EA Ends First Amendment Claim To Use Real-World Helicopters In Games

EA Ends First Amendment Claim to Use Real-World Helicopters in Games

Electronic Arts and the makers of Bell Helicopter, have settled a lawsuit concerning the use of real-world aircraft in Battlefield 3, for which EA did not have permission. The publisher had asked a judge to rule it had a right to the depictions because they were part of a creative work protected by the First Amendment.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed in the latest filing on the lawsuit, but the case was dismissed with prejudice, which means it can't be brought again. The action was brought in January 2012 after negotiations between EA and Textron (Bell's parent company) broke down. EA reasoned that a film about the U.S. military doesn't have to pay royalities to Textron for using its aircraft, so why must a video game? The question appeared to probe the new boundaries of video games as protected works of free expression, a designation explicitly made by the Supreme Court in mid-2011.

EA has made the First Amendment defence in another, more pressing case, the one former college quarterback Ryan Hart brought against the company for what he alleges is the unauthorised and uncompensated use of his likeness in EA Sports' NCAA Football series. EA originally prevailed in 2011 on that claim, but a federal appeals court in May overturned that decision and sent the case back to district court. Last month, the defence was rejected by a federal appeals court in a separate matter brought by another college quarterback, Samuel Keller.

Kotaku has reached out to an Electronic Arts spokesman to ask why EA settled the case it brought, especially as creative freedom and not necessarily money appeared to be the primary dispute. We didn't get a reply by the time of publication. Any comment EA makes will be updated here.

The fact EA is using a First Amendment defence in two different districts almost guarantees the matter will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court to be resolved once and for all. Its legal division may have judged the fight with Textron to be either redundant or needlessly expensive. Textron also had made counterclaims of trademark infringement, which a judge allowed to proceed in July 2012.

Despite assurances to licensing partners it doesn't intend to use a favourable ruling to unwind the lucrative contracts behind games like Madden NFL, this First Amendment defence has put EA at odds with several professional sports players' unions, including the NFL Players' Association, to which EA has paid around $US30 million annually (though for some reason, the figure dropped to $US2.1 million in the most recent fiscal year, possibly because of reworked payments in light of the 2011 NFL lockout.)

EA Settles Battlefield 3 and Textron Helicopter Lawsuit [Joystiq]

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @owengood.


    It does seem a bit unfair to cause one company to pay for use of a licence and another not to but then they probably did sell a chopper in the case of a film

    Last edited 18/08/13 5:16 pm

    This is one time where I actually support EA. It could set the precedent for real world stuff in video games.
    I want to know what their settlement was.

    Military helicopors in a film would either be on loan with pilots from the military(Blackhawk down),ex miltary surplus(most Vietnam war films) or mock ups of converted civillian choppers like in Airwolf.
    It just seems weird that in a film using a particular make or model in a film is seem as beneficial and even paid for in product placement bt in a game it requires licsening and a fee.

    If it goes all the way to the supreme court it may end the need for licsening of cars in games and every game can have every car.

      That is true, although could you read what have you written before you post. Lot of spelling errors there, take a few seconds to do a spell check.

        Says the man with a grammatical error.

      Actually they license cars in games like Gran Turismo... and is why car damage was not accessible in the first few games cause it was the concession they gave.

      Computer game shooters have been getting licencing and source material (gun models, sound files, test shootings) from gun manufacturers to make their games better and more realistic.

    EA being unfairly vilified while others in the same boat are left to their own devices? tasty, tasty irony.

    In this matter I do hope that EA prevail. This sort of win is something that Games need. I'm sure a few indie dev or even first-party devs and hesitated placing certain products/items in their games due to things similar to this.

      Yep, just about every game I've ever worked on had a review by a publisher team that specifically looked for items in the game that might need licencing. In most cases, they were removed from the game instead.

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