Feeds

First Amendment rescues Grand Theft Auto's 'totally nude' strip club

Video games and titty bars - 'not like love and marriage'

Security for virtualized datacentres

The United States Constitution has once again affirmed the freedom for video strippers in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to shake their digital naughty bits without fear of trademark violation.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday dismissed a lawsuit by owners of the East Los Angeles strip club, "The PlayPen," against Rockstar's depiction of a similar strip club called "The Pig Pen," located in the game's fictional city of East Los Santos.

PlayPen owners, ESS Entertainment 2000, claim the video game skin joint infringes trademark and trade dress associated with their club. (Trade dress involves the "total image" of a product, like size, shape, color, graphics, or even a particular sales technique).

ESS claims that Rockstar borrowing the PlayPen's "distinctive logo" and look without their permission is likely to confuse customers as to whether ESS has endorsed or is associated with the virtual strip club.

The case against Rockstar was originally filed in district court on April 22, 2005 and received a summary judgment in Rockstar's favor based on freedom of speech rights.

The PlayPen's logo consists of the words "the PlayPen" and the phrase "Totally Nude" displayed in a public domain font with a nude silhouette of female dancer in the first "P." The court's three-judge panel notes there are also several different versions of the silhouette used in various forms of the club's advertising.

One of the above locations offers an all-you-can-eat jumbo shrimp buffet between 11:30 AM and 2PM. Can you guess which?

ESS further contends that because players can ignore the rest of the game and spend as much time as they want at the Pig Pen, the virtual strip club can be considered a significant part of the game.

San Andreas game designers do in fact admit they took inspiration for the virtual club from photographs of the PlayPen. They also claim to have used design aspects from other strip clubs in the East Los Angeles area in its creation.

The appeals court's affirmation of Rockstar's First Amendment rights produced some gems from the judges:

Both San Andreas and PlayPen offer a form of low-brow entertainment; besides this general similarity, they have nothing in common. The San Andreas Game is not complementary to the PlayPen; video games and strip clubs do not go together like a horse and carriage or, perish the thought, love and marriage. Nothing indicates that the buying public would reasonable have believed that ESS produced the video game or, for that matter, that Rockstar operated a strip club.

A player can enter the virtual strip club in Los Santos, but ESS has provided no evidence that the setting is anything but generic. It also seems far-fetched that someone playing San Andreas would think ESS had provided whatever expertise, support, or unique strip-club knowledge it possesses to the production of the Game. A reasonable consumer would not think a company that owns one strip club in East Los Angeles, which is not well known to the public at large, also produces a technologically sophisticated video game like San Andreas.

As for ESS's argument about players spending all their game time in virtual strip club:

But fans can spend all nine innings of a baseball game at the hot dog stand; that hardly makes Dodger Stadium a butcher's shop. In other words, the chance to attend a virtual strip club is unambiguously not the main selling point of the Game.

Tip o' the hat to Eric Goldman for fingering the case. A full version of the decision is available here. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Hey, Scots. Microsoft's Bing thinks you'll vote NO to independence
World's top Google-finding website calls it for the UK
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Apple CEO Tim Cook: TV is TERRIBLE and stuck in the 1970s
The iKing thinks telly is far too fiddly and ugly – basically, iTunes
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.