Panama's Ex-Dictator Suing Blizzard from Prison

Manuel Noriega is suing Blizzard for using his likeness without his permission in Call of Duty Black Ops II.

Former Panama Dictator Manuel Noriega, who ruled from 1983 to 1989, filed a lawsuit Tuesday from behind bars against Activision Blizzard for using his name and likeness in 2012's Call of Duty: Black Ops II without his permission.

Black Ops II takes place during the US invasion of Panama in 1989 and has him initially helping the player find Raul Menendez, before he turns on you and shows where his allegiance really lies.

Noriega, who is imprisoned for 20 years for human rights violations, claims that COD has him portrayed as “a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” and he was used to "heighten realism in its game …  (translating) directly into heightened sales" of the game. He is suing for lost wages.

It seems that video game developers have been under attack lately by celebrities who feel that their rights have been violated. In June, some college athletes reached a $40 million settlement with EA Sports for the use of their likeness without their permission.  Lindsay Lohan filed a lawsuit against Rockstar Games for the same reason earlier this month for a parody character in Grand Theft Auto V. And last year, Ellen Page took to Reddit about her frustration with The Last of Us for "ripping off her likeness."

I personally can't chastise all game developers who may not intentionally make their characters similar to famous celebrities--you design generic features and it may take on a likeness to someone you admire. However, with something that is an obvious likeness, such as with Noriega, maybe developers should make sure that everyone is okay with it first.

Published Jul. 16th 2014
View Comments
  • Chris_Lemus
    Featured Correspondent
    I'm glad someone did this article. I was thinking about doing this one. Personally having a direct connection to Operation Just Cause, he ironically describes himself pretty correctly. He definitely was a “a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state.”
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    This is definitely not the fault of Blizzard. Activision and Blizzard still operate pretty separately. They just answer to the same owners.

    I like the way Blizzard goes about these things, Activision should take note. For example, there is a character in WoW that is obviously Paris Hilton but they named her Haris Pilton. I mean, how hard can it be to just rename the character in-game, I don't think you can sue if the name is not the same.

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