Sony, maker of the PlayStation line of gaming consoles, is reportedly in hot water with the Church of England, which has accused the company of desecrating one of its churches through its representation in a video game. At issue is the depiction of the Manchester Cathedral in the video game “Resistance: Fall of Man.”
The game, created by developer Insomniac, uses the 800-year-old cathedral as the location for a pitched battle between alien invaders and British and American soldiers within the cathedral nave. Among the most popular games currently available for the PlayStation 3 (PS3), more than one million copies of the first-person shooter game have been sold.
Church officials allegedly argue that Sony included images of the cathedral in the game without gaining permission. It is no secret, they said, that Manchester is known as a troubled city. As with many cities in the U.S., and despite the UK’s strict gun laws, guns and gun crime have become an ever growing problem in the largely working-class community. Officials called it irresponsible for a global corporation to recreate the cathedral and depict gun battles happening within it.
The organization, according to reports, sent a letter to Sony on Friday, demanding an apology and a healthy contribution to the Church’s antiviolence education campaign using the game’s profits. They also ask for the withdrawal of the game or a modification removing shoots of the cathedral’s interior, as well as support for other organizations fighting gun crime in Manchester.
A Mole Hill?
Sony maintains that it did its due diligence and that the company received permission from owners of private buildings and other sites to include representations in “Resistance,” as it does for all its video games. However, the cathedral is not considered a private site and has no copyright protection, Dave Karraker, a Sony spokesperson, told TechNewsWorld.
“It is important to note that the scene included in the game is in an alternate reality with the building serving as an army hospital and not a church,” he explained. “In addition, the battle is between service men and aliens and is in a fantasy context.”
The Church, according to Karraker, went public with the situation before Sony was able to respond, but added that the company is currently in private talks to resolve the situation.
Any threats of a lawsuit would be dismissed based upon lack of merit, Michael Pachter, an analyst at WedBush Morgan and a lawyer, told TechNewsWorld.
“Building and landmarks may be freely recreated in games and may be pictured in film or photographs without the permission of the owners,” he explained. “The doctrine of ‘fair use’ allows use of such property without compensation, if the properties are in the public domain and if there is no implied endorsement by the property owner.”
Since there is nothing in the game that states that the Church endorses or encourages violence, and since the game is set in England during the 1950s, Pachter said he cannot see how the Anglican Church views the use of Manchester Cathedral in the video game as “actionable.”
“The location is a landmark in England, and its use in the video game makes the game more realistic,” he added. “In my legal opinion, any prospective lawsuit would be dismissed based upon lack of merit. There is nothing defamatory in the action of using the building as a setting and there was apparently no trespass involved. So there was no ‘taking’ of property subject to a legal remedy, nor was there any damage.”
Sony will likely apologize since “apologies cost nothing,” Pachter said. Sony will not, he continued, change the game or recall it. Changes will also not likely be made by game developers dealing with the way images are used in video games, he said. In fact, the negative publicity may be perceived by the development community as free advertising, “that is likely to encourage greater use of sacred landmarks in games.
“This is much ado about nothing,” Pachter concluded.