$250 million GTA: San Andreas lawsuit fails

Appeals court judge denies supposed Cypress Hill backup singer's claims that Rockstar used his likeness as model for CJ character.

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Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two Interactive has won a lawsuit over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, writes The Hollywood Reporter. An appellate court judge on Wednesday denied supposed Cypress Hill backup singer Michael "Shagg" Washington's claims that Rockstar used his life story and physical appearance as a basis for protagonist Carl "CJ" Johnson. Cypress Hill denies any association with Washington.

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Washington sued Take-Two in 2010 for $250 million, alleging that during the course of the game's development, he met with Rockstar to discuss details regarding his former life as a gang member. He even provided the company with a photo of himself and his name appears in the GTA: San Andreas credits.

However, a judge did not find this to be enough, and a California appeals court has concurred. Washington's principal problem was that he could not prove it was his likeness that appeared in San Andreas. The judge said, "Plaintiff is relying entirely on CJ's physical appearance in the game, but that appearance is so generic that it necessarily includes hundreds of other black males."

Additionally, the judge ruled that even if Rockstar did base CJ on Washington, it would have been protected as transformative fair use. This is an argument based on the fact that the First Amendment allows existing materials, including images, to be used so long as they are amended enough for a new purpose.

"Washington has presented no evidence demonstrating that the plot or characters of GTA: San Andreas have any relevance to his life or his purported fame," a statement from the decision reads.

[CORRECTION] According to a tweet from Cypress Hill, Washington is not affiliated with the band. GameSpot regrets the error.

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