Escapist News Now: Rockstar Sued Over GTA 5 "Mob Wives" Character

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Rockstar Sued Over GTA 5 "Mob Wives" Character

A former star of the VH1 reality show "Mob Wives," Karen Gravano claims that Rockstar used her image and life story in Grand Theft Auto 5 without her permission. She is so tore up about it, she wants $40 million dollars in compensation and punitive damages.

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It's not like "Family Member of an Ex-Mobster" is an unique trope. I don't see her winning this.

Two-A:
It's not like "Family Member of an Ex-Mobster" is an unique trope. I don't see her winning this.

I really hope she doesn't. I'm all for her wanting to protect her story, if she feels someone is lifting it, but $40 million is an insanely greedy cash grab. I can't see her proving that her story resulted in Rockstar making an additional $40 million or her book will loose $40 million in sales, due to it already being used in a game. If it turns out the only similarity between her story and that GTA5 mission is that their both daughters of a mob boss I hope Rockstar throws $20 bucks on the table and gives her one of these.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvnb0gUIYyQ

She's probably banking on Rockstar's lawyers throwing a 1-2 million at her just to make the lawsuit go away. That's the problem these days ... if it goes to court ... even if you win ... you lose.

Actually ENN needs to fact check itself a bit here I think. I might have missed it but I think it didn't get the key point behind the suit. From other articles I've read her actual point of contention happens to be that the character in this game was in a dispute with her father over being in a reality show called "Wise Bitches" which was a direct reference to her show on VH1. I don't think it has much to do with the whole "almost buried alive" thing here.

I'll be brutally honest here, she's right about it being a reference to her. I'll also be brutally honest in saying she doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning and whatever Lawyer is leading her on should be ashamed. I seriously hope the guy isn't getting a paycheck from her while she's being lead on.

The thing is that "GTA V", like most of the other games in the series, parodies and satirizes real life and pop culture. Parody and satire happen to be protected, there is a history of cartoonists and guys like "Weird" Al Yankovic having people go after them for using their material, or mocking people, and a long string of precedents protecting people doing exactly what "Grand Theft Auto" has been doing. Albeit many of the big parodists nowadays like "Weird Al" get permission from the people they are using, even if they do not legally have to do so.

Overall the whole thing in "GTA V" with the right hand (or key lieutenant) of a crime figure being a traitor is a stereotypical plot point in crime drama, and it works because people have been turned IRL, "Sammy The Bull" is a noteworthy example, but hardly unique, and things like the "Witness Protection Program" exist largely because of this. But as I pointed out the whole thing with "Wise Bitches" and such is meant to be funny because while exaggerated you as the gamer are likely to know exactly what they are talking about IRL and chuckle. :)

Of course to be fair, we also have the whole "Tony Twist" thing with Todd Mcfarlane, where he lost for making a mobster in "Spawn" look like the hockey player, while also using the name. Of course at the same time Todd was being pretty serious and doing this in a comic which while having it's absurd moments was going for a very dark, and gritty vibe, you can't say that what he did was in any way a parody or satire, and under the right circumstances could be considered outright insulting without any attempt at humor or larger overall point to it. I do not think this will work here though because "Grand Theft Auto" is certainly engaged in parody.

I understand the desire to jump to the defense of favorite video game companies when under an attack, but you also have to understand that in most cases there is a grain of salt involved. As a general rule if someone makes a fortune making a parody of you, your not entitled to a cut of it. I expect we're probably going to see more and more of this kind of thing in the years to come because for the most part parodies of this sort have been about people who have already made fortunes or otherwise wield substantial political power. With the popularity of Reality TV though, your going to see pop culture icons, who didn't make a whole lot of actual money off of their fame, where a parody of them can actually make more than they did doing whatever is being parodied. I imagine this is going to breed even more resentment and more suits and such as time goes on, and we might actually see some new precedents established (though I doubt it will be here) when the parodists are not the underdog like they had been previously (ie in this case it's not a matter of some powerful politician or celebrity trying to shut down a smaller one, or some poor cartoonist just barely paying his bills). In general the successful reality TV stars like the Kardashians or Snooki (love them or hate them) typically made their money by having a talent for self promotion, and being able to negotiate their fame into other things like sponsorship deals, clothing lines, celebrity cameos, and similar things, most are not that talented (and there IS a talent to self promotion). I'm not a reality TV fan so I haven't followed "Mob Wives" so I'm guessing she's just done that one thing, got a few pay checks off of it, and nothing else, even if she (or the just the show) she was on became well known enough to inspire attention and eventual attention from parodists skewering pop culture like Rock Star does.

I think there's also a fundamental misunderstanding here as to why law suits set the sum requested so high. No-one sues for this kind of thing and expects to get anywhere near what they ask for, even were they to win.

What a dumb coont, I hope she has to pay lawyers fees.

ms_sunlight:
I think there's also a fundamental misunderstanding here as to why law suits set the sum requested so high. No-one sues for this kind of thing and expects to get anywhere near what they ask for, even were they to win.

That's my biggest issue with these law suits. I really hope we can work towards a system that doesn't reward frivolous law suits with an almost guaranteed out of court settlement. I don't think having a legal system that encourages money grabbers to sue at the drop of a hat is a sign of a healthy society.

The only person ever to be the relative of a mob figure who then goes into witness protection lol. Its not even an original life let alone an original story. If anything RS should be sued for lack of imagination in choosing a storyline that's as common as this woman's fat ass.

1m? Sure. 40m? No.

I really don't get how these people think they're entitled to the money of a studio that worked hard and long to make a game and they damn well know they weren't being referenced for such a common trope.

Why is it when this stuff happens that the people who are suing are always suing for absurd amounts of money? I can understand wanting monetary compensation but suing for that much just looks like pure greed to me; even if they are in the right.

higher you start, more room you have to be talked down

Therumancer:

I guess that makes more sense. We'll just have to see how it goes.

I have a question though, Is there a limit to how much a parody can take from the source material?

Two-A:
It's not like "Family Member of an Ex-Mobster" is an unique trope.

Combine it with a similar appearance, she might have something.

AdagioBoognish:
I can't see her proving that her story resulted in Rockstar making an additional $40 million or her book will loose $40 million in sales, due to it already being used in a game.

She doesn't have to prove either of those, actually.

I find it so weird that everyone who goes after a billion dollar company is making a greedy cash grab, though.

Fifty-One:
That's the problem these days ... if it goes to court ... even if you win ... you lose.

You make it sound like this is a new thing.

Therumancer:

The thing is that "GTA V", like most of the other games in the series, parodies and satirizes real life and pop culture. Parody and satire happen to be protected, there is a history of cartoonists and guys like "Weird" Al Yankovic having people go after them for using their material, or mocking people, and a long string of precedents protecting people doing exactly what "Grand Theft Auto" has been doing. Albeit many of the big parodists nowadays like "Weird Al" get permission from the people they are using, even if they do not legally have to do so.

Parody and satire have a very nuanced legal history, and while they happen to be protected they don't happen to be a "get out of jail free" card. This sounds more like a literal retelling with the serial numbers filed off. It's be less like Weird Al's "Amish Paradise" and more like releasing Gangsta's Paradise with a different name.

Bat Vader:
Why is it when this stuff happens that the people who are suing are always suing for absurd amounts of money?

Covered earlier:

ms_sunlight:
I think there's also a fundamental misunderstanding here as to why law suits set the sum requested so high. No-one sues for this kind of thing and expects to get anywhere near what they ask for, even were they to win.

MeChaNiZ3D:
I really don't get how these people think they're entitled to the money of a studio that worked hard and long to make a game and they damn well know they weren't being referenced for such a common trope.

How do you know what she knows? I don't know. The character looks a fair bit like she used to and carries several specifics. The character's father is even "Sammy," which seems strangely similar to "Sammy the Bull," Gravano's father. People are crying "common trope!" but seem to be ignoring the details.

I'd also point out these are the guys alleged to have offered money to Daz Dillinger to use content then used it anyway when he declined. I'm not sure why Rockstar thinks they're entitled to the work of other people for free.

It does seem that the game did directly reference her but I still fell this whole case is more a way for her to get extra attention for her book then it is about winning the case.

AdagioBoognish:

ms_sunlight:
I think there's also a fundamental misunderstanding here as to why law suits set the sum requested so high. No-one sues for this kind of thing and expects to get anywhere near what they ask for, even were they to win.

That's my biggest issue with these law suits. I really hope we can work towards a system that doesn't reward frivolous law suits with an almost guaranteed out of court settlement. I don't think having a legal system that encourages money grabbers to sue at the drop of a hat is a sign of a healthy society.

Eh, the system works. If Rockstar settles for a few mil, it obviously benefits them to do so. It's not like they have a moral reputation to protect like an accused rapist or an individual. And in the case of an acquitted rapist, I never understood why that should affect their reputation either - I'm not going to look at a friend differently if some attention seeking money-grabber accuses them of something they didn't do.

I still think punitive damages are stupid though. Interesting fact: Japan doesn't award punitive damages. Maybe Rockstar should move there and start tapping the JRPG market?

Zachary Amaranth:

AdagioBoognish:
I can't see her proving that her story resulted in Rockstar making an additional $40 million or her book will loose $40 million in sales, due to it already being used in a game.

She doesn't have to prove either of those, actually.

I find it so weird that everyone who goes after a billion dollar company is making a greedy cash grab, though.

Only when the lawsuit seems founded on BS. Billion dollar companies are good target for BS lawsuits because, as has been pointed out previously, even if you ask a ridiculous amount there's a good chance the company will just settle out of court to get the whole situation to go away by itself. Truth is it's cheaper to simply pay off the person rather than go to court and try to prove that the person is completely full of BS and their lawsuit is completely unfounded.

So when someone - particularly someone with barely enough celebrity status to still think they're actually a celebrity - sues someone for something like this, it comes across as "I used to be half-way famous and now people aren't really paying attention to me anymore. My reality TV show checks aren't paying the bills anymore so I need money!"

I mean honestly...do you really expect that this woman has even played GTA 5? That she encountered that particular random encounter (which I've only got to pop up once on my 4 playthroughs of the story)? And upon playing through it felt so insulted and her character impugned to the point that she felt that $40 million worth of damages are enough to compensate her?

Sure, all of that is possible. Just like it's possible that Denis Rodman actually believes that Kim Jong Un is just a wonderful guy who's fun to be around and loves basketball rather than the murderous tyrant that the rest of the world makes it out to be. He certainly wasn't going over to North Korea and saying those things just because he's the picture definition of an attention-whore and just wanted his name in the headlines for a bit. It's also possible that Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian didn't leak sex-tapes of themselves just to pump up hype for their reality TV shows that debuted shortly after their sex tapes.

Indeed, all of the above is possible, I'm just saying it's very unlikely.

RJ 17:

I mean honestly...do you really expect that this woman has even played GTA 5? That she encountered that particular random encounter (which I've only got to pop up once on my 4 playthroughs of the story)? And upon playing through it felt so insulted and her character impugned to the point that she felt that $40 million worth of damages are enough to compensate her?

Simple answer is "I don't care." The longer answer is "I don't care, and it's neither relevant to my opinion or to the case."

That's sort of the problem. Everybody and their mother is scrambling for reasons to indict her. They're making irrelevant attacks and irrelevant excuses. At what point does the frequency of your experience matter, or whether or not she's actually played the game, for that matter?

The damages are 20 million, by the way. At no point does she need to be insulted or offended for there to be damages, especially if she's trying to release her own intellectual property as is alleged. It doesn't matter how likely or unlikely your chain of events is, because none of it is in any way relevant.

Truth is it's cheaper to simply pay off the person rather than go to court and try to prove that the person is completely full of BS and their lawsuit is completely unfounded.

Which is why Rockstar doesn't do that, right? They haven't in prior cases. Why would it be different now? Because ponies? I'm sorry, but that pony has no legs. They didn't even pay off the Daz Dillinger suit, so why would they think they would here?

It's a specious argument, like most of the attacks on Gravano.

Why does Rockstar need such a fervent defense?

Zachary Amaranth:
Simple answer is "I don't care." The longer answer is "I don't care, and it's neither relevant to my opinion or to the case."

Ditto to that. Just to clarify though, my previous post was to address this:

Zachary Amaranth:
I find it so weird that everyone who goes after a billion dollar company is making a greedy cash grab, though.

Seems as though you were wanting to know why people going after companies are often labeled as greedy cash-grabbers. As such, I took it upon myself to tell you their reasoning. If you accept it or not, I don't care, but that's their reasoning.

I don't see how her story is unique or how she can possibly claim that Rockstar somehow stole it... if it's public knowledge then the story doesn't belong to anyone.

Sofus:
I don't see how her story is unique or how she can possibly claim that Rockstar somehow stole it... if it's public knowledge then the story doesn't belong to anyone.

Just because the plot of Lord of the Rings is public knowledge, does not mean that anyone can start publishing the books in their own name.

nyysjan:

Sofus:
I don't see how her story is unique or how she can possibly claim that Rockstar somehow stole it... if it's public knowledge then the story doesn't belong to anyone.

Just because the plot of Lord of the Rings is public knowledge, does not mean that anyone can start publishing the books in their own name.

There is a massive difference between fiction and reality.

Sofus:

nyysjan:

Sofus:
I don't see how her story is unique or how she can possibly claim that Rockstar somehow stole it... if it's public knowledge then the story doesn't belong to anyone.

Just because the plot of Lord of the Rings is public knowledge, does not mean that anyone can start publishing the books in their own name.

There is a massive difference between fiction and history.

Not necessarily.
I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that people do have some level of ownership to their name, face and lifestory.

Therumancer:
quote cut out because long post is long

I feel Therumancer has hit the nail on the head she cant really do jack shit because the whole matter is a case of parody...

and Nyysjan there is a difference between real life events and fiction... I think sofus is saying you cant say write a book about some historical event and then claim only you have rights to it just because you wrote about it

RJ 17:
Seems as though you were wanting to know why people going after companies are often labeled as greedy cash-grabbers. As such, I took it upon myself to tell you their reasoning. If you accept it or not, I don't care, but that's their reasoning.

So it seems you're saying the reasons they make these accusations are irrelevant and pointless. If that's the case, I agree.

chickenhound:

I feel Therumancer has hit the nail on the head she cant really do jack shit because the whole matter is a case of parody...

The problem being that parody isn't that cut and dry.

and Nyysjan there is a difference between real life events and fiction... I think sofus is saying you cant say write a book about some historical event and then claim only you have rights to it just because you wrote about it

That's not really an apt comparison, though.

nyysjan:

Just because the plot of Lord of the Rings is public knowledge, does not mean that anyone can start publishing the books in their own name.

Lord of the Rings isn't public domain, though. It's copyrighted. And there are many stories that tell the same tale.

With a real life example, many biographers can cover the same topic, but you can't take someone else's biography verbatim and publish it. Not because the person is protected, but because the work is.

I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that people do have some level of ownership to their name, face and lifestory.

And that's the question of any such case. Whether the likeness and life story are close enough to count as infringement and whether parody is a significant enough instance to protect Rockstar.

This is where I end up getting flak for both sides because while I don't think the case necessarily is bad faith, I also don't think she has an automatic win here, either. IP laws, even without the case of likeness, tend to be this great big ball of...Wibbly-wobbly...Legal wegal...Stuff. The law on these matters is absolutely clear as mud and it even makes a difference where the suits are filed because things like likeness rights are not universally recognised and can vary from state to state in the US.

Zachary Amaranth:

nyysjan:

Just because the plot of Lord of the Rings is public knowledge, does not mean that anyone can start publishing the books in their own name.

Lord of the Rings isn't public domain, though. It's copyrighted. And there are many stories that tell the same tale.

With a real life example, many biographers can cover the same topic, but you can't take someone else's biography verbatim and publish it. Not because the person is protected, but because the work is.

My point was that just because something is known, does not automatically make it legal for you to sell it.

nyysjan:

My point was that just because something is known, does not automatically make it legal for you to sell it.

The example was awful, however, and the point isn't really made by it.

Zachary Amaranth:

nyysjan:

My point was that just because something is known, does not automatically make it legal for you to sell it.

The example was awful, however, and the point isn't really made by it.

Except that it does.
It takes a thing, commonly known, and points out that it is not legal to sell it.
Therefore simply being commonly known, does not make it ok to sell something.

Everything else about them is different, but those differences don't matter, because i am only answering one point, and that is common knowledge of the thing.

nyysjan:

It takes a thing, commonly known, and points out that it is not legal to sell it.
Therefore simply being commonly known, does not make it ok to sell something.

Except it has no application here, as a biography is perfectly legal. Hell, retelling Lord of the Rings is perfectly legal, provided you don't violate the copyright or associated trademarks, which has nothing to do with actually protecting the story. Otherwise, thousands of fantasdy authors would be out of a job. Do you have any idea how many times Lord of the Rings has been retold with the serial numbers filed off?

Yes, being commonly known in itself doesn't make it okay to sell something. That statement is utterly meaningless in itself.

Zachary Amaranth:

nyysjan:

It takes a thing, commonly known, and points out that it is not legal to sell it.
Therefore simply being commonly known, does not make it ok to sell something.

Except it has no application here, as a biography is perfectly legal. Hell, retelling Lord of the Rings is perfectly legal, provided you don't violate the copyright or associated trademarks, which has nothing to do with actually protecting the story. Otherwise, thousands of fantasdy authors would be out of a job. Do you have any idea how many times Lord of the Rings has been retold with the serial numbers filed off?

Yes, being commonly known in itself doesn't make it okay to sell something. That statement is utterly meaningless in itself.

Except it is perfectly applicable here.
someone made a claim the because the story was commonly known, Rockstar had the right to put it in their videogame, and i made a point that it would not by contrasting it to something even more commonly known.

Any number of other reasons might make it perfectly legal (lack of copyright, not violating privacy, not infringing on other trademarks, etc...), and over the course of the lawsuit we will almost certainly here about those from Rockstar.

But the point remains: story commonly known =/= legal to sell

nyysjan:

Except it is perfectly applicable here.
someone made a claim the because the story was commonly known, Rockstar had the right to put it in their videogame, and i made a point that it would not by contrasting it to something even more commonly known.

Except you didn't actually contrast it. They're not literally putting in her life story, they're putting in an approximation. I've covered how common it is to use LOTR as a story, so you shouldn't need me to go over this again. You're not making an applicable parallel and I've already explained why.

And honestly, LOTR wouldn't have any more protection here.

An apology and some ice cream? She might get that.

A million dollars is pushing it.

Besides, GTA is known for being black comedy and parodying real life events and pop-culture. Aside from the sandbox, it's the whole point of the games.

lord.jeff:
It does seem that the game did directly reference her but I still fell this whole case is more a way for her to get extra attention for her book then it is about winning the case.

This right here.

She's doing this for the publicity as much as any possible out-of-court settlement pay-off.

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