The legal battle over the right's the spoof the young pop star Justin Bieber is just heating up.
RC3, a company that develops game for Android Smartphones, has preemptively counter-sued Justin Bieber after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the pop star's lawyers two weeks ago demanding that they take their Bieber parody game, Joustin Beaver, of the Android app market, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The company, which both develops games for the Android phone and offers tennis lessons from professional player Robb Chamberlain, claims that the First Amendment protects their right to parody Justin Bieber (or any other celebrity) in a video game and profit off of their celebrity status. The company refused to back down after Bieber's attorneys threatened to bring them to court if they did not immediately terminate the game.
In their counter suit RC3 admits to basing the game off of Bieber's image and life:
In an effort to comment upon the Defendant's life, the Plaintiff, RC3 developed the aforementioned App entitled Joustin' Beaver. The App, a video game, is a parody of the commercial success of the Defendant and any celebrity. The parody app portrays a beaver floating on a log down a river. The beaver presents with bangs, a lance, and a purple sweater. The beaver knocks 'Phot-Hogs' that are attempting to take his photograph into the river with his lance. The beaver also signs 'Otter-graphs.' The beaver also must dodge the 'whirlpool of success,' which will lead beaver out of control, while navigating the river.
By invoking the word parody and claiming that the game is a comment on the pop star's life the company is hoping to convince the judge that the First Amendment protects its rights to use the teen star for derivative purposes.
RC3 is seeking a declaration of its non-infringement, non-dilution, non-passing off and non-misrepresentation of Bieber's trademark. The company wants a judge to state that the game does not constitute a misappropriation of Bieber's name for commercial purposes, defending the first amendment rights of Joustin Beaver.
The game seems harmless enough to Bieber's rapidly growing entertainment empire, and their initial reaction comes across as somewhat overly aggressive. RC3 is likely counter-suing to protect their own, however if they win the media buzz surrounding the suit will bring them more attention and more money. However, if they lost, Bieber could claim the company's assets.
This is not the first time someone in the entertainment industry has sued over a mobile game spoofing their image. In 2009 WME agent Ari Emanuel demanded that all references to him be erased from the iPhone app game SuperAgent. That was before a the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of granting video games the same First Amendment rights that protect movies, books and music in 2011.