Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Panama Dictator Suing Activision

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, you may know him as the mayor with the best name ever, and his law firm are joining Activision in a legal fight against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, whom is suing the game company over the use of his likeness in CoD: Black Ops 2.

Noriega, who is currently in prison for a multitude of charges ranging from trafficking, drug possession, to murder, claims that the game used his image and depicted him as an "enemy of the state" without his consent. Giuliani argues that if the dictator's claim is upheld in court, it could set a precedent for all media and historical figures: i.e. their heirs could have veto powers over every instance of their use. Ever. No more Abe Lincoln movies for us. He also doesn't want the dictator to prosper while in jail. The man was convicted of murder, after all.

Activision is arguing for free speech protection. The company has used many historical figures in their games before, such as John F. Kennedy. Fidel Castro hasn't raised a finger about his depiction. Noriega is in the game aiding the primary villain, but only appears for a few moments and was never included in any of the game's marketing material. Honestly, you'd have to know who the guy is for gamers to have paid attention.

This isn't a new area for Activision. No Doubt sued them over their music series when their in-game avatars were allowed to perform other songs, when they believed they were to only be available to players for No Doubt music. They're still in a feud with Axel Rose about the appearance of Slash in Guitar Hero 3. Why? Well Rose contends that in an agreement (though none can physically be found), Slash or his band Velvet Revolver were not be allowed as a playable character at all. That case was thrown out, but Rose is still going through appeals.

Because Noriega is considered a historical figure in this instance, Activision has a stronger case. Particularly when you tag on "fantasy" to Call of Duty and present it as such, their defense will hedge on how well Noriega's attorney can argue that the use of his client's likeness was done with the intent to harm.

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