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The Courts Games

Manuel Noriega Sues Activision Over Call of Duty 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
mrspoonsi sends this BBC report: Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, is suing Call of Duty's video games publisher. The ex-military ruler is seeking lost profits and damages after a character based on him featured in Activision's 2012 title Black Ops II. The 80-year-old is currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes committed during his time in power, including the murder of critics. One lawyer said this was the latest in a growing trend of such lawsuits. "In the U.S., individuals have what's called the right to publicity, which gives them control over how their person is depicted in commerce including video games," explained Jas Purewal, an interactive entertainment lawyer. "There's also been a very well-known action by a whole series of college athletes against Electronic Arts, and the American band No Doubt took action against Activision over this issue among other cases. "It all focuses upon the American legal ability for an individual to be only depicted with their permission, which in practice means payment of a fee. "But Noriega isn't a US citizen or even a resident. This means that his legal claim becomes questionable, because it's unclear on what legal basis he can actually bring a case against Activision."
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Manuel Noriega Sues Activision Over Call of Duty

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  • Questionable? (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @02:25PM (#47469377)

    But Noriega isn't a US citizen or even a resident. This means that his legal claim becomes questionable, because it's unclear on what legal basis he can actually bring a case against Activision.

    Emphasis mine.

    I think we're done here.

  • Questionable? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @02:35PM (#47469487)

    Why is that? Do you think that US laws only protect US citizens? I don't think so, lest it would be legal to rob and murder tourists.

    Activision, as US company, committed the act. They are bound by US laws. Therefore the law applies.

  • Re:Questionable? (Score:5, Informative)

    by msauve (701917) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @03:13PM (#47469877)
    Odd, since the US has said that US laws do apply to Noriega [bc.edu], even when the person and crime are not on US soil.
  • by Shoten (260439) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @03:20PM (#47469931)

    Doesn't the US have a law that makes it illegal for a criminal to profit from their crimes in this manner? I know serial killers can't sell their life story rights for a movie or a book.

    Doesn't that same law apply here?

    No, it doesn't. In this case, what he'd be getting paid for has nothing to do with his crimes whatsoever. This isn't about him having sold the rights to his life story, it's about a video game using his likeness and name in a fictitional manner without paying for the right to leverage his public image. Also, it can also be posited (debate whether it's valid or not) that some may believe that some components of the video game have a basis in real life, and thus it would be a form of libel as well. Though, speaking for myself, I'm not sure what about the game was so bad that it'd be worse than what the truth was.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @03:37PM (#47470079)

    This has come up before in similar cases and the celebrity loses unless their image is used in a way that misleads consumers by implying endorsement of the product.
    For a video game example, see James "Jim" Brown v. Electronic Arts, Inc. Also, Tiger Woods' agent sued regard a painting featuring the golfer, and lost, in ETW Corp. v. Jireh Publishing. Alyssa Milano's mom, Lin Milano, contacted us about her daughter's "right of publicity" 20 years ago and we found we could tell her to take a hike.

    Absent defamation, the celebrity's name and image is protected in a way very similar to a trademark. (In common law jurisdictions, almost _exactly_ like a trademark). You can't sell "Britney Spears" brand headphones without permission, because that would imply that the singer endorses the product, misleading consumers. You CAN sell a comic book titled "Britney Spears is a stupid slut" because nobody will think Ms. Spears endorsed that.

    Of course there can be other causes of action if someone does something else bad and also happens to be using a celebrity's image as well, but it usually comes down to implied endorsement. Laws do vary from one state to another.

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