Rudy Giuliani Says Call of Duty Lawsuit Could "Open the Floodgates" If Noriega Wins
"There's a lot riding on this," Rudy Giuliani says.
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If former Panama director Manuel Noriega is successful in his lawsuit against Activision Blizzard over Call of Duty: Black Ops II, it could "open the floodgates" for others to come forward and sue entertainment creators. This could put the entire historical fiction genre in jeopardy.
That's according to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose legal team is working on Activision's side to defend the company from Noriega's claim that the developer used Noriega's likeness without permission. During a conference call this afternoon, Giuliani outlined the reasons why he thinks Noriega's lawsuit against Activision Blizzard is "absurd," a term he repeated frequently.
"For me, this case is a very important case because it is extremely damaging from the point of view of an attack on free speech," he said. "Video games are entitled to exactly the same protection as movies and books, under the first amendment."
This case would "open the floodgates to numerous historical figures, infamous and otherwise, to bring lawsuits against video games, movies, and books in which they are mentioned," Giuliani said.
Giuliani pointed out that if Noriega wins this case, it would allow Osama Bin Laden's heirs to sue over his depiction in the 2012 movie Zero Dark Thirty.
"It could create a terrible precedent that could go well beyond just video games and extend to movies and books" -- Giuliani
He went on to call Noriega "one of the most evil men of our generation," and said he is "outraged" that Noriega would launch this lawsuit against Activision when he himself has been charged with drug-trafficking, murder, and torture. "That's just absurd," he said.
Noriega is seeking unspecified damages in his lawsuit against Activision, but Giuliani says Noriega has already profited--and substantially so--from dealings with the United States.
"Noriega has already extracted hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, out of the United States in drug money. I can tell you that from my experience as associate attorney general and United States attorney in the 1980s. To allow [Noriega] to seek millions of dollars in damages that he can take down to his Panamanian prison is an outrage. That's why we are defending this case with great vigor."
Giuliani stressed again and again during the call that "there's a lot riding on this" case because of the precedent it could set.
"It could create a terrible precedent that could go well beyond just video games and extend to movies and books," he said. "It could also put in jeopardy the whole genre of historical fiction," which Giuliani described as a "very important" art form, and one his personal favorites.
"This is not a person who was the victim of a crime, who just got thrust into the public spotlight," Giuliani said. "This is a man who, through his activities, some of the most heinous activities in history, made himself one of the most infamous people in the world."
Free speech is at the crux of this case, and Giuliani maintains that this case could have wide-ranging implications of Noriega is successful. "On the free speech aspect of this, there is a great deal at stake. There is a great deal at stake not only for the video game business, but also for the movie and for the book business because the broad nature of the principle involved. That's the reason why such seriousness is being given to this [case]."
Though Giuliani did admit that Noriega does appear in Black Ops II, he stressed that he is shown in the game in fictional circumstances, which is a major point to consider, he says. "In other words, the scenarios that he's put in, are fictional. They're works of art. They're created by the author. This is creative fiction, where he is the historical figure, but it is not a depiction of what he actually did."
Noriega's depiction in Black Ops II is "transformative," Giuliani argues. This means he is being put in a fictional light. And if the court finds that Noriega is being used in Black Ops II in a transformative way, then his use in the game will be covered under the first amendment, Giuliani says.
Giuliani went on to say that Noriega is not even a significant part of Black Ops II. He is one of 45 or more characters that appear in the title, and he's only seen in two sections. In the overall Black Ops II experience--encompassing all of the game's modes--players only interact with Noriega for one percent of the time. If Black Ops II were a movie, Noriega's name would be listed at the very end of the credits sequence, he said. And, Giuliani doesn't buy Noriega's assertion that Activision put him in the game to boost sales.
"It's offensive, it's absurd, and I very much hope that the judge dismisses the case" -- Giuliani
"When you hear about this lawsuit and you think about it, the impression is, 'Oh my goodness, Noriega must be a very big part of this.' And the fact is that Noriega is not a very big part of this Call of Duty video game. He is a bit player. Most importantly, he's not even advertised as a featured player in the game. In other words, he hasn't been used to market the game in any way."
Overall, Giuliani described the Activision vs. Noriega case as one of "good vs. evil." In closing, he took one more jab at Noriega and stressed the good Activision has done in establishing the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit that helps military veterans find civilian careers.
"For all of those reasons, we believe this is a very, very important case," he said. "And we believe this is a classic case of evil vs. good. This is an evil man, I don't think that's at all an exaggeration, suing a company that is a good company; a company that employs 7,500 people, that's given millions of dollars to veterans' causes, that's help to find jobs for over 5,000 veterans."
"It's offensive, it's absurd, and I very much hope that the judge dismisses the case," he added.
Earlier today, Activision filed a motion in California Supreme Court to have the case dismissed. But Giuliani acknowledged that there are no guarantees of dismissal and he is prepared to fight the lawsuit however he needs to. Giuliani also confirmed during the call that though he has never played Black Ops II himself, he has witnessed the scenes where Noriega is featured.
Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
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