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Rockstar launches BBC lawsuit over Grand Theft Auto drama

"It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property."

Rockstar Games has begun legal action against the BBC in response to Game Changer, the corporation's upcoming drama centred around Grand Theft Auto.

Dan Radcliffe will play Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser.

The one-off 90-minute film is set to chronicle the rise of Rockstar and its battle with controversial lawyer Jack Thompson.

But the developer is now attempting to disrupt the drama's release - at least in its current form - and alleges trademark infringement.

In a statement today, Rockstar (via parent company Take-Two) claimed it had reached an impasse with the BBC over the project, which was first announced back in March.

"Take-Two Interactive has filed suit against the BBC for trademark infringement based on their movie currently titled 'Game Changer' as it relates to Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto video game series," a Rockstar spokesperson said (thanks, IGN).

"While holders of the trademarks referenced in the film title and its promotion, Rockstar Games has had no involvement with this project. Our goal is to ensure that our trademarks are not misused in the BBC's pursuit of an unofficial depiction of purported events related to Rockstar Games.

"We have attempted multiple times to resolve this matter with the BBC without any meaningful resolution. It is our obligation to protect our intellectual property and unfortunately in this case litigation was necessary."

When approached for comment, a BBC spokesperson told Eurogamer that the corporation did not comment on legal matters.

Filming on Game Changer began in April, after earlier announcements that Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe would play Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser and Apollo 13's Bill Paxton would play lawyer Jack Thompson.

Game Changer had been scheduled for broadcast later in the year during a season of programmes focused on the importance of coding.

The BBC previously described the drama's story as "arguably the greatest British coding success story since Bletchley Park".

"Its triumph was down to a bunch of British gaming geniuses who had known each other since their school days, and at the heart of it all was GTA's creative mastermind, Sam Houser. In autumn 2013 its latest iteration - GTA 5 - earned $1bn in its first three days, becoming the fastest selling entertainment product in history.

"But the violent gameplay coupled with its outstanding commercial success leads to fierce opposition: from parents worried about children immersing themselves in such a violent world; from politicians, alarmed at the values they say it encourages; and above all from moral campaigners, who fight passionately to ban it. At the vanguard of this crusade is the formidable campaigning lawyer Jack Thompson, a man determined to do whatever he can to stop the relentless rise of Grand Theft Auto.

"Game Changer tells the story of an extraordinary chapter in the history of this iconic game, and reveals the major impact it has had on our cultural landscape."

While it is unclear exactly what Rockstar hopes to achieve with its lawsuit, one possible parallel could be drawn with the unauthorised Jimi Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side, which was legally able to tell Hendrix's story but unable to use any of his music in doing so. So while Rockstar may not be able to prevent the BBC from making a film about it, the developer may still succeed in blocking the use of visual and audio material from GTA, or the Rockstar brand.

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