Grand Theft Auto maker claims pulled ads breached free speech

Take Two Interactive Software publishes the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) games, which are designed by an Edinburgh-based team. Violent content has made it one of the most controversial series of games ever.

The suit accuses the Chicago Transit Authority of withdrawing adverts for the game without explanation. The adverts were due to appear for six weeks on the sides of buses and in display areas throughout the transport system. The first ads appeared on 22 April.

Take Two had signed a $300,000 deal with the Transit Authority for the display of the adverts and is seeking at least that sum in monetary damages as well as a court order forcing the Authority to run the ads, news agency Reuters said.

US television news station Fox News had run stories asking why the Authority had allowed the ads to run when there had been a number of violent crimes in the Chicago area.

The GTA games centre on car crime, organised crime, beatings and prostitution, with the player taking over the character of a low level player in organised crime.

Though controversial and the subject of calls for bans because of their supposed immorality by a number of critics, the games have also been praised widely for their sophistication and the aesthetic and technical virtuosity behind their creation.

The latest version of GTA, GTA 4, was released last week. It is one of the most popular computer games in the world and some analysts expect its sales in its first week to beat the record for first week sales set last year by Halo 3, which earned $300 million in a week.