Activision Scores Call of Duty Legal Victory, As Noriega's Lawsuit Dismissed

"This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we're gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn't win," Rudy Giuliani says.

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Noriega in Black Ops II (2012)
Noriega in Black Ops II (2012)

Activision won't have Call of Duty legal proceedings hanging over its head next week when it launches Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. A California Superior Court judge today tossed out former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's lawsuit against the publisher, wherein Noriega claimed Activision used his name and likeness without permission in 2012's Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Activision never shied away from acknowledging that Noriega did in fact appear in Black Ops II. But the publisher maintained from the beginning that the depiction of Noriega in Black Ops II represents "transformative" use, and is thus protected free speech under the First Amendment.

"This ruling is an important victory and we thank the court for protecting free speech" -- Rudy Giuliani

Defending Activision in the courtroom battle was former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. Co-counsel Kelly Klaus of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP also argued on Activision's behalf in the case.

"This ruling is an important victory and we thank the court for protecting free speech," Giuliani said in a statement today. "This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we're gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn't win. This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world."

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick even chimed in on the ruling, thanking Giuliani, and declaring the decision "a victory for the 40 million dedicated members of our Call of Duty community."

"I want to thank Mayor Giuliani, who has dedicated his life to the protection of citizens against terrorists like Manuel Noriega and today for defending free speech," he added.

Activision said early on in the legal proceedings that it strongly believed that Noriega didn't have a leg to stand on in this case. But the publisher fought so vigorously to have it tossed out because it claimed a win for Noriega could "open the floodgates" for other historical figures to sue over their depictions in games, movies, TV shows, and books. Giuliani even said that had Noriega won the case, Osama Bin Laden's heirs may have been able to successfully sue the producers of Zero Dark Thirty.

Following his ouster as Panama's dictator in 1989, Noriega was arrested for money laundering and drug trafficking in 1992. He has been in prison in Panama since 2011. But in July, his legal team filed a lawsuit against Activision, accusing the publisher of "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation, and misappropriation for economic gain" of his image in the 2012 shooter--which has generated over $1 billion in sales to date.

A representative for Noriega's legal team told GameSpot: "At this time as we are still reviewing the Order and conferring with our client to determine how we will proceed."

Though the Noriega vs. Activision legal battle may be over, another high-profile video game lawsuit is just heating up. Mean Girls actress Lindsay Lohan is suing Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive over Grand Theft Auto V, saying the open-world game used her likeness without permission. Lohan recently released a trove of images that she claims support her position.

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