Developers of the video game Prison Architect have found themselves in breach of international and British law for displaying a red cross on a white background.
The symbol appears in the game as a five-pixel red cross on the hood of ambulances and health packs. However the British Red Cross reportedly contacted the developers (Mark Morris and Chris Delay of Introversion Software) to let them know that the symbol is not in the public domain.
Using it is “restricted under the Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims of 12 August 1949” and “unauthorised use of this sign in the United Kingdom is an offence under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.”
So, turns out that Delay and Morris were not only in breach of international law, but also to British law, as the Geneva Conventions were incorporated into British law in 1957.
The red cross emblem is an internationally agreed symbol of neutrality and protection,” a British Red Cross spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“It helps save lives during armed conflicts by protecting the sick and wounded and those who try to help them in a completely neutral and impartial way. If the emblem is used for other purposes, its special meaning may be diminished; for example, when the emblem is mistakenly used as a generic sign for medical services or ambulances.
Morris and Delay were a bit puzzled about the email and pointed to an instance of 20 years ago, Doom, in which red crosses were put on health packs.
A quick Google search will tell you there are several comic books, video games and movies in which the symbol has been misused.
But Morris and Delay decided to swiftly change the red cross into a green one.
We want to thank Introversion Software for their swift response to our concerns and for removing the red cross emblem from their game,” the Red Cross said.
Policing the issue
It’s not the first time that game developers have been contacted by the Red Cross over the misuse of the symbol.
In 2006, David Pratt of the Canadian Red Cross published a letter on GameLaw.org complaining about the “unauthorised and indeed illegal use of the Red Cross emblem by the gaming industry”.
Halo stopped using the symbol and switched to an “H” after the release of Halo 2 around 2006, according to the Halo wiki.
The emblem is protected by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which also monitors and prohibits its misuse.