Above: Manuel Noriega’s character in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Image Credit: Activision
Call of Duty games make $1 billion within a few weeks of launch every year. That’s no doubt one reason why former Panama military dictator Manuel Noriega sued Activision Blizzard for using his image without paying him royalties in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Activision Blizzard said in a press release today that it will file a motion to dismiss the “frivolous” lawsuit by “former dictator and convicted murderer Manuel Noriega.” Former New York City Mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who is now a partner at Bracwell & Giuliani, will serve as co-counsel and defend the company on the grounds that Noriega’s depiction in Call of Duty is a protected right to free speech.
“What’s astonishing is that Manuel Noriega, a notorious dictator who is in prison for the heinous crimes he committed, is upset about being portrayed as a criminal and enemy of the state in the game Call of Duty. Quite simply, it’s absurd,” said Giuliani, in a statement. “I’m not interested in giving handouts to a convicted murderer and drug smuggler like Manuel Noriega who is demanding money from Activision and its popular Call of Duty franchise for simply exercising its right to free speech. Noriega’s attack on the rights of Call of Duty comes as no surprise considering he’s a lawless tyrant who trampled over the rights of his own people.”
Activision said that the stories in the Call of Duty franchise, like many movies and television shows, are ripped from headlines. From the Cold War to World War II and the advanced soldiers featured in the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the game is fictional, but is grounded in reality. Call of Duty regularly features characters that are ruthless dictators and iconic villains, such as Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega, as well as vaunted heroes such as President John F. Kennedy.
The company said the motion to dismiss will be filed this morning in the Superior Court of the State of California. It seeks to dismiss the complaint under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, a state provision enacted to protect freedom of speech against spurious lawsuits.
Activision argued that, if successful, Noriega’s efforts would give numerous historical and political figures – and their heirs – a veto right over their appearances in works of art, having a chilling effect on movies such as Forrest Gump and Zero Dark Thirty, TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and Boardwalk Empire, and beloved books such as Primary Colors and The Paris Wife.
Activision (Activision Blizzard) is an American video game developer and publisher headquartered in Santa Monica, CA, but now operating worldwide. It was the first independent developer and distributor of video games for gaming consol… read more »
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