City Attorney sues over Grand Theft Auto

Out-Law News | 30 Jan 2006 | 2:37 pm | 1 min. read

Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo is suing the companies behind Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, alleging that they engaged in unfair business practices by hiding scenes of a sexual nature in the video game, originally rated as suitable for over 17s.

The ultra-violent video game could be modified by a software download that unlocked the hidden, sexually-explicit scenes. The makers said the content was never intended to be accessible to the public.

The game was re-rated from M (Mature) to AO (Adults Only) when the hidden scenes were discovered in July – by which time, according to Delgadillo's office, over 12 million copies of the game had been sold.

The suit, filed on Thursday against games publisher Rockstar Games and Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two Interactive Software, alleges that the companies acted in breach of the law by failing to disclose the presence of the pornographic content.

The suit argues that, had the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which rates video games, been aware of the content it would have given the game an AO rating from the start.

According to the ESRB, "Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language."

It also explains at its website: "Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity."

Most major retailers refuse to stock games with AO ratings, severely limiting potential sales.

“Greed and deception are part of the ‘Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ story – and in that respect its publishers are not much different from the characters in their story,” said Delgadillo, who is running for office as state Attorney General this year.

“Businesses have an obligation to truthfully disclose the content of their products – whether in the food we eat or the entertainment we consume,” he added.

The suit asks the court to fine the companies and order them to disgorge some of their profits from the game. The suit also asks the firms be required to provide full disclosure on the content of their video games.

Take-Two has made no comment on the action so far.