Two high profile lawsuits against video game publishers for allegedly using the plaintiff’s likenesses have caught headlines recently, but now only one remains an open case. Ex-Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega will no longer be able to pursue his case against Activation Blizzard now that a judge has shut him down.
Noriega was offended by developer Treyarch’s portrayal of him in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, believing he was unjustly labeled “as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state,” and he filed lawsuit earlier in July.
Judge William H. Fahey of Los Angeles Superior Court has agreed with Activision’s account that the use of a historical figure in the game is protected under free speech. Activision hired former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to take up its case, and he addressed the decision shortly after it was made.
“This ruling is an important victory and we thank the court for protecting free speech. This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win. This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.”
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick also chimed in with the judge’s decision, echoing his calls for free speech.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the 40 million dedicated members of our Call of Duty community and global audiences who enjoy historical fiction across all works of art. I want to thank Mayor Giuliani, who has dedicated his life to the protection of citizens against terrorists like Manuel Noriega and today for defending free speech.”
And the world continues to spin as it should. As for the other high profile case, Hollywood starlet Lindsay Lohan continues her crusade against Rockstar over the character Lacey Jonas in Grand Theft Auto V, but you really have to wonder if this is just bad timing. Not only is there no way she can win her case with such a sound decision, but now her actions have to be compared to that of an ex-Panamanian dictator’s.
It could even be argued that Noriega had more of a case considering it was actually him in the game, whereas Lohan’s complaints lie with an original character who is a walking compilation of stereotypes her lifestyle just happens to embody.
Regardless, I just hope you learn from this whole episode that you should never go crazy if you become famous. Video game developers have the the right to make fun of you if you do.