Ratchet & Clank Devs Got in a Legal Spat for Using a Nursery Rhyme In-Game

Ratchet & Clank Devs Got in a Legal Spat for Using a Nursery Rhyme In-Game

Also, his talent for lewd subtitles was enormously under-appreciated.

[Edit: The initial headline for the story implied Insomniac was sued for using "I'm a Little Tea Pot" in-game, but there was no explicit mention of a lawsuit during the panel]

Ratchet & Clank is fun! Nursery rhymes are fun! You know what's not fun? Getting a talking-to from lawyers for using a nursery rhyme in a Ratchet & Clank game. Unfortunately, that's what happened to Insomniac when it wrote "I'm a Little Teapot" into one of Ratchet & Clank's puzzles, only to discover the hard way that the song has a copyright.

There's a set of doors in Ratchet & Clank 3: Quest for Booty on the PlayStation 3 that won't open until you sing at them. "I thought it'd be fun if the doors opened by singing 'I'm a Little Teapot,' it was something silly,'" writer T.J. Fixman said at the "15 Years of 'Ratchet & Clank': A Lombax Story" panel at GDC 2018. "But turns out someone owns the rights to 'I'm a Little Teapot,' and that person has lawyers who got involved. So that became 'Teapot-gate.'"

Good thing there was never a "Happy Birthday" puzzle.

Fixman's lesson is, "Don't assume nursery rhymes are public domain."

Additional controversies chased Fixman later, though unlike Teapot-gate, they weren't born of ignorance. He knew exactly what he was doing when he suggested "4Play" and "Multiple Organisms" as subtitles for Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One on the PlayStation 3.

Unsurprisingly, the lewd names were rejected. Fixman admits it was the fastest 'No' he ever got.

[With reporting by Matt Kim]

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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