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Red Cross symbol, War Crimes & Video Games

kat · 1 · 11584

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Offline kat

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[Enemy Territory med packs]

There is a valid rationale behind the Red Cross issuing Notices of removal to developers using  the red cross symbol without permission, it goes a little like this (courtesy of the British Red Cross [emphasis added below]);
Both emblems [Red Cross and Red Crescent] have two purposes:
  • to protect sick and wounded victims of war, and those authorised to care for them
  • to indicate that the person or object on which the emblem is displayed is connected with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent   Movement.
To fulfil these purposes, the emblems must be trusted absolutely to signify neutrality and protection. That is why their unauthorised use is forbidden in international and national law. The names “Red Cross” and “Red Crescent” have the same legal protection.

This appears little know, a failing not helped by the apparent ubiquity the red cross symbol seems to appear in popular culture and entertainment (movies, TV and video games in particular), it is literally everywhere (which doesn't necessarily mean its use is wholly unauthorised).

With this in mind, the good news for developers is that barring the restrictions on specific symbols - ostensibly a cross, crescent and diamond (referred to as the 'red crystal') - other variants are usable[1] as the protections only apply to  RED version of the aforementioned shown over a WHITE background.

To be on the safe side, game developers, individuals and indies in particular, should contact their regional Red Cross outlet to check on usage before publishing as the laws (and punishments[2]) governing use vary slightly - this may mean broader research if release is to more than local territories.

- Protecting the Emblems in peacetime: the experiences of the British Red Cross Society (ICRC)
- The history of the emblems (ICRC)
- The emblem of a red cross (British Red Cross)
- Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (UK specific although some considerations do apply Internationally).

[1] in the UK under §6 (1) (a) - (f) & (2) (a) - (d) of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, other, less common, symbols are also protected, for example "an equilateral blue triangle on, and completely surrounded by, an orange ground", so care should be taken to not inadvertently use graphics that replicate, or are similar in appearance, to protected insignia as could possible confuse a reasonable person.

[2] the nature of the protections afforded symbols associated with the Red Cross don't actually make unauthorised use immediately a "war crime" as reported in some media outlets, although it is an offense that may mean the individual being subject to summary conviction - in the UK at least (§6 (3) - (5)).