Sony defeats video game equal rights claim

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Sony defeats video game equal rights claim

Tue Feb 16, 2010 @ 09:44AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Picture 10 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal -- unless, of course, these men are pursuing happiness inside a massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing game.

Computer and video games continue to yield some interesting law. Today's subject: equal rights.

Sony has convinced a U.S. District Court to dismiss a complaint brought by a vision-impaired video gamer who claimed that Sony games like "EverQuest" violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by denying him "full and equal enjoyment."

The plaintiff wanted Sony to provide him with "auxiliary aides and services" such as cues that would put him on equal ground with other gamers. But Judge Percy Anderson ruled last week that video games are not sufficiently connected to a place of public accommodation, and to treat them as such would create liability for manufacturers of all kinds of products.

Video gamers may think it's silly to mandate that MMORPG publishers give any game player a leg up. But how should the law treat those who have managed to cheat themselves towards an advantage?

Consider a new lawsuit filed by Jagex Limited, the U.K.-based operator of a popular MMORPG RuneScape, against two Florida individuals who are running websites that sell "Bots" that allow game-players to cheat fellow competitors. The plaintiff claims the "Bots" have managed to deconstruct the game system so that anybody who purchases a cheat code doesn't have to complete in-game tasks to advance their characters' abilities, thus "giving Bot users significant unfair and contractually prohibited advantages over legitimate players," according to the complaint.

Jagex is alleging the defendants are violating copyright, trademark and computer fraud laws. Is the company also claiming that gamers deserve equality?

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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