As it turns out, the Pinkerton Agency still exists, and they’re not too happy with how they’re portrayed in Red Dead Redemption 2.
This probably comes as no surprise to anyone (and especially not to the people still playing the game), but Red Dead Redemption 2 is yet another hit for Rockstar Games. In the first two weeks of sales, RDR2 sold 17 million copies, which is more than the original Red Dead Redemption sold over the entire course of history.
So yeah, the game is making a lot of money. And some people portrayed in the game as perhaps a little villainous are looking to get in on the action by using the courts.
Last December, roughly 2 months after the game’s release, Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations sent a cease and desist letter to Take-Two Interactive, Rockstar’s parent company. In the letter, Pinkerton accused Take-Two of profiting off of their name and demanded undisclosed royalties for the company’s inclusion in Red Dead Redemption 2.
Pinkerton plays quite the pivotal role in RDR2. Andrew Milton and Edgar Ross play Pinkerton agents sent to track down Dutch’s gang. Along the way, they do a bunch of villainous things, like killing several gang members in a brutal firefight.
According to The Verge, Take-Two responded to Pinkerton’s letter by counter-suing, arguing fair use and protection under the first amendment. As a huge part of America’s history (at one point, Pinkerton agents were even hired to protect President-elect Abraham Lincoln), the use of Pinkerton in RDR2 is simply part of the game’s historical setting.
Take-Two further alleged that Pinkerton was simply attempting to steal their profits, arguing that Pinkerton agents have appeared in popular media throughout history. Not only did Pinkerton agents appear in the original Red Dead Redemption, but also in various Western films such as The Long Riders, American Outlaws, The Legend of Zorro, and 3:10 to Yuma. A former Pinkerton agent is the main character in BioShock: Infinite too.
“[Pinkerton] cannot use trademark law to own the past,” states Take-Two in their legal response.
Pinkerton president Jack Zahran fired back at Take-Two with a letter that expanded his complaint to include an inaccurate or unfair portrayal of Pinkerton in RDR2. “Pinkertons are seen shooting horses, shooting guns and firebombs into buildings where women and children are present, and as violent villains in the community. History tells a different story,” Zahran wrote in his letter.
While Pinkerton has proved pivotal throughout American history, it hasn’t always been on the side of right. As government police agencies were adopted, Pinkerton was forced to take security contracts that were used in union-busting strategies in New York and Chicago. One such incident known as the Homestead Strike saw Pinkerton agents cause the deaths of 7 striking workers.
Discussions between Pinkerton and Take-Two are ongoing. No court date has been set.