Grand Theft Auto creator sues BBC over behind-the-scenes look at game

Game developer Rockstar and parent Take-Two Interactive say upcoming TV docudrama "Game Changer" infringes on the GTA trademark.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Grand Theft Auto is the subject of a new lawsuit filed by creator Rockstar Games against the BBC.
Grand Theft Auto is the subject of a new lawsuit filed by creator Rockstar Games against the BBC. Rockstar Games

The wildly popular game franchise Grand Theft Auto is at the center of a new lawsuit.

GTA developer Rockstar Games, along with Rockstar owner and game publisher Take-Two Interactive, have filed a lawsuit against the BBC, alleging trademark infringement. The suit relates to the ongoing development of a BBC docudrama called "Game Changer," about the real-life story of Grand Theft Auto's development.

The companies filed suit to "ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC's pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games," a Rockstar spokesperson told CNET in a statement. The spokesperson added that the companies tried to negotiate with the broadcaster on the use of the Grand Theft Auto trademark in "Game Changer" but were forced to sue when the talks broke down. The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit is just the latest bit of controversy related to a franchise that's been an epicenter of controversy for over a decade. Under Rockstar's development, the franchise has been the subject of complaints from parent- and child-advocacy groups over claims that the game's inclusion of violence, prostitution, sexual encounters and foul language is inappropriate.

Arguably its biggest controversy was 2005's so-called " Hot Coffee" scandal, which revealed previously hidden game footage of a sexual act in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. As the public caught wind of the minigame within the game, a flurry of outcry erupted from politicians. A class-action lawsuit soon followed and the game's rating was changed by the official gaming governing body, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).

Chief among the critics was anti-video-game activist Jack Thompson, who took Rockstar and the entire Grand Theft Auto series to task for the franchise's alleged harmful effects on children. Thompson's hatred for Grand Theft Auto and violent gaming in general had become legendary in gaming circles.

"Game Changer," unveiled in March and set to star actor Daniel Radcliffe as Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser, tells the story of the development and subsequent controversy of Grand Theft Auto. According to the BBC, Jack Thompson features prominently in the film and is played by actor Bill Paxton. The film's script was based on the book "Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto" by author David Kushner.

Take-Two and Rockstar have not said what they hope to get out of the lawsuit but said the move is designed to protect their intellectual property. Whether they could become involved in the BBC project in some way is unknown. Until now, neither Rockstar nor Take-Two has been involved in the 90-minute TV drama's development.