Game Politics (gamepolitics) wrote,
Game Politics
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Red Cross: Game Power-ups Boost Health But Infringe Trademark

Health kit, anyone?

Video games have long employed the Red Cross emblem to depict hospitals, ambulances, combat medics and more commonly, health pickups. David Pratt of the Canadian Red Cross just didn't notice until now.

Pratt has asked that the video game industry discontinue all unauthorized and illegal uses of the organization's emblem. "It is our considered view that the various displays of the Red Cross...are inappropriate and are a breach of international and domestic law. The fact that the Red Cross is also used in videos which contain strong language and violence is also of concern to us in that they directly conflict with the basic humanitarian principles espoused by the Red Cross movement."

AE: I've never been in one myself but I'm quite certain that there is plenty "strong language and violence" in real wars.

Pratt requests that game developers and publishers "mount a comprehensive education campaign about the protected status of the Red Cross emblem." He is concerned that continued misuse would further perpetuate the misconception that the emblem is public property and may be used by any organization or for any commercial purpose. "As Canada is a signatory to the Convention, domestically the exclusive use of the emblem is reserved for the Medical Corps of the Canadian Forces and the Canadian Red Cross Society. This is confirmed in Canadian law under the Geneva Conventions Act and the Canadian Red Cross Society Act."

Not to be left out, the British Red Cross chimed in via GamesIndustry.biz with comments in line with Pratt's. "It is important for videogame manufacturers not to use the emblem in their games, including for matters related to its humanitarian purpose, such as first aid or general medical care," said Michael Meyer, head of international law for the British Red Cross. "The use of the emblem in videogames is both illegal and detrimental to the special protective value of the emblem."

So what does the game industry think of all this? The Vancouver Sun reports the IGDA's Jason Della Rocca admitting that developers haven't yet had a chance to respond because the issue is too new. "I don't think anyone knowingly or willingly infringed on the rights of the Red Cross," he said.

Pratt says he understands why developers would include such a universally recognizable emblem in their games but insists that "such use amounts to us losing control of the historic emblem." He reports that while most companies have been very receptive to the Red Cross's concerns, there remains one major game developer that refuses to acquiesce to the organization's wishes. The company was not named.

While use of the emblem without permission from the Red Cross is illegal under Canadian law, it's nevertheless refreshing to see that Pratt recognizes that the Red Cross's time and money can be better utilized outside the courtroom. In this litigation-happy day and age it's nice to see that there are those who favor open lines of communication for addressing grievances and seeking amicable solutions.

AE: Many thanks to Jabrwock for his assistance with researching Canadian law.

-Andrew Eisen

Tags: david pratt, eisen, igda, litigation, red cross
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