One of the most feared men in Hollywood has begun what is believed to be the world's first legal action over the content of an iPhone application. Ari Emanuel, a wheeler-dealer so vaunted that his clients include Ben Affleck, Christian Bale, Robert De Niro and Keira Knightley, has seen an iPhone game called Super Agent, noted that its less than morally scrupulous lead character bears his own name, and set the legal hounds on its creator, a small computer programmer from Dublin.
Mr Emanuel, who famously inspired Ari Gold, the foul-mouthed agent of the TV series Entourage, has turned the full force of his lawyers on Oisin Hanrahan, an Irish technology entrepreneur whose start-up firm, Factory Six, developed the iPhone game based on the entertainment industry.
His complaint is simple: Mr Emanuel claims the game, in which players adopt the persona of a highly strung Hollywood "ten-percenter" who happens to be called Ari, was crudely inspired by his own career. His lawyers are therefore demanding that Factory Six withdraws it. The dispute has persuaded Apple to halt sales of Super Agent from its store, pending further investigation.
"The game uses the name 'Ari' for the main character, which clearly is a reference to Mr Emanuel, the co-chief executive officer of WME, one of the world's premier talent agencies," reads the original cease-and-desist letter. "[It] clearly intends to capitalise on using Mr Emanuel's and WME's names for the game and possibly mislead the public into thinking that Mr Emanuel and/or WME endorse the game – effectively trading off the goodwill, reputation and fame established by our clients."
Factory Six denies basing its game on Mr Emanuel, and says that Ari was chosen for its protagonist's name because the success of the TV series Entourage, which lifts a lid on power-broking in the film industry, has made it synonymous with the profession. Mr Hanrahan said yesterday: "The name has come to represent Hollywood, and the whole idea of Hollywood, rather than a particular person. We're a very small firm, of just three people, and since Apple pulled it we have had no income."
In 2002, Mr Emanuel's previous company made headlines when it was sued for sexual harassment by a female employee called Sandra Epstein, who claimed that daily life there involved pot-smoking, bullying and sexual frolics on desks. That case was eventually settled on undisclosed terms.
Undeterred, Factory Six says that it will soon launch an iPhone game based on pretending to be the President of the United States. By coincidence, the current holder of that job boasts Rahm Emanuel, Ari's brother, as his chief-of-staff. "I hope he takes it better," Mr Hanrahan said.
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