Friday, 15 August 2014
Video games are becoming increasingly realistic and many include real-life people. Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, was featured in Call of Duty: Black Ops II. This game, released in 2012, features a character bearing Noriega’s name and likeness. In this game, that character helps the CIA to capture a terrorist but later turns against the agency. Noriega said that the game portrayed him as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state, and that it had damaged his reputation. Noriega disapproves of the way his image was used, adding that it may create the impression that he had given his permission for it, when he had not.
Oliver North is also featured in the game, but his own voice has been used for his character, presumably indicating his consent to be portrayed in the game. Noriega however said that he had been neither consulted beforehand nor subsequently compensated. He further deplored that the game used his image and name to make money and therefore requested a share of the profits the game has generated. To this end he filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against Activision Blizzard, the game company.
In the USA, there is a right to publicity, as established in Vanna White v Samsung Electronics (1993) where television personality Vanna White sued Samsung for using traits of her personality in one of their adverts, without her permission. Samsung had created a robot with a wig, gown and jewellery suggestive of Vanna White. The case reached the 9th Circuit, where she was eventually awarded damages on the basis that her right of publicity had been infringed. Noriega may seek to rely on this authority to pursue his case. There appears to be an uncontested clear portrayal of him, through the use of his name and physical traits.
Manuel Noriega was indicted in the United States and sentenced there. However, he was extradited to Panama to serve the rest of sentence in 2011. The Kats will all be watching to see how this action will proceed.