This past week has not been a good one for Rockstar and their Grand Theft Auto franchise. Two separate law suites have been filed against the game's creators, one for copyright infringement and a far more serious one, of leading two teenagers to commit murder.
In the first case graffiti artist Christopher Ellis filed suit against Take Two Interactive and Rockstar for allegedly using without permission his artwork in the video game, Grand Theft Auto III.
In the suit, Ellis asserts that the two companies copied, used, and distributed his artwork, Daze in the videogame that is played on Playstation2 and other medians.
The suit says that Ellis has gained an international reputation for his work, which has been reproduced in books, magazines, and film.
The second law suit concerns the story of two stepbrothers, 16-year-old William and 14-year-old Joshua Buckner, who told police they were emulating Grand Theft Auto, on the night of June 25 when they took shotguns to Interstate 40, near their Newport, Tenn., home, and opened fire on vehicles.
The emulation resulted in the death of one motorist, Aaron Hamel and serious injury to another, while another person was also hurt.
In written statements, both teenagers, expressed remorse for their actions.
I will always hate myself for what I did. I am so sorry, wrote William Buckner.
I didn't want to hurt anyone, wrote Joshua Buckner. This will be with me the rest of my life.
The Hamel family filed suit Thursday against Take Two Interactive, the video game maker, said attorney Jack Thompson.
The industry needs to cough up money so victims and their families can be compensated for their pain, Thompson said. The shareholders need to know what their games are doing to kids and their families. They need to stop pushing adult rated products to kids. These products are deadly.
It's not the first time G.T.A. has been linked to teenage violence. A gang of teenagers in California, charged with plotting carjackings and murder, say their actions were inspired by playing Grand Theft Auto, morning, noon, and night.
In Oakland, Calif. a group of young people who called themselves the Nut Cases told police they played violent video games before going out and robbing and killing random victims on the street. They said their favorite was Grand Theft Auto. The five men and one woman are facing charges in dozens of robberies and five killings that took place in 2002 and early 2003.
It does seem strange however, that so much noise is made over the game in this U.S. while the game also enjoys great success in Europe, where no similar cases have been reported. It also seems that another, easier connection to make is that between the unsupervised ease with which U.S. teenagers seem to gain access to deadly weapons and the number of reported, video game related, violent events. It may even seem possible to consider that video games don't kill people, guns however, do.
Take-Two Interactive declined to comment about the incident.