On Presidents and Prime Ministers Appearing in Games

September 27, 2010 -

In light of President Obama’s appearance in Madden NFL 11 and the upcoming NBA 2K11, Kotaku took a look at the Politics of Presidential Appearances.

In both games, a representation of Obama is used to help celebrate a Super Bowl win or an NBA championship. While the President does have rights to his likeness, Villanova University School of Law Professor Michael Risch stated that, “A sitting president is probably never going to sue.”

Kotaku wrote:

Essentially, a president is the one A-list celebrity you get to use for free, provided you’re not too egregious about it. A sitting president filing a civil suit over the unauthorised use of his image is as bad a play politically as could be imagined, especially if the work in which he’s appearing is complimentary and respectful as is the case with Madden and NBA 2K.

The piece argues that a President would never sue over the use of his likeness, unless his family was involved and/or depicted, or his appearance was meant to construe an endorsement of sorts, neither of which comes into play with his popping up in videogames. While Obama does appear in NBA 2K11 with a Spalding basketball, Kotaku notes that it is the official league ball.

While Obama could sue, but probably won’t, Jas Purewal over at the UK’s Gamer/Law blog was inspired by the Kotaku piece enough to theorize about the similar usage of Prime Minister David Cameron's likeness.

Purewal wrote:

There is no equivalent right of publicity under English law.  The courts have considered (and are still considering) the matter through case law but so far their approach has been that individuals do not need a right of publicity (if they feel sufficiently strongly about an unauthorised use of their likeness, they can rely upon other legal remedies such as passing off, but the application of such remedies to celebrity publicity cases is untested as far as I know).  Or, I suppose, he could potentially rely upon defamation law if the effect of including him in a game was defamatory.


Comments

Re: On Presidents and Prime Ministers Appearing in Games

Ew, I'm glad I don't play these games.

 
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Infophileas being "family friendly." A kid could easily flip an option and be hit with a torrent of abuse they weren't expecting.05/26/2015 - 5:30am
InfophileI think Nintendo was between a rock and a hard place with voice chat in Splatoon. Leave it in, and jerks will drive off younger players. Leave it out, and competitive players won't play. Even if it were in but disabled by default, they couldn't sell it...05/26/2015 - 5:29am
Matthew Wilsonthis is a nice video on P.T https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-85jO6nRNQ05/25/2015 - 11:57pm
Matthew Wilsonmaybe, but its still kinda sad even as a joke.05/25/2015 - 11:51pm
Goth_SkunkThe best commentary is delivered through humour.05/25/2015 - 11:36pm
Andrew EisenIt's not needed. It's a joke. Albeit one with quite a bit of commentary packed into it.05/25/2015 - 10:59pm
Matthew Wilsonmot game related, but still interesting. http://www.polygon.com/2015/5/25/8654983/jurassic-world-chris-pratt-apology the fact that this is even needed in modern culture is a embarrassment.05/25/2015 - 10:26pm
Matthew Wilsonyeah, but with no voice chat its doa.05/25/2015 - 9:48pm
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TechnogeekThe silliest thing about most of the Nintendo hatred is that they may be the last company that interprets "family-friendly" as meaning "fun for more than just the really young kids".05/25/2015 - 8:33pm
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Goth_SkunkAs demonstrated by Ian's remarks, that 'market of possible fans' is apparently negligible.05/25/2015 - 4:18pm
Zeninformation while other versions had everything talked about openly.05/25/2015 - 4:15pm
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ZenI also took a screenshot of the statement in case it is taken down (via my Twitter): https://twitter.com/zenspath/status/60293960536562483205/25/2015 - 4:05pm
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