Red Dead 2 Facing Legal Action From The Real Pinkertons

Take-Two says RDR2's use of the Pinkerton name is just one of the many ways the game tries to be historically accurate.

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In Red Dead Redemption 2's world, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, a team of detectives hunting down Arthur Morgan and the rest of the Van der Linde gang, is the main antagonist organisation. Now, the real-life Pinkerton company is taking action against Rockstar Games over the way in which Red Dead Redemption 2 uses its name. For its part, Take-Two is claiming fair use with respect to the Pinkerton name.

Court documents discovered by The Blast reveal that Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations--the real detective agency founded in 1850--has issued a cease and desist letter to Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive in December.

Pinkerton Consulting said Rockstar had a "clear affection" for Pinkerton by using the name in Red Dead Redemption 2. However, the consulting company took issue with its use in the title because it might have led people to believe the real Pinkerton was involved in the game's development. Pinkerton is demanding that Take-Two pay an unspecified lump sum fee or a share of royalties in the future.

On the other side, Take-Two says in response that its the use of Pinkertons in Red Dead Redemption 2 is protected under the First Amendment in the United States. "Put simply, [Pinkerton] cannot use trademark law to own the past and prevent creators from including historical references to Pinkerton agents in depictions of the American West," Take-Two said.

Take-Two fully acknowledges borrowing the Pinkerton name for Red Dead Redemption 2, but says it does is just one of the "myriad of ways that Red Dead 2 accurately portrays the historical Nineteenth Century American landscape."

The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a real group that played a major role in American law enforcement in the Wild West in the late 1800s. The US government hired Pinkerton agents to track down people like Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. Take-Two also reminded Pinkerton that Red Dead Redemption 2 was not the first piece of new media to reference Pinkerton, as the movie The Long Riders, the TV show Deadwood, and the Elton John song "Ballad of a Well-Known Gun" all reference Pinkertons. In the 2013 game BioShock Infinite, the protagonist is a former Pinkerton agent.

Take-Two also points out that the Pinkertons, while a central part of Red Dead Redemption 2's story, only appear in 10 of the game's 106 missions. "The inclusion of Pinkertons in the Red Dead 2 story is neither excessive not exceptional," Take-Two argues.

"Creative works about the American West are permitted as a matter of law to include such real historical events, figures, and businesses," the company goes on to say. "Particularly where there is no likelihood that consumers will be confused about the source of the creative work, trademark owners should not be permitted to use trademark law to harass authors, chill speech, and diminish the historical tenor of works like Red Dead 2. Historical fiction--television, movies, plays, books, and games--would suffer greatly if trademark claims like [Pinkerton's] could even possibly succeed."

Additionally, Take-Two pointed out that Red Dead Redemption 2 uses Pinkerton's original name, Pinkerton Detective Agency, and not the company's current name, Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations Inc." Further still, Take-Two mentioned that Red Dead Redemption 2 uses Pinkerton's historical badge, not the current one.

Take-Two said Pinkerton filed its complaint in part because it was trying to profit from Red Dead Redemption 2's enormous success. Indeed, the game is a huge hit; by Take-Two's latest count, it had shipped 17 million copies.

Take-Two requests that a judge knock down Pinkerton's request and deny a trial by jury. What's more, the video game company wants Pinkerton to pay Take-Two's legal fees and other expenses related to this case.

Approached for comment, Take-Two told GameSpot, "As a practice, we do not comment on legal matters." A representative for Pinkerton could not be reached at press time.

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Avatar image for swantn5
swantn5

here we go...

Avatar image for xenomorphalien
XenomorphAlien

It's truly pathetic how people are just abusing the system nowadays regardless of their cases having merits or not.

Also, the Pinkertons are human scum.

Avatar image for ahsanh
AhsanH

I want a trial by combat! Kill them R*!

Avatar image for Lord_Sesshy
Lord_Sesshy

Everyone asks for money for obvious reasons. If this was really about the right to use them in the game, instead of asking for money I would have asked them to remove the Pinkerton's from the game. Just to mess with them XD

Avatar image for Ultra_Monkey
Ultra_Monkey

I guess the Pinkertons are the same square nerds we always knew they were.

Avatar image for Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

Nice try Pinkerton's.

Avatar image for bbq_R0ADK1LL
bbq_R0ADK1LL

@Shantmaster_K: Hey, if you thought you had even the slightest chance of getting a cut of RDR2 sales, wouldn't you give it a try?

Avatar image for Shantmaster_K
Shantmaster_K

@bbq_R0ADK1LL: No, it would make myself or my company look bad. If I had a real case, then maybe.

Avatar image for chippiez
Chippiez

@Shantmaster_K: Honestly, I doubt Pinkerton consulting & Investigations, Inc. gives a rats ass how their company looks to a bunch of gamers. What they are definitely interested in is a piece of that Rockstar money pie.

Avatar image for nikon133
nikon133

Pinkerton still being around is the biggest surprise here :)

That said... it is a bit odd that most other historical names have been changed... except for Pinkerton. That Cattleman revolver is obvious Colt Single Action Army revolver, a.k.a. Peacemaker. .44 revolver is Smith Wesson Model 3, a.k.a. Russian (as majority of production has been exported to Russia, after lucrative contract with Russian imperial army). Lever-action rifles are based on Winchesters and Henry rifles, etc. Springfield and Mauser are based on real weapons carrying same names/brands.

Locations are also made up. Might be to avoid having to do historically accurate recreations of these towns, and having more freedom to play with the setup... though I don't think many would complain if Saint Dennis was named New Orleans. Even if inaccurate.

Still... it does feel unnecessary inconsistent. Considering all, Pinkerton could have been Parkerton or Pasterton or Parston or. Anything remotely similar. Colt Single Action and Winchester are much more Wild West than Pinkerton, imho.

Avatar image for Decoy77
Decoy77

@nikon133:My guess is it's like GTA and their cars. They can make the car that looks like a Lamborghini Diablo but they call it the Inferno. Trademarks on items or copyright or just having to pay the company to use it's name and brand. So instead they do something similar to it and change the name.

Avatar image for nikon133
nikon133

@Decoy77: I was thinking the same... but in the sea of made-up names, why using Pinkerton. If "Creative works about the American West are permitted as a matter of law to include such real historical events, figures, and businesses"... can it not include items which symbolize that era, too?

Why "Colt" cannot be used - but "Mauser" can? Mauser is also still active company and still does guns. Colt is much more part of Wild West mythos, though. Mauser C96 was already available in 1899 (was released couple of years earlier, if memory serves), so in theory it could have existed in American West - but common it surely wasn't :)

Avatar image for Judeuduarte
Judeuduarte

@nikon133: You know that's actually a good point. Why wouldn't they use the guns real names? Could it be because the names were already trademarked back then?
Anyone knows why?

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

170 year old name? I think your trademark ran out a long time ago guys.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

LOL.... Once again, "Lindsay Lohan says hello."

This case is immediately stomped upon by Wikipedia and TVtropes:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinkerton_(detective_agency)

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PinkertonDetective

#reporting

Avatar image for tsunami2311
tsunami2311

and it begin again. Can I sue them for using my noses likeness in one there characters? or maybe ore maybe using my name in one of there characters?

The judicial system to to be fixed so stupid shit like this stops

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

I hope pinkerton fails misserably. They shed a lot of blood of opressed masses in the past and any retribution against them was well deserved.

Avatar image for csward
csward

Wow it's like the copyright claims on YouTube. These companies do this because they think it's easy money to profit off of someone else's hard work. I hope the judge throw this case out a.s.a.p.

Avatar image for Decoy77
Decoy77

@csward: Like the copyright claim on a private video off a private stream off the guys own voice just talking. GG Youtube you have become a joke.

Avatar image for CountZero
CountZero

Yes, because their depiction in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the thing that will destroy their reputation, not having dropped hand grenades on striking miners from airplanes, infiltrating and spying on unions, assassinating striking rail workers (I could go on for days).

Avatar image for thelostscribe
Thelostscribe

@CountZero: It seems that while their means have changed, they are still the good Ol' Pinkerton's we know.

Avatar image for sdzald
sdzald

I wonder how many people thought the Pinkertons's were still around, I certainly didn't know. I think they know the law suit is going to fail but what better way to bring attention to yourself?

I'm sure they have lawyers on retainer so it doesn't cost them much, what a cheap way to get national publicity for your company.

Avatar image for thelostscribe
Thelostscribe

@sdzald: That's a good observation. I too thought the Pinkerton's were long gone after they started getting in trouble for all the insane things they were doing.

The suit will probably fail, but they may gain some income from the attention it earns them. By some miracle they actually win, then they would make a handsome profit, which would be unfortunate.

Avatar image for tsunami2311
tsunami2311

@sdzald: I dont think Pinkertons are around atlest not one in the history books, in name sure are, either way find it ridiculous, I dont remeber the last time rockstar WASNT sue for something stupid like this in there game, and I think almost all of them failed, like other have said it just about publicized for these people and see if court system are that messed to to actual allow the suit to happen. Its almost like people take the top selling game and look for something in it they could possible sue the creator over in attempt to make money.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

@tsunami2311: The only legit suits I'm aware of had to do with music licensing, which is why they added an easy mechanism to rotate tracks in/out without full patching in GTAV.

Avatar image for listerofsmeg
ListerofSmeg

Sorry, I'm siding with Rockstar on this one, thats a bunch of bullshit. First Andrzej Sapkowski tries it on with CDPR and now this? Nobody would even know who you were if they hadnt mentioned it. I originally thought it was a joke name for the early days of the FBI or something.

They should be grateful they have enough respect for the company to use the name. Although I'm pretty sure they'd STILL complain if they changed it. Rockstar should tell them to eat a big fat D.

Avatar image for sdzald
sdzald

@listerofsmeg:

Nope they were real, and to be honest a fairly underhanded origination that often skirted or outright broke laws for their clients., which included the U.S. Government.

Avatar image for srfilk86
srfilk86

Pinkertons are still crooks, huh? They gonna try suing Weezer next?

Avatar image for judaspete
judaspete

@srfilk86: Not sure if you are joking, but they actually tried back in 1996. These guys have been douche bags for a long time.

Avatar image for thelostscribe
Thelostscribe

@judaspete: Yeah they've been scum pretty much since their inception.

Avatar image for srfilk86
srfilk86

@judaspete: I meant that they were always crooks.

Avatar image for judaspete
judaspete

@srfilk86: I thought so, but wasn't quite sure. Hard to read inflection in a forum post :)

Avatar image for Hagan
Hagan

frivolous law suit at an attempt to grab money.

I honestly did not know the Pinkertons were still in operation today until I read this article.

Avatar image for Salt_AU
Salt_AU

Lindsay 'Pinkerton' Lohan. Nothing more.

Avatar image for The_Dragon_Born
The_Dragon_Born

They were probably thinking Take Two is rich. Rich people are bad, instead of working hard let's steal from Take Two. Or maybe create something people value and get rich yourself.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@The_Dragon_Born: Maybe they think they can ride into the Take Two offices on horseback with bandito masks on, rob them, and then ride off into the sunset holding large bags with dollar signs on them.

Avatar image for thelostscribe
Thelostscribe

@The_Dragon_Born: Well ironically they used to work for those very people back in the late 1800's and early 1900's. They were a very insidious group, probably still are.

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

@The_Dragon_Born: You may want to read the Wiki article. They know how to get money out of rich people, and this is just their latest scheme.

Avatar image for thelostscribe
Thelostscribe

@Pyrosa: I don't think they'll get anything from the suit. Rockstar seems to have made some very key choices in representing them.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

I guess their point is valid. But then how many people have ever even heard of that name? Would it have made any difference whatsoever if they had named it Pingston or anything like that instead? Historically accurate, yeah sure. Are there any other real life companies mentioned in the game that existed during that time? Are the guns real versions with the name of the real life company on it?

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

@Atzenkiller: Scroll up, check out the linked lists of media references.

None of the others appeared to be worth suing, apparently.

Avatar image for fud_sang
Fud_Sang

I bet they showed up in those ridiculous bowler hats. They've resurfaced to dole out self branded justice and make some rich guy money i bet. How historical of them.

Avatar image for uninspiredcup
uninspiredcup

Yea, I'm sure they really care about that and not just "let's try get money"

Avatar image for cjtopspin
cjtopspin

Safe bet is, if you know the actual company still exists, probably drop them a line. Pinkerton HAS to file this lawsuit in order to protect their brand name as a matter of course...otherwise they run the risk of ending up like "Linoleum" and having their name become generic.

Avatar image for thelostscribe
Thelostscribe

@cjtopspin: However, the Pinkerton name has been used in many many different mediums, from t.v. to movies to music. Someone in the agency decided that it was worth filing this generic suit. If it fails, they got some exposure. If they win, which I doubt they will, but it's always possible, they get a ton of cash.

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

Looks to me as though Take Two should have asked permission before adding the Pinkerton name to their game.

Avatar image for csward
csward

@lonesamurai00: They don't have to. It's called fair use.

Avatar image for lonesamurai00
lonesamurai00

@csward: That would have to be determined by someone a lot higher than you, say a court of law.

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