As you are aware of, there are several allegations being brought upon Playing With God’s newest game on the market, “Praying with Larry Podder.” I would like to address some of these allegations and how they may affect this company’s top selling product. I believe that we some in-depth investigation, and some possible minor changes to our product, this company can minimize and possibly avoid any legal implications. This morning I was served with a lawsuit from Nintendo claiming that “Praying with Larry Podder” violates their exclusive right to market games under the “Harry Potter” label. Also, Warner Brothers is preparing a lawsuit for copyright infringement. As you may know, the storyline for the game “Praying with Larry Podder” was developed by Larry Bakker, son of corporate board member Jon Bakker. Larry Bakker claims that the storyline is a parody based upon his own life and childhood experiences. I would like to start an in-depth investigation into the possible comparisons between “Praying With Larry Podder” and “Harry Potter”.
The company lawyers need to sit down with Larry Bakker and question him about his childhood experiences and if the characters and/or storyline in “Larry Podder” draw any similarities to that of “Harry Potter”. Also, Larry Bakker needs to be asked if he has received the permission of his Aunt Tammy Faye, a well-known TV Evangelist, to use her likeness as a character in the video game. Finally, it’s very important to talk to the Marketing Department to find out if the “Praying with Larry Podder” logos and market have any parallels with the “Harry Potter” trademark. In my opinion, if “Praying with Larry Podder” is truly created from the childhood experiences of Larry Bakker, an investigation of the facts of Larry Bakker’s past will disprove any similarities to that of the life of Harry Potter. Jon Bakker, father of Larry Bakker, can authenticate the story of Larry Bakker’s life, and can provide evidence needed to backup any of the events of Larry’s life that are depicted in the video game.
As long as the characters comparison and video game trademarks are not similar to “Harry Potter”, the only concern I have is with the possible misinterpreting of the name “Larry Podder” and “Harry Potter”, which may be a marketing strategy by the Marketing Department. The name “Larry Podder” may be considered a parody of “Harry Potter”. Since copyright law prohibits the use of a copyrighted material without permission of the copyright owner, the freedom of speech principles incorporated in the First Amendment and the fair-use defense can be used to refute any liability of copyright infringement. Even though Praying with God is a Christian organization, the First Amendment does not offer Christian organizations any special protection. My biggest concern with the “Praying with Larry Podder” is the very close comparison the character of Larry Podder’s aunt to that of Tammy Faye, a well-known TV Evangelist. If permission was not given for the use of Tammy Faye’s likeness in the video game, the company has committed the tort of unauthorized appropriation, which can lead to a future lawsuit from Tammy Faye herself.
If permission has not been granted, the video game needs to be redesign such that Larry Podder’s aunt does not look like Tammy Faye. One of the features built into the “Praying with Larry Podder” video game is that online players can share prayers, sheet music for hymns, and Christian music MP3s. Currently, the file sharing aspects of the game are violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA criminalizes the production and dissemination of technology and services that circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted work such as MP3 music peer-to-peer file sharing. It is against the law to share copyright material without the permission of the copyright owner. If the file sharing in the game is limited to sharing of non-copyrighted sheet music and bible verses, then the game will not be violating the DMCA.
In order to avoid legal implications, the game needs to disable the ability to file share copyrighted materials. The game can continue to function as a peer-to-peer network as long as it places a disclaimer on game stating that all users are to comply with copyright laws and the previsions of licensing agreements that apply to the software. The disclaimer will place the liability into the hands of the individuals that are performing the act of copyright infringement. All in all, my final recommendation is that the distribution of the video game “Praying with Larry Podder” may continue once all of the issues addressed above are fully investigated.
The company should prepare all evidence necessary to prove that the game is a parody of the life of Larry Bakker. The company needs to ensure that they have the permission of Tammy Faye to use her likeness as a character in the video game. If the permission is not granted, the character appearance of the aunt needs to be altered to ensure it does not reflect the likeness of Tammy Faye. Finally, the company shall disable the ability for file sharing of copyrighted material, and add a disclaimer to the game stating that only non-copyrighted materials may be shared. Once all of the facts are gathered and the problems are resolved, the company may continue to distribute “Praying with Larry Podder”.