Take-Two takes legal fight to Thompson

Publisher initiates a new court battle, asks Florida judge to bar lawyer from filing suit to prevent release of Manhunt 2, Grand Theft Auto IV.

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For years, Take-Two Interactive has been on the receiving end of legal actions by gaming violence critic Jack Thompson. Now, though, the publisher is taking a proactive tack in its ongoing dispute with the Florida lawyer. As reported by GamePolitics, Take-Two earlier this week filed a complaint against Thompson, seeking to preempt a repeat of last year's legal battle to keep the schoolyard action game Bully from being banned in the state.

In that case, Thompson filed suit to have the game declared a public nuisance, making it a crime to sell it in the state of Florida. While the judge in the case approved the game for sale, he did so only after ordering Take-Two to provide him with a copy of the game so he could review its content for himself. (The judge later filed a complaint with the Florida bar about Thompson's behavior in court.)

In this week's suit, Take-Two is hoping to have a new judge declare that Florida's public nuisance law does not apply to its upcoming releases Grand Theft Auto IV and Manhunt 2, or any games for that matter. The publisher is also seeking an injunction to prevent Thompson from filing suit to prevent the distribution of those games, or even to review their content before release. Finally, the publisher wants to be reimbursed for its attorneys' fees and costs and be granted "such other general and equitable relief as [the court] deems fit and proper."

According to Take-Two, having the nuisance law applied to games would create an unconstitutional chilling effect on the freedom of speech. "The nuisance statutes as applied to GTA IV and Manhunt 2 is unconstitutationally vague because it fails to give reasonable notice of what conduct is prohibited," the complaint reads.

By the statute's wording, that "which tends to annoy the community or injure the health of the community, or become manifestly injurious to the morals or manners of the people" constitutes a nuisance.

According to the filing, "These terms have no clear meaning in the context of videogames, and persons of ordinary intelligence are forced to guess at the meaning and scope of statutes as applied to videogames. ... Because of the lack of clear, defined terms, application of the statutes will restrict a far broader range of videogames than GTA IV and Manhunt 2 because Plaintiff's distributors likely will respond to the uncertainty and fear of penalties by withholding Plaintiff's videogame from the public. As a result, Plaintiff's protected expression will not reach willing recipients."

Interestingly enough, the complaint also references Take-Two and Thompson's legal tango last year over Bully and suggests it ended with a compromise between the longtime rivals. After a request for a temporary restraining order preventing the sale of Bully was rejected and Thompson's appeal denied, the suit says the lawyer "dismissed the Bully lawsuit with prejudice in exchange for Take-Two's agreement to withdraw a motion for sanctions."

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