Settlement ends ongoing legal dispute between activist attorney and game publisher
Grand Theft Auto and Bully publisher Take Two Interactive settled their ongoing litigation with gaming violence activist attorney Jack Thompson. The settlement addresses Take Two’s lawsuit filed last month concerning Thompson’s threats to block the release of upcoming titles Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV as well as the contempt of court claim from the Bully case last October.
The settlement prevents Thompson from suing to restrict the sale or distribution of products made by Take Two or Rockstar. In addition, Thompson cannot threaten to sue Take Two or retailers over alleged wrongdoings arising out of distribution. Basically, this means that Thompson cannot carry out his threat of seeking litigation to prevent the release of Take Two titles, and cannot threaten retailers with lawsuits over the sale of these titles.
What the settlement does not prevent, however, is Thompson’s right to criticize game content or distribution. In other words, he can continue to criticize, say, Grand Theft Auto’s depiction of violence and perceived effects on children, but cannot threaten lawsuits over it.
Any future communications between Thompson and Take Two must be handled through a designated contact in Take Two’s legal office.
In exchange for these restrictions against Thompson, Take Two agrees to drop its harassment suit against Thompson and its contempt of court action against Thompson. Both claims are dismissed with prejudice, meaning they can’t be taken up again. In addition, both parties agreed to release each other of any claims prior to the day of settlement, meaning they cannot be brought before a court.
If Thompson defaults on the terms of the settlement, Take Two will file for injunctive relief and can recover legal fees in any action.
To sum it up: Thompson can’t threaten to sue or sue Take Two or retailers over the release or distribution of their games, but Thompson can still criticize the content and distribution of the titles. The current litigation between the parties has been dismissed.
While the first reaction of many gamers out there is that Take Two simply gave up and settled with Thompson, they actually did the right thing and are clearly benefitting from this settlement. They’ve essentially taken any legal teeth out of Thompson, and as a result they won’t be facing legal battles from Thompson any time they release a title not named Table Tennis.
If they didn’t make this settlement, Take Two would have gone through this claim and at least two more by Thompson with the release of Manhunt 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV. More litigation for Take Two means more legal expenses and public problems, which are probably some of the last issues their stockholders want to hear about right now. Keep in mind that Take Two’s stockholders have not been the happiest group of people as of late, as evident by the stockholder revolt a few weeks ago that wound up gutting the higher ups in the company.
Is this the end of Jack Thompson? No, not by a longshot. While Thompson can no longer attempt to bring Take Two or retailers of Take Two products into court, he’ll remain an outspoken critic and opponent of violent video games. This settlement has essentially taken the bite from his bark where it concerns Take Two, and specifically Rockstar Games. No doubt we can expect to see Thompson appear on various news shows before the release of Grand Theft Auto IV to decry the amount of violence in the game, and I’m sure it will contain his own unique “twist” to the information presented. Other publishers and developers do not enjoy the luxury of the terms of this settlement, and it’s only a matter of time before Thompson finds another high profile target. As far as Take Two and Rockstar are concerned, Thompson is no longer a legitimate threat thanks to this settlement.
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