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Weapons Free: EA Cutting Gun Licenses, Keeping Guns

What, you think this is a gun? Haha, of course not. It's a blammy club. Duh.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Battlefield would be a very different game if it didn’t have any guns. Perhaps you would instead aggressively point and yell at angry men until they realized you were even angrier, hurriedly stepping aside and saying, “Phew, I don’t want to mess with that guy.” Or maybe the series would simply be renamed “Field,” and you’d be in charge of a) tending to grass and b) callously sweeping aside dead bodies, coping with their lingering, bottomless stares as you hurl them into mass graves. (Someone, make this.) Regardless, that’s why EA’s not tossing out guns any time soon. It is, however, taking the ones it already has and going home – far away from the license-holders and manufacturers who might feel entitled to a chunk of their change.

EA’s Frank Gibeau explained to Reuters:

“We’re telling a story and we have a point of view. A book doesn’t pay for saying the word Colt, for example.”

EA, of course, (in)famously brought the link between gun manufacturers and games to a boiling point last year with a positively gross cross-promotional effort for Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Medal of Honor-branded real-life weapons were briefly put on offer, though hastily pulled after tidal waves of backlash surged through EA HQ. So then, is this a follow-up rainstorm of common sense? A cold, cost-cutting business decision? Both? EA didn’t say. But for now, the results are clear. “We won’t do that again,” said EA’s Jeff Brown. “The action games we will release this year will not include licensed images of weapons.”

Which puts EA in an interesting position, given that some manufacturers might not be so fond of the ultra-pub’s plan to use all of their property except the logo. Admittedly, however, a number of games never used licenses to begin with, and manufacturers make very little money off the licenses anyway. But then, nobody ever actually went to court about it, so it’s all kind of a gray area. The solution? Lawsuits! Hurrah!

Textron Inc – ostensibly a sentient manifestation of that chatbot I tried to program in high school – is sicking its lawyers on EA over Battlefield helicopters that soar far above the bounds of fair use, right into trademark infringement territory. And what is a helicopter if not a gun that can fly? Seriously though, even if EA loses this one, it could find some loophole regarding the difference between weapons and vehicles. This case, then, is far from closed.

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Nathan Grayson

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