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BBC in legal tangle with Rockstar Games over Grand Theft Auto docudrama

Rockstar cites failed attempts at negotiation prior to filing suit.


Dennis Scimeca

Internet Culture

Posted on May 21, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 6:55 pm CDT

Rockstar Games has filed suit against the BBC over a dramatic production titled Game Changer, which will chronicle the development of the Grand Theft Auto series. 

Game Changer was conceived as part of the BBC’s Make It Digital campaign, which celebrates Great Britain’s contributions to the computer industry and is meant to inspire British children to explore careers in computer coding.

“While holders of the trademarks are referenced in the film title and its promotion, Rockstar Games has had no involvement with this project,” Rockstar said in a statement issued to IGN and GameSpot.

“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,” continues the statement. “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.”

Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series is one of the most iconic, successful franchises in the video game industry. Critical and commercial successes like Red Dead Redemption and Max Payne 3 have also secured its legacy. Rockstar’s reputation for raw depictions of drug use, sex, and violence in its games have for decades attracted the attention of cultural critics and government watchdogs.

Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton have been cast in Game Changer’s lead roles. Radcliffe will play the notoriously reclusive Sam Houser, co-founder and president of Rockstar. Paxton will play Jack Thompson, the now-disbarred attorney who beginning in the 1990s relentlessly pursued legal action against video game developers and publishers over distribution of mature content. Rockstar Games was a frequent target of Thompson’s.

The Daily Dot requested comment from Rockstar Games, but did not hear back in time for publication. The BBC declined our request, stating that it does not comment on legal matters.

Illustration via Rockstar Games

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*First Published: May 21, 2015, 3:50 pm CDT