Pinkertons Threaten Rockstar With Legal Action Over Portrayal In Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is widely regarded as a fairly accurate representation of the southwestern United States in the late nineteenth century. However, one group is not pleased with Rockstar’s depiction of the wild wild west. The Pinkerton Incorporation is suing Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two.

The Pinkertons filed a cease and desist order this past December and contended that Rockstar had no right to use the Pinkerton name in the game. They insisted that Take-Two either pay royalties or settle outside of court. They are particularly frustrated that they “are used as villains, hunting the game's protagonists.”

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Rockstar and Take-Two have responded to the Pinkertons by filing an injunction with the New York District Court. Rockstar argued that its work is supported by the First Amendment and that the Pinkertons “cannot use trademark law to own the past and prevent creators from including historical references.” They also noted that other creators have referenced the Pinkertons in their work.

The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was established in the United States in 1850 by Scotsman Allan Pinkerton. The organization was created to help large businessmen keep an eye on their employees. They also aided the United States Department of Justice in the 1870’s. The Pinkertons are well known for their participation in the infamous Homestead Strike at Andrew Carnegie’s steel mill in Pennsylvania and their involvement in the Haywood Trial. Today the Pinkertons mainly focus on protection services.

allan pinkerton library of congress
Photograph of Allan Pinkerton, Abraham Lincoln, and Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand at the Battle of Antietam. Image from the Library of Congress

Red Dead Redemption 2 is not the first form of media to include the Pinkertons. They have been popular in everything from novels to films. They most recently made appearances in Damnation, Deadwood, Ripper Street, Penny Dreadful, and BioShock Infinite.

Perhaps Red Dead Redemption 2 is the most lucrative medium to reference the Pinkertons. The game experienced the largest opening weekend in entertainment history and made over $725 million USD within three days of its release. The royalties from this game would generate a significant sum of money, especially if it is soon released on PC. We will simply need to wait to see whether the Pinkertons or Rockstar comes out on top.