After being threatened with a lawsuit over its video game “Joustin Beaver” and receiving the threat of a lawsuit from Justin Bieber’s lawyers two weeks ago, Android apps developer RC3 reacts with its own lawsuit against Justin. The company has claimed that it has the right to sell the game, Joustin’ Beaver in spite of the singer’s claims to trademark and publicity rights. The reaction was pre-emptive and upon the ‘cease and desist’ letter sent by Justin’s lawyers who threatened to file a claim if the video game was not terminated.
Without trying to evade the issue whether the game was at all related to Justin Bieber or not, RC3 the game makers claimed that the game was a valid parody of the defendant’s life and lifestyle. The game portrays a beaver floating on a log on the river. The beaver knocks ‘Phot-Hogs’ which attempt to take his photograph and signs ‘Otter-graphs.’ The beaver must also dodge the ‘whirlpool of success,’ in the river and failure would mean the beaver would lose control.
The game company claims that under the First Amendment it has a right to create a parody of any celebrity as long as it did not infringe other laws.
However, the industry is curious as to why the lawyers of Justin Bieber chose an apparently harmless and friendly depiction of the star, but takes no action against other video games like “Kill Justin Beaver” where players attack a Bieber beaver with weapons like knives, grenade launchers and guns.
After an unsuccessful negotiation with Justin’s lawyers, RC3 now seeks a declaration from the court clarifying that its game does not constitute infringement, dilution, passing off, or misrepresentation of Bieber’s intellectual rights and trademark. The declaratory suit also seeks affirmation to the extent that the game does not constitute any misappropriation of Bieber’s name for commercial purposes.
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court had removed California’s ban on violent video games by treating video games in the same manner within the First Amendment as books, plays, and movies. The judgment extending First Amendment protection to video games had mentioned:
“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas-and even social messages-through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.”