It’s not even out yet, and the BBC’s Grand Theft Auto docudrama has already been taken to court. Rockstar Games, the game developer the film is all about, has launched action against the BBC for – wait for it – trademark infringement.
With the working title Game Changer, the 90-minute film tells the story of Rockstar‘s astronomic success with the Grand Theft Auto series, focussing on the relationship between company co-founder Sam Houser (Harry Potter‘s Daniel Radcliffe) and born-again Christian lawyer and activist Jack Thompson (played by Bill Paxton). Filming started in April, with Black Mirror and Misfits director Owen Harris at the helm, and the film is planned to air later this year – if it survives this new lawsuit.
The problem with the film may be that it is based on David Kushner’s unauthorised tell-all book Jacked. Grand Theft Auto has for years been the poster-child for video game controversy, attracting attention over a number of years for its depiction of criminal acts, sex and violence, but that doesn’t mean developers don’t want to protect their property.
An official statement from Rockstar Games reads:
Our goal is to ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC’s pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games.
We have attempted multiple times to resolve this matter with the BBC without any meaningful resolution. It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property and unfortunately in this case litigation was necessary.
Predictably, the only response so far from the BBC has been that the corporation “does not comment on legal matters”. Neither Rockstar Games nor parent company Take-Two Interactive is involved in the docudrama project.