Former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega is suing Activision because he believes a character in Call of Duty: Black Ops II uses his image without permission.
While there’s no question that did happen, it’s uncertain whether Noriega — currently in prison in Panama — has the legal right to protect his image in the United States.
Although most of the characters in the game are fictional, some missions do involve real people including former CIA chief David Petraeus and controversial military figure Oliver North.
The game also involves Noriega working with the CIA then turning against the US and the player embarking on a mission to capture him. While Noriega did indeed work for the CIA and then become an enemy who was captured, the nature of his real life split with the US is not so clear-cut.
In a filing in a California court, Noriega complains he was “portrayed as an antagonist and portrayed as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes.” He isn’t bringing a case for defamation however, as it’s certainly questionable whether a court would hold that Noriega’s public perception has much scope remaining to be damaged further.
Instead Noriega says Activision created a false impression that he’d authorized the use of his image. He says that including him in the game made it more realistic and in turn boosted sales and profits.
Specifically Noriega wants damages for “unjust enrichment, unfair business practices, and violation of common-law publicity rights.”
Activision have yet to issue any public comment on the claims. The BBC quotes specialist games lawyer Jas Purewai as saying Noriega may struggle in the case as he’s trying to enforce a legal right that US law only grants to citizens.
The case comes in the same month Lindsay Lohan began legal action against Rockstar, alleging that Grand Theft Auto’s minor character Lacey Jonas was based upon her without permission.