Electronics Arts Says It Won’t License Gun Designs In The Future, Will Use Them Anyway

Electronics Arts, the maker of the Battlefield series of video games, has announced they will not pay to license gun designs in the future. They believe they are legally entitled to depict trademarked designs because video games are artistic expression. Kotaku.com reports

Just like it did when Bell launched legal action in 2012 over Battlefield’s use of helicopter designs, EA tells Reuters that, despite an intent to copy the designs and even name of famous firearms, it will no longer be paying for that privilege, believing it has a constitutional right under the tenets of free speech to use trademarks without permission.

It will be very interesting to see if they get away with this. It could be argued that you cannot easily create a video game about the military without depicting the military’s equipment, such as the Bell helicopters, but including popular non-military guns like the Desert Eagle in a video game is not so much about exercising artistic expression, but rather about increasing the games appeal to young men in order to increase sales.

On a side note, EA is nothing is not hypocritical.  The company has an exclusive licensing agreement with Porsche to prevent Porsche cars appearing in competing video games.

Many thanks to Jay and XX for the tip.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Bad reporting. TFB is obviously just parroting gun blogs to get hits.

    “Yesterday, Reuters “broke” the story
    that Electronic Arts was taking steps to distance itself from
    real-world gun makers, cancelling licensing deals while still
    maintaining the right to use images of those real-world weapons in its
    first-person shooters. “The action games we will release this year will
    not include licensed images of weapons,” EA spokesperson Jeff Brown said
    matter-of-factly in the story.

    What that story failed to make clear was that EA has never paid or been paid to feature specific guns in its games. This year’s titles will be no different.”

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/05/no-ea-wont-license-guns-in-its-2013-games-but-it-never-has/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arstechnica%2Findex+%28Ars+Technica+-+All+content%29

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      No, read what I wrote:

      “Electronics Arts, the maker of the Battlefield series of video games, has announced they will not pay to license gun designs in the future.”

      I said that EA will not pay for licenses in the future, which they announced a day ago at a press conference.

      And I am not parroting a gun blog, I am parroting gaming blogs.

    • No Steve is not doing bad reporting. If a news story breaks do you see only one news outlet reporting on it.

  • Stanislao

    They have been getting away with this. Indeed, they have never paid manufacturers directly. They did have a strange charity agreement with a couple manufacturers last year.

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/05/no-ea-wont-license-guns-in-its-2013-games-but-it-never-has/

    I strongly suspect that EA is covered under fair use in this case. Regardless, manufacturers benefit from a large amount of free advertising in the games already, so there is no point in suing for royalties.

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      When a NY Times reporter asked me about this, I told him that as far as I knew, or at least the companies I had spoken to told me, that they were not paid to have their guns in video games. Yet it was reported widely, including in the NY Times, that they did … so I don’t know.

      • Nate

        Comparing mainstream media with personal research on various current topics, I have realized that today’s mainstream media is full of lies no matter how small. They will report anything that they think will get them more viewers. On that note I would say listen to the manufacturers.

        • David Hinerman

          “On that note I would say listen to the manufacturers.”

          Except a license agreement may include a nondisclosure clause, so the manufacturer wouldn’t be able to talk about the terms of the agreement.

      • KC

        Medal of Honor: Warfighter had to have spent a lot to use Surfire, Magpul, Trijicon, Aimpoint, Daniel Defense, and Larue Tactical, etc trademarks

        it’s very unfortunate that MoH had such incredibly bad gameplay.

  • EA are hypocrites and money-grubbing lawyered-up slime in the video games world, but they’re correct about the legal presumption of artistic expression. Video games have been granted 1st Amendment protections as part of the freedom of speech, since they qualify as art. And, since no anti-gun “activist” who does a craptastic drawing of whatever gun they’re calling a “weapon of mass destruction” that week has to pay royalties, then neither to video-games producers.

  • noob

    Let’s see what Gaston Glock has to say.

    While they’re at it they should release a game where the main character is toting an unlicensed iPhone.

  • Giolli Joker

    Well, to the producers of the equipment, at least anything commercially available, a video game is not competition but free marketing…

    • bozo connors

      Truth. Sad to say, I have personally purchased guns due to their behavior in certain games. Happily, the devs were quite accurate in their simulation.

      • noob

        Out of curiosity,which games and which guns? It would be good to follow games made by good devs

        • bozo connors

          Got an Mk23 & M4. Both ridiculously accurate and controllable. Originally fell in love with them via Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (PC). Sadly, still the best fps I’ve played. Newer Call of Duty’s are terribad in comparison. Developers of that one sadly stopped after Activision kind of screwed them. Infinity Ward (the dev) as it was, is basically a completely different developer at this point.

          Battlefield series is pretty good too, but the hit detection leaves much to be desired (diving behind solid cover, then getting hit, etc.) – vehicular aspect is pretty awesome though – amazing sound design as well.

          Yet to play – the ARMA series – supposedly the most realistic. The 3rd in the series (ARMA 3) is in alpha phase right now. Will probably purchase when they’re done there. Heh – it looks awfully complicated though.

  • ALTAC6

    Here’s a question: How come film makers don’t have to pay gun makers to license the use of guns in a movie?

    HK should be making money out the nose from Hollywood paying them for the license to feature an MP7 or G36 in a film! FN would be making even MORE for P90s, F2000s, SCARs, M240s….

    Now, if I were to suggest the gun makers actually PAY A FILMMAKER to use one of their guns, as product placement…. that would make sense, wouldn’t it?

    What’s different about games?

    • Mystick

      A lot of companies actually pay to have their products featured in movies. It’s called “product placement” and is a low-level form of advertising.

      • ALTAC6

        And not only should the gun companies NOT pay video game makers for the product placement, video game makers should pay the gun companies to show their guns in the game?

        And we should be upset that they won’t?

        I’m missing something, I suspect.

        • Not A Gamer

          Exactly. I’m sure more guns are SOLD because people played them in a game and want the real thing.

    • Anonymoose

      I would think Intratec MAC, and their successors would have made TRILLIONS off the action movies of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s if that were true…

    • Greg S

      I believe Beretta paid for the privilege to be Lara Croft’s weapon of choice in the Tomb Raider series.

      There is also precedence with model kits – a lot of weapon manufacturers started to demand or insist on rights fees from model kit makers. It’s one reason you still see more German WW2 models than any other – no one is going to hassle them for a fee.

      • Agitator

        Lara Croft’s sidearms were compensated HK USPs I thought

    • I am not sure that gun designs or well their appearance anyway isn’t basically public domain and that companies should not be required to pay to use them or for that matter be allowed to pay for exclusivity. Same with cars

      That said if they are required to be licensed, the gun industry ought to forbid Hollywood from using them as a political gesture. This way they aren’t paying their enemies for the lynch mobs rope. Hollywood has the Constitutional right to say as they please but one also has the right to vote with their wallet. This probably wouldn’t help since a great many designs are out of patent protection but a gesture is a gesture.

      • Cymond

        A gun’s distinctive appearance was the foundation of the trade dress infringement lawsuits that H&K filed against GSG, and Glock filed against ISSC and a Turkish blank-pistol company.

    • Torguemada

      The movie makers are using actual physical guns and thus the gun makers have been paid. Whereas the game makers don’t actually buy the guns used in the game.

    • Toasty

      So far, they actually haven’t paid licencing fees before. It seems like more of a PR move to me.

  • Nit Pickens

    Electronics Arts (An American company), the distributor of the Battlefield series of video games.
    Dice (A Swedish company), the maker of the Battlefield series of video games.

    Sorry about that.

  • Mystick

    I’m not sure what company made the game, but back in the day, there was a PS2 game called “SOCOM” and what they did was rename the guns and install minor cosmetic changes.

    The P90 became the “L90″… the L96A1 became the “AWP”(which is an actual similar rifle made by AI), the L85A2 became the “LW85″…. and so on.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      TONS of games do this. Gasp even EA’s battlefield. Infact PhilWhite is wrong, the only games that have “MP5” for instance are the ones that have paid for that right. Everyone else uses mispellings, EA has used “M5K” for instance, I’ve also seen “HX MP”, um “MP50”, among lots of others.

      This article, wether you guys “get” it or not, is that EA is saying “No More”. And they are right. It’s retarded to be able depict the visual of a gun but have to change the name slightly.

      Fun fact, EA games that are licensed like “MOH warfighter have very accurate DD and LaRue rifles, Surefire silencers, etc. But EA games like Bad Company 2 and Battlefield series have always made little changes like sometimes showing the ejection port on the wrong side for minor aesthetic differences. BUGS THE HELL OIT OF ME to see a left hand eject UMP or MP5.

      • In fact Phil White is wrong?? Pardon me but you might want to have a look see who wrote this. I’m getting some blame here for something I had nothing to do with.

        • ST4

          Step 1) Read headline

          *Step 2) Glance at article for keywords

          Step 3) Post comment

          *Step 2 is optional

        • JumpIf NotZero

          Your comment above is what I was referring to. The one that says no one pays for licensing, which is actually really common (EA, Capcom, Ubisoft, etc)

      • I dunno, I’d rather like a left hand eject MP5 if I could have one (live in California alas) 😉

        This kind of thing is super common Fallout New Vegas does this with its “service rifle” aka Ar15 9mm, aka Browning Hi Power and in its DLC , the .45 (aka a 1911) even though all of those designs are likely long in the public domain

    • Toasty

      And who can forget the good old “RCP90” 🙂

  • Fine. Someone make functioning versions of weapons appearing in EA-exclusive titles. I for one would love to see a working M8 Avenger in .22, or Dead Space Pulse rifle. turnabout is fair play.

    • Anonymoose

      It’s called a GAU-8.

      • no it’s not actually.

        • Anonymoose

          Are you referring to the fishgun or the A-10’s gun?

          • The fishgun :p, specifically from the mass effect franchise

  • Justin

    EA got some flack on some video game sites for working with gun and gun add on companies on the last Medal of Honor game. The game’s site linked to LaRue and a few others. It’s prob about avoiding the post-Newtown backlash more than anything else.

  • Juice

    From what I understand their thought process goes like this:

    -EA would pay, for say, Browning, a license to use their weapons in EA’s games.
    -Browning then proceeds to fund the NRA.
    -And the NRA proceeds to blame everything on videogames in congress.

    And EA doesn’t want to fund the NRA.

    I like playing games but I also like firearms a lot, so i’m stuck in the middle here.

    • noob

      This ^^^

    • Komrad

      Yeah, the NRA was kinda really dumb with that. Using the 1st to attack the 1st.
      There always has to be a scapegoat. We can never just blame the guy who did it. An unrelated industry or group always has to be responsible.

    • Jay Dun

      You side with freedom. You side with the 2nd Amendment. You side with the NRA. You don’t side with a game company that is anti-gun, that love Obama, and want to take your freedom away.

      • FourString

        Mmmm dem Freedom Fries doe. 😉

      • n0truscotsman

        i dont think EA is anti gun. If they were then they sure wouldnt have formed partnerships with several companies during the new medal of honor release. They withdrew when people began to cry “dangerous brand identity!” and other BS. I even wrote a lengthy letter to Laura Parker, who published the original “beware the dangers of brand identity” on gamespot…mind you she is AUSTRALIAN. need i say more?

        It was a beautiful thing seeing pro-gunners destroy the stupid arguments of the protectionists. It felt like a reddit pro-2A slapfest.

      • Toasty

        “And want to take your freedom away.”
        Yeah, they might try to restrict/regulate expressive mediums, oh wait.
        The NRA doesn’t give a single shit about protecting freedoms, just firearm sales figures.

      • Juice

        EA is NOT anti-gun, their Medal of Honor series has actually worked together with companies such as Magpul, KAC, Daniel Defense and many other firearm companies which all received funding from EA and Dice for the project.

        And this is not the time to tell everyone about your hatred for Obama, “Firearms not Politics”, remember? EA doesn’t secretly work for Obama or even cares about Obama. EA exists outside of the US as well.

    • n0truscotsman

      yup wayne lapierre sure passed the hot potato on that one. It pissed off a lot of gamers that also vehemently support the 2nd amendment.

      Im not into video games, but blaming them for sandy hook really pissed me off. especially after that pile of cow manure regarding violent video games being scapegoated following columbine.

    • Yellow Devil

      As much as I disagreed with the NRA “blaming” videogame violence, it was only hot air. Unlike the CT Democrat politicians who actually put forth legislation to ban “violent” videogames.

      http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/DigitalEducation/2013/02/conn_measure_would_ban_video_g.html

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130221/12292022063/connecticut-state-senator-seeks-to-ban-minors-playing-arcade-games-utilizing-fake-guns.shtml

  • Ian

    I smell manufactured outrage.

  • Benedict Tan

    It’s not like EA has ever gotten the representation of firearms in games right anyway.

  • Jay Dun

    I sue them just for their hypocrisy. If their guns look remotely like mine I send in my vampires to drain them dry. You can take that to the bank.

  • mosinman

    This is sorta off topic, but I hate EA. Ruined some of my favorite games

  • Jay Dun

    Legal wise I’m almost 100% sure that EA going to get sue by gun manufactures.

    If gun manufacture A licensed their guns to the entertainment company X. Company X find out that EA isn’t paying licensed fees. Gun manufacture A have no choice but to sue EA to keep company X happy.

  • Laserbait

    Interesting, EA is still in business? I thought they toes-up years ago…

    • n0truscotsman

      they’re the 4th largest in the industry.

  • jamezb

    Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer real guns to video games.

  • wake up

    E.A. has been making political contributions to the dems for the passed few election cycles. they dont give a crap about the first or second amendment or the video games industry. have you kiddies already forgotted the DRM crap storm they caused with a few of thier games? all they care about is money.

  • Suburban

    If this is legal, there should be a lot of pissed off airsoft companies, and retailers. Customs has been seizing airsoft guns for trademark infringement for more than a decade. The airsoft manufacturers have had to make guns without trademarks, or buy a license to use trademarks, at least for the U.S. market. Overseas retailers have had to remove or cover up trademarks to get airsoft guns through customs. I don’t see why EA should be able to get away with it, while the airsoft manufacturers and retailers have to pay up or work around it.

    • Toasty

      Probably because it’s a physical object rather than a digital representation.

      And I don’t actually remember seeing much in way of trademarks on game guns (the stamped trademarks are usually what airsoft imports have trouble with, not usually the design itself), discounting Walther in the James Bond games.

  • John

    EA is a sinking ship and they’re trying everything they can to save money, including potentially illegal measures like this. If they actually made good games, this wouldn’t be a problem.

  • Hades’ Counsel

    From what I can tell, EA (or just about any dev/pub) hasn’t actually paid licencing fees on the portrayal of firearms on any game they made. The only thing I can think of was the charity thing that got them into hot water (Great job putting ads selling guns on your website after another wave of “games cause violence” BS).
    To me, this seems like more of a PR move than anything else, and considering said gun manufacturers sponsor the NRA, who are trying their hardest to use Games as a scapegoat… yeah.