Rockstar and Take-Two are facing legal issues over open-world cowboy-’em-up Red Dead Redemption 2. The business filing the lawsuit, Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, is seeking royalty payments over two characters who work for the 19th century version of the company.
Rockstar and Take-Two claim First Amendment protection.
Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, now a subsidiary of Swedish security firm Securitas AB, is a company founded in Chicago in 1850. The company’s founder, Scottish detective and spy Allen Pinkerton, made the company a private security contractor. In addition to security jobs, they’re also known for their work in strikebreaking, including the infamous Homestead Strike of 1892.
According to legal documents obtained by The Blast, Pinkerton filed their cease and desist on December 13, 2018. The letter involves the characters Andrew Milton and Edgar Ross, two Pinkerton agents and major antagonists in the game. Modern-day Pinkerton suggest that the game’s usage of the historical Pinkerton implies it was created with modern Pinkerton’s permission. The company is seeking either a lump sum or a royalty arrangement for the use of the Pinkerton name.
Meanwhile, Rockstar and Take-Two are filing their own injunction against Pinkerton. In a legal document filed to the New York District Court, Rockstar and Take-Two both acknowledge the references to the real-life Pinkerton company from the 19th century. However, they are claiming First Amendment protection via fair use. As part of their case, they cite other bits of media that refer to historical Pinkerton. Among the examples (starting on page 20) provided, there’s the TV series Deadwood, the 1980 film The Long Riders, and the video game Bioshock Infinite. The main character of that game, Booker DeWitt, formerly worked for Pinkerton and had a reputation for violent strikebreaking methods. In addition, the game implies that he was part of a goon squad and took part in the Homestead Strike.
Pinkerton has yet to respond to Rockstar and Take-Two’s counterclaims.
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