Monday, June 11, 2007

Manchester Cathedral and Copyright

Various UK sources ran stories yesterday about the Church of England's pique over Sony's Playstation 3 alleged replication of the interior of the Manchester Cathedral as a dropback in a gunfight in the game "Resistance: The Falll of Man. (HT to Bruce C. in the frozen north). The stories paint a picture of UK copyright law quite different from that in the U.S. I have no idea if the depictions of UK law are accurate and call on my UK friends, including the fabulous felines at IPKat to add their meow on the matter. Here are excerpts from a Times of London online story by Rhys Blakey:

"The Church of England has threatened to sue Sony after the Japanese company used Manchester Cathedral as the backdrop to the gunfight in the PlayStation 3 game Resistance:The Fall of Man.

It could have a case, lawyers say.

In general, the outside of a well-known building is not considered to be protected under the law, Tom Frederikse, an intellectual property specialist with Clintons, the law firm, said.

That means that games such as the controversial Grand Theft Auto series, where players drive around cities – including London – winning points for committing crimes, can copy real locations.

Even so, the games’ developer, RockStar, decided to rename its cities – so San Francisco became San Andreas and Miami was dubbed “Vice City”. The move could also have insulated the developer from allegations that they represented the real cities as more violent than they really are.

The legal situation changes radically, however, once a game enters the doors of a location.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 contains the so-called '2D to 3D rule'. Designed to prevent architects’ blue prints being bootlegged by builders who could use them to build replica buildings it could also stop a games developer creating a fictional representation of a real site.

'If a computer game developer is copying a landmark there generally isn’t a problem,' Mr Frederikse said. “But if a developer were to use details from inside a new building they will run into real trouble if they don’t have permission.'

In general a '2D to 3D' case can only be made if a copyright holder is still alive or has died in the past 70 years – a potential problem for the Church of England as Manchester Cathedral’s archives stem back as far as 1361 – though it was extensively rebuilt after the Second World War.

However, under the 1988 Act, the Church could also argue that it owns the copyright to the photos that Sony is thought to have used to recreate Manchester Cathedral, Catrin Turner, a Partner at Pinsent Mason said."

I wonder who would be the copyright owner of the building, and where this alleged 2D to 3D rule is found in the UK statute. Under U.S. law (and it should be noted, the game was made in the U.S.), the cathedral wouldn't be protected at all since it was constructed before 1990. But even if the cathedral was covered, we make no distinction between interiors and exteriors for protectibility. On the infringement side, Section 120(a) reads:

(a) Pictorial Representations Permitted. — The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.

This section is broad enough to cover use in a video game, but it is unclear if it encompasses interiors, something I frankly had not thought about until the Manchester Cathedral story raised it for me. Read one way, so long as the building is located or ordinarily visible from a public place, Section 120(a) applies if the interior is publicly accessible, as I believe the Manchester Cathedral is. Another reading would limit Section 120(a) only to those parts that are located in or ordinarily visible from a public place. Note though that Section 120(a) doesn't require that the work itself to be located in or ordinarily visible from a public place, or that the building in which it is embodied to be located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.


davidsho said...

Mr. Patry: Interesing issue with the Manchester Cathedral. Would your view change if the Cathedral prohibited photographs of the interior (or artists painting aspects of it)? I suppose that one could get around such a limitation by having the artists reduce their memory of the interior to an artistic rendering afterwards (at least under US law); but it seems unlikely Sony resorted to that method in this case.

William Patry said...

Such restrictions are common in the U.S. and are, I think, a contract matter.

cearta said...

There was a similar controversy a few years ago when The Jedi Library in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones (imdb ) was said to have been modelled on the Long Room in Trinity College Dublin, though of course any possible case would have foundered here for the kinds of reasons that Manchester Cathedral's would have done against Sony.

William Patry said...

On July 6th, according to this Ap story, Sony said it was sorry:

LONDON - Sony issued a public apology Friday for a violent video game that features a bloody shootout inside an Anglican cathedral, but it did not address the Church of England's demands that the company withdraw the game.


The church has demanded that Sony Corp. stop selling the game "Resistance: Fall of Man," which includes a gunbattle between an American soldier and aliens inside a building that resembles Manchester Cathedral in northwest England.

The entertainment giant said in an apology, published Friday in The Manchester Evening News, that company officials had met with church community leaders and Sony acknowledged the game had caused offense. The company said it now considered the matter closed.

"It was never our intention to offend anyone in the making of this game, and we would like to apologize unreservedly to them for causing that offense, and to all parts of the wider community who we might also have offended," Sony Computer Entertainment Europe President David A. Reeves said in the apology.

Manchester Cathedral's dean, the Very Rev. Rogers Govender said the apology fell short of what the church had requested.

"We asked Sony to withdraw the game," he said in a statement. "They have refused to do this."

"We asked Sony to make a substantial donation to community groups nominated by the Cathedral. They have refused to do this," he said, referring the church's education department, which works to fight gun violence in Manchester.

Govender also urged Sony and others in the computer industry to agree not to set violent game in places of prayer and worship.

Sony declined to comment on the church's outstanding demands, but Reeves did promise that Manchester Cathedral would not be used in future Sony video games.

Reeves last month apologized in a letter sent to Manchester Cathedral to anyone who was offended by the game. The letter was then posted on the Church of England's Web site.

"We now consider the matter closed, and will not be making any further comment," the company said in a separate statement.