Right of publicity lawsuits have a reputation for being a little on the dry side.
Unless, of course, said lawsuit involves former dictator of Panama Manuel Noriega, the creators of one of the biggest selling console games of all time, and a dramatic last-minute legal intervention from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Giuluani has bizarrely been drafted in by games publisher Activision Blizzard to counter Noriega’s argument that his likeness should not have been portrayed in “Black Ops II” without his consent, and warn against what could happen to creative rights in the entertainment industry if he is successful in his litigation.
“It would destroy, to a very, very large extent, the creative genre that is historic fiction,” Giuliani said via a video message posted by Activision.
If Noriega’s case is not dismissed, as Activision are pressing for, he says it could “open the floodgates” for scores of recognisable historic figures - like Osama Bin Laden and Fidel Castro - to demand permission and payment for their featuring in films, books, and TV shows, as well as games.
“Accepting Noriega’s claim that a historical figure cannot be portrayed without his consent would chill these and other countless other works — from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Girl with a Pearl Earring,” Activision Blizzard added in a statement
Activision’s attorneys (from Munger, Tolles & Olson and Giuliani’s firm, Bracewell & Giuliani) go on to argue that freedom of expression is more important than protecting the “fruits of artistic labour”. Without this emphasis on the law, historic figures could hold the rights to waiver the rights to write books like “Ragtime” and shoot films like “Midnight in Paris”.
Noriega, who is currently serving a prison sentence in Panama following his ousting as dictator of the country after the US invasion of 1989, started his legal action against Activision in July this year.
He claims he “was portrayed as an antagonist as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorized to use plaintiff’s image and likeness.”
He is accusing Activision of violating his right of publicity, of unjust enrichment and unfair competition.
Activision counter his claims by saying that Noriega “did not build the image he claims the power to control through any ‘artistic labor.’ His notoriety stems entirely from his role in widely known historical events as a dictator and convicted criminal,” Variety reports.
The case will be heard on 16 October in Los Angeles Superior Court.Reuse content