Ubisoft Threatens Legal Action Over Derogatory Cartoon

Ubisoft Threatens Legal Action Over Derogatory Cartoon

Game publisher Ubisoft has issued legal threats against the webmaster of the online forum community SomethingAwful.com for linking to a cartoon strip that depicts a likeness of Assassin's Creed producer Jane Raymond engaging in vulgar and degrading sexual acts.

Richard Kyanka, who goes by the moniker "Lowtax," received a legal letter from the law firm of Nixon Peabody LLP on November 15 demanding he remove the image from the site and provide lawyers with the name and contact information of the cartoon's creator. The letter charged the image has "caused immeasurable harm to Ms. Raymond's reputation and career, and constitute an egregious infringement of Ms. Raymond's personal rights and privacy rights."

In predictable Something Awful fashion, "Lowtax" issued a roundabout and verbose reply questioning the lawyers' sexual orientation.

The cartoonist in question, U.K.-based Dave Cheung, appears to specialize in drawing figures of mostly-naked anime female figures.

He defended the cartoon as a valid criticism of the way Ubisoft and the gaming press gave Raymond a high degree of visibility - sometimes sexually-charged - as a means of promoting the highly-anticipated 360 and PS3 title Assassin's Creed.

Nonetheless, he also conceded his comic was "obviously tasteless and unsubtle."

Source: SomethingAwful.com, Dave Cheung Deviant Art Page (Not Safe for Work), Brokentoys.org

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Hm. An interesting problem. On the one hand, what the guy has done is pretty shitty. I've run across plenty of gamers who seem to consider Miss Raymond nothing more than a sex object who got ahead by performing sex acts on employees.

Which is bullshit. She got into her position by working, and has produced what appears to be a pretty great game.

On the other hand, you do have the aspect that she is a public figure, and as such, parody statements and art are legal. Personally, I'll go with:

It's legal, and he shouldn't be forced to take it down. But I'm personally not going to want to associate with the guy or buy any products that he'd come out with, because I think he's an asshole.

But that's just my opinion.

johnhummel:
Hm. An interesting problem. On the one hand, what the guy has done is pretty shitty. I've run across plenty of gamers who seem to consider Miss Raymond nothing more than a sex object who got ahead by performing sex acts on employees.

Which is bullshit. She got into her position by working, and has produced what appears to be a pretty great game.

On the other hand, you do have the aspect that she is a public figure, and as such, parody statements and art are legal. Personally, I'll go with:

It's legal, and he shouldn't be forced to take it down. But I'm personally not going to want to associate with the guy or buy any products that he'd come out with, because I think he's an asshole.

But that's just my opinion.

I agree with that, it's legal and he shouldn't be forced to take it down but it certainly is a scummy thing to do. People take celebrity likenesses and depict them in that way fairly often (either shopping their faces or drawings of likenesses). Apparently something awful did comlie.

You can look at it as being libel, actually, or some other defamatory thing.

Honestly, I think it's complete bull. I mean, I've heard plenty of girls put on to provide a happy face and yet know crap about games. They hire those kinds of girls at GameStop now, Morgan Webb is one of them (though I can't comprehend why people find her man body attractive), and so many more women who get a mike in their face and just talk dumb shit. However, Jade has always sounded as if she knows what she is talking about and has a genuine interest in the game being made. She never came off as a ditz just there to make geeks gawk, which is what I expected.

So yeah, I think Something Awful asshole should get sued, though I believe Ubisoft was being madly over dramatic about the damages. I'd just sue the fucker for being a complete, tasteless asshat.

Nice looking women shouldn't play videogames. If they seem to care for games, it's in fact because they've just slept with all the programmers in the house. FAAACT!!!!1!!
Whores! Beeyatches!

Gee.
I think satire is legal, but it's one person's rights to go to the courts if he or she feels publicly ofended.

That's like two rights collide. I would be tempted to say that the personnal life and wealth of a citizen takes precedence over (harsh) criticism, but you know that such a broad rule could be abused in a thousand ways as well.

Of course, we all seem to agree that the "art" was rather stupid.

In countries such as the USA, Canada and Spain, the papers and others public rants can be very harsh, and seen from other countries, it seems almost pointless, purely derogatory and childish.

Sure, immeasurable harm, in the sense that such small things can be difficult to quantify. I agree that the way Ubisoft has thrust Jade into the limelight is pretty suspect, though I wouldn't blame her for it. No one is going to take crass humor like this seriously, though.

I'd like to point out that Ubisoft is suing Kyanka because someone on the SA forums linked to the comic, which wasn't hosted on SA's servers.

After some poking around to find the comic, Ubisoft went the wrong route. The comic itself is fairly tame. Yes, it does suggest that Ms. Raymond is giving oral sex to a couple of rather pathetic looking gamers but, to be honest, shows less than what you can see on late-night public TV here in Canada. (With the possible exception of the "after-effects" of said act). Had Ubisoft not threatened to sue, it would have fallen away to obscurity rather quickly.

That aside, what's truly offensive about the cartoon is that it protrays Ms. Raymond as dumb. Which completely goes against what Mr. Cheung is saying it's attempting to comment on. I can see that he could have had some valid commentary on that aspect, if that's what he chose to illustrate -- but the truth is, it isn't. There's no sign of either Ubisoft or the gaming press in the comic, and she's not at all being depicted as a victim of corporate or media manipulation for her sexuality, but rather as a bubblehead who chooses sexual acts to promote the game because she does not know anything else.

It's offensive because it's obviously not true, and I would think Ms. Raymond actually has a reasonable case for libel against Mr. Cheung herself, but Ubisoft not as much, and against SomethingAwful for linking to it, nothing at all.

Actually, I have to question Ubisoft's choice of lawyers if these guys thought that sending a C&D to Something Awful would do anything but make the situation worse.

"I'd just sue the fucker for being a complete, tasteless asshat."

Yes, because as we all know being a "complete tasteless asshat" is a federal offense. Stick those goons in jail for totally being meanies!

ccesarano:
So yeah, I think Something Awful asshole should get sued, though I believe Ubisoft was being madly over dramatic about the damages. I'd just sue the fucker for being a complete, tasteless asshat.

The "Something Awful asshole" had nothing to do with the creation of the comic. In fact it was never hosted on the forums at all. A random user linked to it and "Lowtax" didn't know it existed till the lawsuit threat came in to my understanding.

It is kind of a stretch to hold a webmaster responsible for everything the users of a website link to. By that rationale The Escapist could be hit with the same thing if a user were to post an off site link to the offending image.

just wanted to clear some stuff up.

Based on what I've heard about this so far, I think that the guy who made the comic is a total asshole, but it's wrong of Ubisoft to sue SomethingAwful over it. They didn't make it and as far as I know, they never put in on their site. It was just posted on their forums by one of the more jerktastic goons that live there. They shouldn't be held responsible for that.

It's pretty sad how many people think that if a female member of a development team shows her face publically to talk about a game, she's "whoring herself out". It's not like some low-level employee is being pushed to the forefront to respresent the game just because she's pretty. It's the freaking producer we're talking about! It's more appropriate for her to talk about the game than anyone else.

To be honest its not really his fault... someone on his forum posted a link to it, he gets the rap, if anything the comic's creator should be got for the charge (libel I think). Quite why they think Mr Lowtax is responsible is beyond my poor Archaeological brain.

Archaeology Hat:
To be honest its not really his fault... someone on his forum posted a link to it, he gets the rap, if anything the comic's creator should be got for the charge (libel I think). Quite why they think Mr Lowtax is responsible is beyond my poor Archaeological brain.

Because the people who file lawsuits over things they have found online almost never seem to understand where the offensive content is coming from. Forums especially seem to confuse these people. I've seen it before, but it still boggles my mind.

Having seen the comic, I don't think it quite qualifies as libel as it is not claiming Jade actually did any of the things portrayed, but I'm not a lawyer.

I don't fault Ubisoft for having Jade promote Assassin's Creed. She's the producer. It makes sense. Some of the gaming press, however, reacted like a bunch of Counterstrike players when a girl posts on their forum.

Arbre:
In countries such as the USA, Canada and Spain, the papers and others public rants can be very harsh, and seen from other countries, it seems almost pointless, purely derogatory and childish.

Earlier this year in Spain, a classic over-the-top humor magazine (El Jueves) got in some serious trouble after its cover depicted prince Felipe and his wife having sex. Of course putting it in the spotlight only served for that number and the following one (with a parody of their previous cover) to sell out immediately and become collector's items. In the end, the courts imposed a fine of I think 3000 euros to the authors, which is peanuts.

Both El Jueves and Something Awful share a similar approach to humor (and I love them both), but El Jueves is very political whereas SA is nerdy.

this seems like a rehash of the JT gay porn debacle- see, it's their fault, they linked to it!

*facepalm*

The "Something Awful asshole" had nothing to do with the creation of the comic. In fact it was never hosted on the forums at all. A random user linked to it and "Lowtax" didn't know it existed till the lawsuit threat came in to my understanding.

It is kind of a stretch to hold a webmaster responsible for everything the users of a website link to. By that rationale The Escapist could be hit with the same thing if a user were to post an off site link to the offending image.

just wanted to clear some stuff up.

In such a case, then I am less inclined to agree with Ubisoft. However, the guy responding to Ubisoft could have still handled it better. I mean, really, what does it accomplish to try making a response that questions the sexuality of the sender?

In the end, when I heard about the Something Awful guy whining and bitching about a broken nose from Uwe Boll, I felt like there was some strange form of justice in the world after all.

I really don't get all the Jade Raymond hate. She's a producer. Sure, Ubisoft probably noticed that she was popular when her name came up in several Assassin's Creed stories, which resulted in more publicity, but I don't think they ever played up the fact that she's a woman.

 

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