  If they had instead shown some kid watching TV, reading fantasy novels or comics, or doing any other activity that children often waste days on, and would any of us be whining about the activity in question being demonized?

  11. MartyB says:

     a Picture say a thousand words… something like that

    it’s the message that the picture implies, without the need to say it.



  12. MartyB says:

     True, but wouldn’t that be a little hard to go into court with…

    Since the other remote comes from a different manafacturer, that manufacturer should be the one sueing, not sony.  And considering the fact that most controllers out there looks very similar, for all we know they did get permission from that other compagny, then what? can Sony still sue them, that’s kind of stupid…

    But I’m just saying.. i still think the add is wrong, but since it’s not an actual Dual shock, and the case will most likely fail, i think sony should just save it’s time and effort.  If we start screaming too loud, ppl will start looking at what we’re screaming at, just like when ppl scream at video games, that games then becomes a hit.

  13. State says:

    So we have now seen the full advert and it makes no mention of video games, people jumped to a conclusion. It doesn’t even say don’t play games, exercise instead. There is not one mention of games, just the site of a normal kid doing what normal kids do. It all looks like a storm in a teacup now, doesn’t it?

  14. Zero Beat says:

    Exactly.  When someone commits this kind of douchebaggery with your products, and you don’t want your products to be associated with said douchebags, the best way is to hit them in their wallets.  It’s often the only way douchebags learn their lesson.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  15. Michael Chandra says:

    I’m gonna pull a Thompson on you and ask for evidence for your claims.

    But seriously, you made your opinion clear. You also made clear you disagree with how others view it. But claims about how "most people" will view it, that is a claim I’m not going to blindly buy into. I’m not going to go and say all parents will see it in one way or another, however, there is a risk many people will see it in a more negative way than you suspect. Not to mention possible subconscious implications resulting in fighting laziness with overkill, like only 10 minutes per day or no games, only homework. What seems logical to one person, might not seem logical to another, and even worse, people aren’t always acting rational. If they were I wouldn’t be following a class right now where they try to teach us how to deal with irrationalities in negotiations.

  16. MartyB says:

     OK, looking at the Large scale picture, it’s clearly not a PS3 controller, well not the Dual Shock anyways.  you clearly see a "bump" in the middle where the USB cable would plug in, and the R1 and R2 button are different. I say it might look more like the one in the link below, Sony has no word in this, and shouldn’t sue.  I hope they noticed it and didn’t go any further in that lawsuit, that would just look bad.


  17. Hannah says:

    The first thing I see is a bored, tired-looking kid playing a video game.  I immediately think of the many children (including myself) who I have known to waste entire days in front of the computer or TV.  It’s the waste of time that most people will immediately clue in to, not the fact that he’s playing a game.  He could just as easily be sitting in front of a cartoon or even lounging around with a comic book, but realistically, gaming is more popular among children these days, so this image will resonate with more parents.

  18. Michael Chandra says:

    It gives off an anti-games impression, and the first impression is the deepest. If I were to see that ad as uninformed citizen, I’d assume it means to tell me that games are bad.

    The small letters are nice, and fine print is cute, but the big first shot you notice while walking by, in a rush to catch your train? Yeah, that’s not mentioning moderation.

  19. Hannah says:

    The ad doesn’t bother me.  Playing video games is just one of many activities that a child might waste a whole day doing, but it was a good choice for the ad because it is a popular activity and one that many parents will recognize and identify with.

    Dennis, this isn’t anti-games, it’s anti-laziness.  The ad never claims that playing games will turn you into a fat and possibly dead slob, but it DOES imply that playing in excess (and thus having no time for physical activity) will likely have this effect. All good things in moderation, right?

  20. DarkSaber says:

    Wow, this post just screams ‘fanboy’.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  21. Weatherlight says:

    I don’t believe this has anything to do with PS3 sales. It has to do with defending the image of their company/products. Saying that they did not receive compensation nor were they contacted about the use of their product is just a way of saying that they did not approve of using their image in such a manner. And asking for money is a great deterrent from future infractions.


  22. MartyB says:

     Of course not, MS isn’t a greedy compagny…


    I don’t want to think that Sony is sueing to get money out of it, As this has generated an outroar in the UK, it’s could be that they want to do what’s right and try to discourage future adds like this one.  With all the posts that says the gaming industry should stand up against it, you guys should be happy about this. Sony is the one that is in the best position to do it, since they used the DS controller, they can hit them where it hurst, the wallet.   Because we all know crying out in forums and blogs won’t change anything…

  23. E. Zachary Knight says:

    It is not that they feel it will bring down gaming, but the games industry has been fighting negative stereotyping of gaming for so long, we cannot give the anti-game movement even an inch. So if this ad was not fought, it would open a whole new can of worms as the anti-game people will take their mile.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  24. TK n Happy Ness says:

    Since the PS3 is sucking badly, Sony has to resort to other means to get money, as in lawsuits against magazines. This image is probably around the PS2 era since if it were more recent, it should have a 360 controller.

    When Jack Thompson runs his mouth, does anyone really care what he has to say anymore?

  25. State says:

    Clearly there is a joint effort by many in the games industry to bring this advert down. If this advert portrayed games in a positive light Sony wouldn’t be suing, because it would be good advertising.

    Of course the reactions are knee jerk, we don’t even know what the advert actually says. I find it hard to believe that the games industry seriously believes that this advert is going to bring down gaming (particularly as the games market is mainly an adult’s market now). In many ways it is hypocritical of them to say that this form of media is going to have an effect over people’s attitudes and lifestyles when they actively state that their medium has no effect on the gamers mentality (as in the argument of violent games causing violent nature). And considering the government’s lacklustre track record with health campaigns I can’t see anything changing here.

  26. MonkeyPeaches says:

    If they had used the 360 controller, there’s no doubt in my mind that Microsoft would sue.

  27. Zero Beat says:

    Ooh, complaints, plural.  Means it’s at least twice as offensive as the Kane and Lynch ads.

    Seriously though, it’s about time this happened.  Yeah, it’s probably not so bad when you read the fine print in the ad, but these are ads the people are usually rushing past in the Underground.  All you are likely to see is the large text and the kid playing video games.  Your brain will remember the kid and what he was doing, as human brains are wired to recognize other people, and as far the large-print words, you’re most likely to remember the word "death" because it’s a different color from the rest of the words, creating the following association: video games = dead kids.

    My logic is probably not the best in this case, but then again, all you really need for an ad to be removed in the UK is one complaint from someone who feels offended.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  28. Nocturne says:

    Then again I partially fault consumers for the original RROD issue because so many of them did not treat the 360 like the sensitive piece of equipment it is, which made the problem a lot worse then it really was.

    Personally I blame Microsoft for releasing a product they knew was faulty just to get it to market as quick as possible then worry about getting it working right once a large number of their potential customers have already invested in it… otherwise know as business as usual for MS.

  29. Firebird says:

    @Weatherlight: Be that as it may, we are fortunate to hear of rumored price drops on both 360 and PS3…. so there is hope to be had.

    Right, on topic…; Many people here don’t seem to find out whether or not it is an actual PS3 controller in the ad, since there are others that have used this type of schematic.

    -Perhaps if GP can provide a more detailed copy of the ad or confirmation?

    @EZK: NOO! We must send that 360 to a sterile, hourly-filtered, 50-degree enviroment!! Call ER!! There is a fingerprint on it!!

     (BTW, I have a cousin who takes care of his 360 religiously. BOOM!!!…. RROD)

    Again, sorry….. off topic.

  30. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Then again I partially fault consumers for the original RROD issue because so many of them did not treat the 360 like the sensitive piece of equipment it is, which made the problem a lot worse then it really was.

    You mean we weren’t supposed to put it in the entertainment center where we have always put our other video game systems and entertainment electronics? If I had known that, I would have placed it in its own climate controlled room like I should with all my delecate electronic hardware.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  31. Weatherlight says:

    As long as you get one of the newer 360 after they changed the chipset slightly and the RROD doesn’t seem to be an issue. Then again I partially fault consumers for the original RROD issue because so many of them did not treat the 360 like the sensitive piece of equipment it is, which made the problem a lot worse then it really was.

    The PS3 was just to much for the market, it was overkill. Looking at what all is in it makes it a work of art, but it is just to costly for most people and in turn is not always cost effective for publishers. I have yet to buy a PS3 and don’t foresee it in the near future because it is just to damn expensive.

    Wii there is nothing I can really say about it, its a creative piece of hardware and was marketed successfully.

    But back on topic, I am glad to see Sony go after these people. They do have a right to compensation and to have the ad pulled if they wish, because it is pretty clearly apparent that they used a Sony product in the advertisement and showed the product in a poor light.


  32. reverandspaniel says:

    I think most people in mainstream society recognise the playstation controller as a games console controller, whereas many don’t know what an xbox 360 controller looks like/is…

  33. Kincyr says:

    A lot of controllers these days look like the Sony controller. Logitech PC gamepads come to mind

    true, but the DualShock 3 is the only wireless one (aside from 3rd-party PS2/3 controllers) I know of

    if you change the color to white so does a cheapo PC game pad I used to have.

    the black-sheep PSOne controller is also white but I’ll assume you mean the Gravis GamePad Pro (Gameport version, as USB version was black)

    岩「…Where do masochists go when they die?」

  34. Adrian Lopez says:

    A lot of controllers these days look like the Sony controller. Logitech PC gamepads come to mind, and if you change the color to white so does a cheapo PC game pad I used to have.

    Seems kinda’ silly to sue over the use of the gamepad.

  35. PHX Corp says:

    British Govt= One GIANT PR Diaster

    Watching JT on GP is just like watching an episode of Jerry springer only as funny as the fights

  36. Adrian Lopez says:

    "The black-sheep PSOne controller is also white but I’ll assume you mean the Gravis GamePad Pro (Gameport version, as USB version was black)."

    It’s neither one of those. I don’t remember the brand name, but it wasn’t Gravis. It was in the style of the PS2 controller, but colored white.

  37. State says:

    They need to have a cheeseburger in that kids hand, not a controller.

    They do, there is another advert which shows a child and a cake with the same message. This advert is part of a much larger campaign.

  38. NovaBlack says:

    lol yeah. Its pretty ridiculous.


    What if i was an athelete or body builder, and gamed 4-5 hours a day, to relax from the greater tan 4-5 hours of cardio/weight/endurance fitness training i did for the rest of the day.

    Does gaming still cause me to be get obese? dont think sp. Oh wait… thats because gaming DOESNT cause anyone to get obese. Jamming fatty foods into your mouth repeatedly (like previously mentioned cheeseburger) DOES.

  39. Kraytheili says:

    "The ad forms part of the Government’s Change4Life Campaign, and was created by agency The Gate in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK and Diabetes UK."


    Yano…. because playing video games, and not eating McDonalds every day, makes kids get cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

    They need to have a cheeseburger in that kids hand, not a controller.

  40. DarkSaber says:

    Well, the British government already IS one big PR disaster.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  41. JDKJ says:

    What analog sticks? I can’t see no sticks. I see a pair of binoculars — but, then, I can’t read a newspaper unless I hold it close enough to touch the tip of my nose. Blind as a bat, I am.

  42. NovaBlack says:

    Hell, heres a blank cheque.

    write ANY amount on it you wish.

    i MUST HAVE those analog stick binoculars, a rare curiosity, and thing of wonder!

  43. Firebird says:

    I would wholly agree with that comment in light-hearted humor ……………..                                   that is, if it did not make me feel a little dead inside.

    I don’t know about any specifics, but a couple months ago I read and article of the PS3 almost breaking-even.

    Personally, I blame bad marketing ads that don’t target more casual audiences than harcore ones.

    ….also a linux based programmers for developers aren’t really in high quantities, so expect lesser exclusives that truly maxes out the capacity. (On opposite of that note; Nintendo……..           most third-party games suck!!!)

    I would’ve preferred the 360, but RROD paranoia always settles with me (I have bad luck with receiving non-faulty equipment, and I take rather good care of my hardware)

    and the wii…..(really, do I have to explain myself?) holds little interest to me.

    Maybe I am a little biased, but until I own all three systems, I might as well bitch and moan.

  44. DavCube says:

    Damn. I knew i’d get beaten to it, but i didn’t think it would be on the first post. XD

    The sad thing is, it’s true (to a point.) If i remember correctly, Sony is still selling the PS3 at a loss. They DO need to make more money somehow if they want to keep selling them during these harsh economic times.

  45. Erik says:

    Where do you shop where binoculars have analog sticks?

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  46. JDKJ says:

    Sony better hope for a jury with better than 20/20 vision collectively. To me, that thing looks like a pair of binoculars.

  47. ZippyDSMlee says:

    The dual shock controler is the most cloned and prolific one…….


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  48. gamadaya says:

    These people really didn’t know what they were getting into when they made this ad.


    Internet troll > internet paladin

  49. Geoff says:

    The ad was stupid, but that seems to be going a little bit too far.


    Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cook-book! Little Red Cook-book!

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