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Call of Duty Lawsuit: Noriega Making Mockery of Legal System, Activision Says

Activision legal team to appear in LA Superior Court next week in a bid to have the former Panamanian dictator's lawsuit tossed out.

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The latest chapter in the ongoing Activision vs. Manuel Noriega lawsuit unfolded this week, as Activision's legal team filed a response to the former Panamanian dictator's opposition, explaining in detail why the publisher believes the lawsuit is "frivolous."

You can read the full response here. The main takeaway is that Activision believes the depiction of Noriega in Call of Duty: Black Ops II is "transformative," meaning that while the game does show Noriega, it does so in a fictional light.

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

Because transformative work--if you can prove that it is--is protected free speech, Activision wants the case tossed out. Noriega's interpretation of transformative use is "flatly wrong," Activision said in its October 8 filing. "Noriega barely acknowledges Activision’s showing, which establishes that the entire Black Ops II game is transformative of Noriega’s name and likeness."

Fighting for Activision is former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is now a partner at Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. He will argue as co-counsel alongside Munger, Tolles, & Olson LLP during an October 16 hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"Manuel Noriega had no more than an inconsequential appearance in Call of Duty and isn't entitled to anything for his role as a brutal dictator," Giuliani said in a statement. "If successful, this case would obliterate the entire genre of historical fiction."

Activision also pointed out today that the plotlines for Call of Duty games, just like movies and TV shows, are often inspired by the headlines of history. Call of Duty: Black Ops II also featured well-known people like Fidel Castro and President John F. Kennedy, among others, though in these instances the depiction comes after their death.

Reiterating its point from last month when Activision originally filed a motion to strike the case, the publisher claimed today that a win for Noriega in this case would be devastating for popular media.

"If successful, Noriega's efforts would give numerous historical and political figures--and their heirs--a veto right over their appearances in works of art, having a chilling effect on everything from movies such as Forrest Gump and Zero Dark Thirty, to TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and Boardwalk Empire, to beloved books such as The Paris Wife, just to name a few," Activision said.

As might be expected, the Entertainment Software Association--which represents the video game industry's interests on Capitol Hill--said today that it supports Activision's stance against Noriega.

"This case is an impermissible, unwarranted, and unconstitutional attack on art," the ESA's Rich Taylor said. "Video games enjoy the same liberties as documentaries, biographies, and biopics. The full canon of entertainment is filled with fictionalized accounts of individuals and events and video games continue that long tradition."

For more on the Activision vs. Noriega case, check out GameSpot's previous coverage of the legal battle.

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