Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Draws Lawsuit from Former Panama Dictator

Former military dictator Manuel Noriega sues Activision for what he says is the "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation, and misappropriation for economic gain" of his image in the 2012 game.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega has launched a lawsuit against Activision over 2012 first-person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops II. According to a report from the Courthouse News Service, Noriega is taking legal action against the megapublisher for the "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation and misappropriation for economic gain" of his image in the popular game.

Noriega was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, until he was ousted. The 80-year-old now lives in Panama. As part of his lawsuit, Noriega claims: "In an effort to increase the popularity and revenue generated by Black Ops II, defendants used, without authorization or consent, the image and likeness of plaintiff in Black Ops II."

Call of Duty: Black Ops II launched in November 2012 and generated $1 billion in revenue in under a month.

Noriega goes on to claim that Black Ops II's portrayal of Noriega depicted him as "the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorized to use plaintiff's image and likeness. This caused plaintiffs to receive profits they would not have otherwise received."

The former dictator goes on to say that Call of Duty: Black Ops II depicts Noriega as a "kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state." He adds in the 13-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court that Activision intentionally chose to feature several nonfiction characters, including Noriega, to "heighten realism" for the game and in turn boost sales.

One mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops II--called Suffer With Me--features protagonists Alex Mason and Frank Woods tracking Noriega to a compound where they eventually capture him. The game also features the likenesses of well-known government people like John F. Kennedy and Robert McNamara (oh, and the band Avenged Sevenfold, too).

"Defendants deliberately and systematically misappropriated plaintiff's likeness to increase revenues and royalties, at the expense of plaintiff and without the consent of plaintiff," the lawsuit claims.

Noriega is represented by Girardi & Keese. He is seeking damages for unjust enrichment, unfair business practices, and violation of common-law publicity rights. In addition, Noriega hopes to collect punitive damages for "lost profits" and other charges, according to the lawsuit.

Noriega is not the first high-profile person to sue over a video game. Earlier this month, actress Lindsay Lohan sued Take-Two Interactive, claiming its subsidiary--Rockstar Games--used her image without permission for the record-breaking open-world game Grand Theft Auto V.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

79 comments
theshonen8899
theshonen8899

Guess what? They also depicted JFK and Nixon as zombie hunters. Guess they should sue over "blatant misuse" of their image too.

BBoySJ
BBoySJ

After two years he woke up.... Like CoD is not popular and he couldnt have known... Wants money out of nothing.... Scumbagg\

cxxal
cxxal

Nice one, actually.

wertyjoao
wertyjoao

the thing that i think its funny and hipcrit at the same time is the man is only deceveing  himself ,he actualy beleives that he was not a mudererer that comitted heinous crimes. he just was . and he spent half of his life in prison for it.

he only wants to earn more money from sueing processes that all. 

mav_destroyer
mav_destroyer

"The 80-year-old now lives in Panama."

I believe he's in prison at the moment, not just casually "living" in Panama.

highpitcairn
highpitcairn

Hell yeah, Make Activision Regret everything.

watchdogsrules
watchdogsrules

see this is why its risky to make games like this and assassin's creed.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

Let me speak for many people that bought the game:

I bought this game because it was a sequel to CoD Black Ops, which was a very good game.

I don't think Noriega was advertised as being in the game (despite tons of CoD ads in various places), I bought the game without knowing he was in it.  

If I had known he was in it prior to buying the game I wouldn't have cared.  I also wouldn't have cared if he wasn't in the game at all.

Reference to him was so little that I even forgot that he was in the game until I read this article.

Heck, the legal defense team could just take a survey of CoD players to see how wild these claims against them are.

johnnycontardo
johnnycontardo

God I hope Activision LOSES the lawsuit.


And they go BANKRUPT and no more Re-hased Call Of Duty titles.


Please, please, please.


Let it be so!

lindallison
lindallison

In other news Hugo Spadafora sues Manuel Noriega for misappropriation of his head for economic gain.

unforgivensheep
unforgivensheep

Well it's the law and they didn't get his permission to use his likeness or name . If it was Charles Manson I would see a huge problem but it's Noriega . If you making a game , Make sure you get permission or at least use a different name and likeness .

PETERAKO
PETERAKO

"blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation, and misappropriation FOR ECONOMIC GAIN"

Bwahahahaha look whos talking. Are you high bro?

EliOli
EliOli

He should be flattered that they thought to include an ugly old dictator like him in the game at all.  He should be paying them.

Suaron_x
Suaron_x

"So now the criminals, they laugh right in our face,

Judicial system lets them do it, a disgrace

Despondent public worries where it will all end...

They have more rights than us, you can not call that just."


--Age of Innocence, Iron Maiden

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

Oh dear were all the riches you stole while dictator not enough to pay the bills for your villa?  Poor guy :(

blackothh
blackothh

Am in the only one rooting for this guy to take a chunk of activision?

vv3rma
vv3rma

and he is sueing cod devs in 2014? he must have a realy big backlog.

i wonder when will he be playing games released in 2014..

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

I know that's the only reason why I bought the game.

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

I don't know what's gotten into me, but I'm actually rooting for this guy to win the case... and after that to rot in hell.

Takeno456
Takeno456

Noriega was a power hungry piece of trash that used violence and drug profits to further his own goals and he is currently rotting in a Panamanian jail. I don't think he has a claim and if he does then it should not count. Murders should not be able to claim payments from anything.

Boonimal23
Boonimal23

There is a fine line here. Because he was a public figure who willingly placed himself in the public sector, he may have inadvertently forfeited any rights to the use of his likeness. This is the same case with presidents of the US.

President Obama's likeness was used for the hope posters and such, but the creators were not required to obtain the rights to use his image.

flyersfan87
flyersfan87

Unlike the Lohan suit, at least he can prove it's actually him in the game. Crazy stuff...

elheber
elheber

Public figures, such as politicians and government leaders, don't have the same right to privacy as the general public. People can put a President Obama lookalike in a TV show and not pay royalties. You can put Putin in your comics. And you can certainly put Noriega in your game.


As for slander... the guy was a certified human-shaped piece of s***. I didn't play the main campaign in BO2, so I don't know what his role is in the story; but the guy was backed by the US. So I'm not sure if the story is accurate or slander.

gwd3987
gwd3987

I thought this guy was still in prison.  Oh and the "numerous fictional crimes" that he is so upset about, well they actually happened. This guy was a dirt bag and he was extradited to Panama from France to face trial for human rights violations.  

For those of you that think he has a strong case, its up to his lawyer and Activision does not have shallow pockets. 

pignugget
pignugget

I think this guy has a strong case. Activision should have just changed the guys name, and his likeness slightly, and they could have avoided this. The bottom line is that games are not real and should not attempt to recreate real life in this way. It skews people view of the truth. Did anyone see the 3D animated short depicting a mayor sexually harassing a female in a park? It was used in court to push the prosecutors case. Even if the guy was a slime ball, 3d renderings which appear to be real should not be used as evidence of what really happened, and peoples likenesses should not be used to sell games... especially if that game is villanizing them.

playstationzone
playstationzone

Well i hope hits Activevision in the teeth than they have to sale the Crash Banicoot  and sony buy it out but Activevision should stop makeing  Call Of Duty games its not war game anymore same go to BF series. EA Games your time will come next.

DamnILoveGames
DamnILoveGames

While he does somewhat have a case, he certainly has his head up his ass to think that him being in the game would make it sell better, simply 'because it's him'. I didn't even know who he was until reading this article.

StHapns247
StHapns247

Imagine the lawsuits if H!tler was still alive.

cxxal
cxxal

@spacecadet25 That's just one of the cards he got. There's more.

Jkouw
Jkouw

@johnnycontardo Even if Activision/Blizzard could go bankrupt, it's almost guaranteed that another publisher would buy the Call of Duty IP. My bet would be on Microsoft.

hystavito
hystavito

@Suaron_x First time I've ever seen Iron Maiden referenced on Gamespot :).

hystavito
hystavito

@blackothh If the evidence is good and the courts decide in his favour, fine.  However in practical terms, I doubt it had any actual effect on revenue.  It could have been a character completely unlike him, and it would have made no difference.

MrFreehuggs
MrFreehuggs

No, I'm sure there are millions of people rooting for a mass murderer just because they are indifferent to Activision.

hystavito
hystavito

@Takeno456 Aren't there laws in the US that prevent criminals from profiting in ways such as movies and such about their crimes?  Of course, I doubt Noriega will be arguing that the crimes depicted in the game are things he really did and so he deserves compensation :).

meatz666
meatz666

@Boonimal23 I doubt Obama wouldn't sue the poster guys if it was Death instead of Hope

Boonimal23
Boonimal23

@elheber i should have read the comment section before I posted. You are absolutely correct. Noriega has no rights to control the use of his image. Libel and slander, however are a different story, but only if what they are saying can't be proved or clashes against the public's perception of him or his character, which i doubt it does.

elheber
elheber

@playstationzone So you're taking the side of a murdering, torturing, oppressive dictator / drug trafficker, instead of Activision because... because Activision is a greedy company?


I'm not sure I can side with you on this. No matter how much I hate EA, no game company is as bad as people who kill people.

Boonimal23
Boonimal23

@meatz666 @Boonimal23 He would have right, because it challenges the public's perception of him and would be detrimental to his professional career. Noriega, however, was a bastard, so as much as he hates how the game portrayed him, it doesn't change or seek to change the public's perception of him and is not entirely off base. Also, it wouldn't be that detrimental to his "career" because #1 he has none, and #2 anyone dealing with him already knew his reputation before entering business with him. 

nl_skipper
nl_skipper


@UncleTrick Why would you expect people to be familiar with every former dictator of the world...?  It's knowledge that's really of no consequence...