Call of Duty Lawsuit: Activision Brands Ex-Panamanian Dictator's Claims as "Frivolous"

Publisher to file a motion attempting to dismiss lawsuit from Manuel Noriega; Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani to defend Activision.

Manuel Noriega in Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Manuel Noriega in Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Activision Blizzard announced today that it plans to file a motion on Monday attempting to dismiss the lawsuit from former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega that claims Activision used his likeness without permission in 2012's Call of Duty: Black Ops II. The Call of Duty company calls the lawsuit "frivolous."

The corporation also announced that former New York City mayor and US Attorney Rudy Giuliani will serve as co-counsel to help defend Activision Blizzard. Giuliani, through his law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, will argue that Noriega's inclusion in Call of Duty: Black Ops II is protected under the first amendment.

"Noriega's attack on the rights of Call of Duty comes as no surprise considering he's a lawless tyrant who trampled over the rights of his own people" -- Rudy Giuliani

"What's astonishing is that Manuel Noriega, a notorious dictator who is in prison for the heinous crimes he committed, is upset about being portrayed as a criminal and enemy of the state in the game Call of Duty. Quite simply, it's absurd," Giuliani said in a statement.

The publisher did not deny that Noriega's likeness had been used.

"I'm not interested in giving handouts to a convicted murderer and drug smuggler like Manuel Noriega who is demanding money from Activision and its popular Call of Duty franchise for simply exercising its right to free speech," he added.

"Noriega's attack on the rights of Call of Duty comes as no surprise considering he's a lawless tyrant who trampled over the rights of his own people."

Activision says the stories in various Call of Duty games, including Black Ops II, are similar to movies and TV shows in that their narratives are often "ripped from headlines" of real-world issues, and often include depictions of real-world people. Fidel Castro also appears in Black Ops II, as does President John F. Kennedy and former US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

The publisher's motion to dismiss the lawsuit is expected to be filed on Monday in the Superior Court of the State of California. Specifically, the publisher says it hopes to have Noriega's complaint dismissed under California's anti-SLAPP statute, which aims to protect freedom of speech.

In addition, Activision argues it is important that the suit be tossed out because if Noriega is successful, it would set a precedent allowing numerous historical and political figures--and their descendants--the right to veto their appearances in numerous forms of art.

Activision says a ruling for Noriega would have a "chilling effect" on movies like Forrest Gump and Zero Dark Thirty, as well as beloved TV shows like Saturday Night Live and Boardwalk Empire. Books like Primary Colors and The Paris Wife would also be adversely affected if Noriega wins the case, Activision says.

Noriega, now 80, was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, until he was ousted. 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."

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.

Giuliani will discuss the case today during a live teleconference this afternoon. Check back later this afternoon for more.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

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