On Presidents and Prime Ministers Appearing in Games

September 27, 2010 -

In light of President Obama’s appearance in Madden NFL 11 and the upcoming NBA 2K11, Kotaku took a look at the Politics of Presidential Appearances.

In both games, a representation of Obama is used to help celebrate a Super Bowl win or an NBA championship. While the President does have rights to his likeness, Villanova University School of Law Professor Michael Risch stated that, “A sitting president is probably never going to sue.”

Kotaku wrote:

Essentially, a president is the one A-list celebrity you get to use for free, provided you’re not too egregious about it. A sitting president filing a civil suit over the unauthorised use of his image is as bad a play politically as could be imagined, especially if the work in which he’s appearing is complimentary and respectful as is the case with Madden and NBA 2K.

The piece argues that a President would never sue over the use of his likeness, unless his family was involved and/or depicted, or his appearance was meant to construe an endorsement of sorts, neither of which comes into play with his popping up in videogames. While Obama does appear in NBA 2K11 with a Spalding basketball, Kotaku notes that it is the official league ball.

While Obama could sue, but probably won’t, Jas Purewal over at the UK’s Gamer/Law blog was inspired by the Kotaku piece enough to theorize about the similar usage of Prime Minister David Cameron's likeness.

Purewal wrote:

There is no equivalent right of publicity under English law.  The courts have considered (and are still considering) the matter through case law but so far their approach has been that individuals do not need a right of publicity (if they feel sufficiently strongly about an unauthorised use of their likeness, they can rely upon other legal remedies such as passing off, but the application of such remedies to celebrity publicity cases is untested as far as I know).  Or, I suppose, he could potentially rely upon defamation law if the effect of including him in a game was defamatory.


Comments

Re: On Presidents and Prime Ministers Appearing in Games

Ew, I'm glad I don't play these games.

 
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IronPatriotI googled appeal esrb.org and it is the first and third hits. Second is esrb talking about appeals for web publishers. Gamefaqs is fourth.05/29/2015 - 4:01am
IronPatriotZachary said he did not find any information about a formal appeals process. I did a simple search and found two places on the esrb site with the info. Just sayin.05/29/2015 - 3:57am
IronPatriotOn Google I get "1 Written Testimony of Patricia E. Vance President ... - ESRB" http://www.esrb.org/about/news/downloads/pvtestimony_6_14_06.pdf05/29/2015 - 3:55am
Andrew EisenNow, that post on GameFAQs was made four years ago. It appears the ESRB has since moved the appeals process stuff behind the publisher login on its website.05/29/2015 - 3:32am
Andrew EisenOh, third link on the Google search. Okay. That leads to a GameFAQs message board which quotes a section of the ESRB website that includes a description of the appeals process. But when you follow the link, that quote doesn't exist.05/29/2015 - 3:30am
Andrew EisenThird link down from what? Look, I'm not arguing the existance of an appeals process. There obviously is one. I was merely noting that it's odd that it isn't described on the website's ratings process section but it is on the mobile site.05/29/2015 - 3:25am
IronPatriotOK, so use the third link down, which describes the appeals process and is not on the mobile site"Publishers also have the ability to appeal an ESRB rating assignment to an Appeals Board, which is made up of publishers, retailers and other professionals."05/29/2015 - 2:47am
Andrew EisenRight, which links to the ESRB's mobile site. On the website (again, unless I'm overlooking it) the appeals process is locked behind the publisher login.05/29/2015 - 2:37am
IronPatriotHuh? Google "appeals esrb". It is the first link. Click it. No login requested.05/29/2015 - 2:31am
Andrew EisenInteresting. It's on the mobile site but unless I'm overlooking it, I don't see it under the Ratings Process on the web site. It is under the publishers section but you can't access it without a login.05/29/2015 - 2:13am
IronPatriot"Publishers also have the ability to appeal an ESRB rating assignment to an Appeals Board made up of publishers, retailers and other professionals. " Esrb05/29/2015 - 2:01am
IronPatriotZachary, did you look on the esrb site? The esrb appeals process pops up when you search "esrb appeals" http://m.esrb.org/faq_09.php05/29/2015 - 2:00am
Andrew EisenThe humor reminds me a lot of Axe Cop.05/29/2015 - 1:37am
WymorenceOh sweet god, Kung Fury is freaking awesome...05/28/2015 - 10:03pm
E. Zachary KnightWonder, I know you can revise content and resubmit it, but I can't findany information about a formal appeals process.05/28/2015 - 7:27pm
Wonderkarpever wonder if there's an appeals process for AO?05/28/2015 - 6:55pm
Matthew WilsonDanny and Andy play the first couple of levels of the upcoming Hatred http://www.gamespot.com/videos/hatred-gamespot-plays/2300-6425016/ imho it does not look like it should be AO.05/28/2015 - 5:57pm
Andrew EisenHey, remember Kung Fury? That short film that was funded via Kickstarter a few years ago? You can watch it now. I suggest you do. It's fun! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bS5P_LAqiVg05/28/2015 - 5:14pm
Goth_SkunkOriginally, yes. Some content was cut out in order to reduce its ratign from AO down to M, but PC users could work around that an unlock the full content by means of a patch. Which is what I did. :D05/28/2015 - 3:56pm
Andrew EisenKarp - Yes, for strong sexual content. Although the recent remaster contains all that content and was rated M.05/28/2015 - 3:54pm
 

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