EA Won’t Be Paying For Real Guns In Video Games Anymore

EA Won’t Be Paying For Real Guns In Video Games Anymore
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A report on Reuters says that following recent events like the Newtown school shooting, and the controversy over the company’s relationship with arms manufacturers, Electronic Arts has made the decision to stop paying for the rights to use real weapons in its video games. But it’s still going to use them anyway.

Just like it did when Bell launched legal action in 2012 over Battlefield’s use of helicopter designs, EA tells Reuters that, despite an intent to copy the designs and even name of famous firearms, it will no longer be paying for that privilege, believing it has a constitutional right under the tenets of free speech to use trademarks without permission.

“We’re telling a story and we have a point of view,” EA’s President of Labels Frank Gibeau told Reuters. “A book doesn’t pay for saying the word ‘Colt’, for example.”

While the Medal of honour franchise has been put to bed, EA still plans to release an entry in the Battlefield series — which features contemporary military hardware — later this year.

FEATURE-Video game maker drops gun makers, not their guns [Reuters]


  • It’s been a long time since I played BF3 but didn’t they already just use generic weapon names that were based on real-world guns? I know they were going for a degree of authenticity with MOH, but I don’t recall if they ever bothered with Battlefield.

    • Well, actually, most EA games were pretty specific. Games like CS used alternative names, like CS-90 for the FN P90, CV-47 for the AK-47, and Bullpup for the Steyr AUG. EA games like MOH and Battlefield would use M1911, Garand, Thompson and M1 Carbine quite happily, but as time went on, and games like BF2 & Bad Company came out, they got much more specific, with the L85A2, AEK-971 and AN-94 all making appearances. The only thing they didn’t include was the rifle maker’s name, but that could generally be found in the weapon’s description on things like BF3’s Battlelog.

      There are exceptions, such as the M416, which is the H&K 416 in real life, but isn’t designated with the military “M” tag. However, for the most part, they’re specific with names and model numbers.

    • From memory, all of BF3’s weapons are real.

      Though I’m not sure what happened when modelling the FAMAS, since it doesn’t look like any FAMAS I’ve ever seen.

      • The difference between the BF3 FAMAS and the most commonly-viewed version of the real life FAMAS is the lack of carrying handle. You’ll note that when the handle is removed in real life (e.g. http://www.imfdb.org/wiki/File:FamasFelin.jpg), it is generally replaced with a flat-top receiver with a Picatinny rail, which is what they did to ensure that you could fit custom optics in the game.

        • Hah, I just saw your original comment which wasn’t there when I originally commented… yet Kotaku says I left a comment like 5 hours later.

          Ah well, thanks for the info though. Makes sense.
          I think the only other game I’ve played with a FAMAS you can attach scopes and things to was R6 Vegas?

          Naturally Ubisoft just threw the scopes on top of the large rail, making them look really stupid.
          At least that’s how I remember it, anyway.

  • Wow… that’s pretty cool. Though I’m keen to see how far they’ll get by using something’s likeness and how that affects trademark infringement. They could get away with using generic names (like GTA for example), but when it comes vehicles, helicopters, etc, where it can only be one product (eg Blakhawks, F-22s, Nimitz class carriers), I’m interested to see how they fare. Then again, the various military services don’t have to pay for royalties when they splash it all over their media materials though. It’ll be interesting to watch.

    • Trademarks are tied to particular goods or services. For registered trademarks, each registration is made with respect to categories of goods or services (with respect to trademarks over these firearms, the category is not surprisingly ‘firearms’). Unregistered trademarks are confined to the types of goods and services that the mark has actually been used in relation to.

      Generally speaking you won’t be infringing the trademark to use the same mark in relation to types of goods and services not covered by the trademark registration (or not sold by the unregistered trademark holder).

      In this case EA is not selling guns, they are selling products incorporating digital replicas. So they may not end up infringing any trademarks, depending on what registrations are out there. Of course they may potentially be infringing any applicable copyrights or protected designs, depending on how close their replicas are.

  • So, EA is taking steps, to make sure the amount of money they have is higher then what it currently is?

  • Pretty cynical if you ask me. They are only doing it because they’re betting that the gun companies won’t risk the bad publicity of suing over the use of the names.

  • Generally speaking this won’t be a problem, at least based on my work in the film industry. The problem lies when you’re using the specific thing to make money, not incidental appearance.

      • Yeah, I’m not 100% sure how that’d work. I’m sure their lawyers are smarter than me, though. Even if they’re the worst company.

  • It was annoying when they switched out the weapon names in Counter-Strike, but not much more than that. If you played enough, you knew what they all were by button number in the menu, anyway, but once they added some new guns and screwed THAT up, it was a bit annoying to try and figure out what the probable capabilities of the Blastmaster 4000 might be compared to the Shootkillah Z249.

    But yeah, this is all spin-and-win for EA. Stop paying licencing fees (yay budget!), be seen to stop supporting gun manufacturers (yay PR damage control!) and make zero organizational/operational changes whatsoever (yay cost avoidance!). Net win.
    Oh. Apart from the lawyers. They need the average working man’s annual salary to even get out of bed in the fucking evening. (I know the saying is ‘morning’, but lawyers sleep during the day because they burn in sunlight.)

  • I’ve never looked it at that way before and I can see where EA are coming from. Do movies, novels, comics or tv shows pay for the use of weapon likenesses or the use of names of the weapons?

    • I’m guessing you can show an MP5 in a movie as long as you don’t call it an MP5, and you can say MP5 in a book since you can’t see if, but if you allow a character in a game to use an MP5 in his loadout and then the resultant object looks like an MP5, then the people at Heckler & Koch might want to speak with you.

      • actually you can mention it by name, it’s not really a big deal. Case in point: “AK-47, the very best there is…”, and I can assure you that no money was sent to Izhmash over that.

  • Ill remember this the next time EA issues a take down order on Youtube to video creators who use their IP without paying dues. This isnt a moral act, its exploiting the current bad press against gun companies, cutting costs and aiming for some nice fluffy publicity. And due to the current political climate, itll probably work.

  • Trademark infringement by a game company that punishes consumers with DRM to protect their bottom line against… copyright infringement. Oh the hypocrisy.

  • A constitutional right is an interesting thing to base a decision like this on, because they are making global products. I potentially see some localisation headaches here.

  • Well the court case with Bell Helicoptors will make precident one way or another that may have far reaching implications as far as other vechiles and even places.

  • I’d like to see them put a telephone in a game without paying royalties, make it rectangular with rounded corners, and put a button bottom centre.

    Then count the minutes before Apple sue them.

  • I don’t think this will be that big of a deal, just edit the name of the gun , which has been done many time before in games.

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