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Contraversy and being sued?

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ArtofWarLLC
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Joined: 12/31/1969

I have a game that is done *minus art and some know how. But its highly contraversal. My question is more business than opinion. If I releas this game and I'm sued will I loose everything or is my LLC, my protection? What steps do I need to take to protect myself and my game? In my game it "sounds" like its racist, Although it isn't. I wont lie though it does stereotype.
I guess I figure so do most political cartoons and they are rarely sued. So is making a politically driven game that stereotypes people just my 1st ammendment right?

FastLearner
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Contraversy and being sued?

I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. This is just "as I understand things," which could be totally flawed.

Generally, unless your game is classified as hate speech, you do not have a criminal legal problem. If it does not advocate -- directly or indirectly -- harming people, it's probably not hate speech.

Civil law, however, is another kettle of fish entirely. You can be sued for anything, by anyone. If they have more money that you, you will be forced to settle or will simply lose in court. Your LLC should limit your liability, but again, if someone has enough money they'll just sue you and the LLC separately, and if you don't have the money or lawyers to defend motion after motion and motion, you will simply lose, regardless of your rights.

All of that said, I have a question: why do you feel a need to publish this? I mean, you know it's hurtful to people, you're predicting that it will be hurtful enough that people will want to stop you, to even punish you. but you still want to publish it. Why? What do you gain at the cost of all that hurt?

-- Matthew

ArtofWarLLC
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Contraversy and being sued?

Well I'm glad you asked. Actually the contraversy is to draw attention to the game, its really just a marketing tactic. When you play the game it really doesn't hurt (in game) anyone (or opinions). The only people it hurts are usually ignorant and don't try the game due to its description.

And yes I do feel passionate about my game and the message it gives. I think it needs to be out there. (and watching southpark its like teddy bears compared to their material)

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
You're not looking at the big picture

Doing something offensive and shouting "1st ammendment!" may help you with taking on the government, but it won't help you in the market.

If you're planning on getting sued based on the theory that it will generate publicity, make a new plan.

Here are some point to consider:
1) The protection that an LLC affords is not absolute. Some quick research online will reveal all sorts of stories where the "corporate veil" was ruled to have been invalid, and the owners were bankrupted.

2) Don't underestimate the power of a lawsuit. Among other things, you can be hit with an injunction that prevents you from selling the product. All the publicity in the world won't help you then.

3) Remember the concept of "good faith". Let's say for a moment that you decide to sell your games to retailers and they are forced to pull them off the shelves. If you suspected ahead of time this would happen and didn't inform them, you're going to be looking at more than one lawsuit. Acting in good faith is more than just a concept, it's the single most important key to doing business.

4) As Fastlearner pointed out, lawsuits cost money. Lots and lots of money.

5) When they're angry, special interest groups don't play nice. You're thinking "hey, I get TV time!" You're not thinking "hey, picketers!" or "hey, no retailer is willing to carry my game", or even "hey, a burning cross in my front yard!"

I'm not saying to be scared of publishing your game. If you're passionate and want to go ahead, then go for it - but recognize your situation.

If one of the big groups gets mad (enough) at you, your game will be quickly removed from public consumption. Your business will come to an end and you'll find difficulty getting investors for any future endeavors.

I know what you're thinking: what about RockStar games? First of all, they're bigger than you are. Second of all, our customer base isn't as powerful (or rebellious) as theirs. Finally, remember that they've had games pulled from the shelves. Few companies can afford to have that happen.

That's my two cents worth, at any rate.

LarryZ
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Contraversy and being sued?

I'm not sure of how an LLC applies to game development, but when I started my home bakery business, my attorney suggested that we set up an LLC, with the explanation that our personal funds would be protected. But as mentioned here, it is very possible for someone to get around that, and you would then have the expense of fighting the case.

I'm wondering if you should look into liability insurance, and if you would even be able to get a policy that covers you? In my case, for about $400/yr, I have a policy that is supposed to cover me for two million dollars, in case someone sues because our cake "made them sick" or whatever. However, like everything else, the matter can become a case, and it is not certain what the insurance will actually cover, when push comes to shove.

If it was me, I would probably avoid getting involved with anything controversial, but admittedly that is somewhat cowardly, and is taking the path of least resistance.

Lor
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Contraversy and being sued?

LarryZ wrote:
I'm wondering if you should look into liability insurance, and if you would even be able to get a policy that covers you?.

In some industries (like mine, filmmaking) it's called E & O-- Errors and Omissions. Sensible investors won't fund you without E & O.

The subject is fascinating, tho. You might develop a game which has a rough in-your-face exterior-- a sell point generating controversy, but playing the game reveals underlying truths which redeem it.

Definitely a fine line, requiring authenticity, underying respect and good taste. Could be useful in a high school social studies market for diversity awareness.

ArtofWarLLC
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Contraversy and being sued?

Like the game itself and this post (gives me great pleasure) The game only sounds more contraversal than it is. Lor wrote:

Quote:
The subject is fascinating, tho. You might develop a game which has a rough in-your-face exterior-- a sell point generating controversy, but playing the game reveals underlying truths which redeem it.

Thats kinda how I see this game. The game is based off illegal immigration (to my dismay one of the top 10 searched topics on the net) It's contraversal because it stereotypes illegal immigrants of all types. When you play the game its a more realistic view of our broken borders and the immigrants win most of the time.

Thanks for the input. The way I look at it, its no more than a political cartoon and far less worse than south park. And if anything once you play the game you could say its in favor or against really depending on your point of view.

Lor
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Contraversy and being sued?

Get a sympathetic college professor or two behind it and you're home free.

And spell-check the rulebook! ;-)

ArtofWarLLC
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Contraversy and being sued?

I know thanks :(

larienna
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Contraversy and being sued?

It's fun to know that in court, the person with the highest amount of money wins. It shows perfectly the power of justice in this world.

It's a shame that we cannot really make contreversial games even with the right of free speech. Like an engaged author in the 18th century who could write in order to change or criticize society, we could have engaged board game designer that could attempt to do the same.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Contraversy and being sued?

Yes, not all controversy is equal. Shining a spotlight on a social concern is something worthwhile, as long as your presentation isn't biased inappropriately by using offensive stereotypes and so on.

But I wouldn't worry about being sued for a game. This worry assumes your game gains a visibility very few games have. You need to be in people's faces for them to get up in arms. Nobody gets upset about things they don't think can influence others. If your game is at that level, mischief managed, I say.

LarryZ
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Contraversy and being sued?

I was also thinking about designing a controversial game, in particular, one that mocks our (the USA's) system of crime and punishment (or lack thereof). However, I was thinking about doing it in such a comical and indirect way, that I would be at no risk of being sued. It would be no different than a fictional novel which refers to the subject, in the context of a fictional place and fictional characters. In fact, if you designed your game in this way, it might even be "better", even though you wouldn't be making your point directly.

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Don't get discouraged!

I just re-read my post. I wasn't trying to say "don't make the game".

I was trying to say "don't try to use a lawsuit as a marketing ploy."

If you like the game, and you think others will like it, then by all means go full speed ahead. There are plenty of political satire games out there. I can't think of any in the mainstream, but maybe yours will be the first.

phpbbadmin
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Contraversy and being sued?

LarryZ wrote:
I was also thinking about designing a controversial game, in particular, one that mocks our (the USA's) system of crime and punishment (or lack thereof). However, I was thinking about doing it in such a comical and indirect way, that I would be at no risk of being sued. It would be no different than a fictional novel which refers to the subject, in the context of a fictional place and fictional characters. In fact, if you designed your game in this way, it might even be "better", even though you wouldn't be making your point directly.

Satire has always been a socially appropriate method for pointing out flaws in society. A lot of media uses this method (political cartoons, literature, theater, movies, TV, etc) and I see no reason board games can't. I say go for it.

MattMiller
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Contraversy and being sued?

I'm not a lawyer, but I've been through a couple lawsuits (in various roles), and here's some stuff I've learned:

In the first round of any lawsuit, the defense files a motion for dismissal. If the suit has no basis in law or fact, it'll get thrown out, and the defense can get out of the thing with maybe a couple grand in legal fees. So, no matter how much money they have, nobody's going to bankrupt you by claiming that, say, you psychically instructed space aliens to ruin the plumbing in their guest house.

One of the things that the plaintiff must do to get their suit past this first round is to reasonably claim they've suffered some kind of harm or endangerment. I don't think simply being offended by an easily-avoidable product is enough for a lawsuit. Maybe it's possible for an organization to sue on behalf of a race or ethnicity on the grounds that some piece of entertainment perpetuates a harmful stereotype, but I don't see this happening much, so I'm not sure. More often they make complaints to the FCC (these are different animals from lawsuits) or just make a lot of noise in the media. (I'm not speaking from personal experience here, by the way -- just observation of the news.)

'Course, there's the issue of hate speech, which is more than an issue of civil lawsuits. But I'm guessing your game won't fall into that category.

Another way that purveyors of entertainment get in trouble for stuff that offends people is when somebody claims the entertainment inspired someone else to behave in a harmful way. For example, Dungeons & Dragons got blamed for a suicide or two in the late 70's. More recently, Marilyn Manson got blamed for Columbine. I don't remember whether any lawsuits were filed in these cases, or whether they were thrown out in the first round, but they certainly caused some headaches for Mr. Gygax and Mr. Manson.

So I think the real question is not whether or not the game will offend somebody. It's whether the game might hurt somebody.

'Course, you shouldn't base the answer to that question on your own opinion, or on the opinions of anybody at this website (certainly not mine). Best thing to do is spend a couple hundred bucks to talk to a lawyer.

Another good thing to do, as LarryZ suggested, is try to get some kind of liability insurance. The insurance companies know how much of a risk your project is. If they think you're ok, they'll be happy to sell you some peace of mind for a fairly low sum (and you should buy it). On the other hand, if they want to charge you more than you can afford, it's a pretty good sign that they think the game will get you into big trouble, and you probably shouldn't publish it.

-- Matt

ArtofWarLLC
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Contraversy and being sued?

WOW, you guys have been a huge help! I can't wait till my webiste is up, to show you guys more. I am hoping to start making Beta copies of my game in a few weeks, so I can start making some cash to pay for a lawyer before the official release of the game. All the money I saved for the game I want to put into the printing, not the lawyers.

On that note, for my beta copy - Does anyone know the (not so official) legalities of selling a (in this case hand made from my printer) beta copy of the game on the net. Do I need any licenses?

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