Rudy Giuliani Says Call of Duty Lawsuit Could "Open the Floodgates" If Noriega Wins

"There's a lot riding on this," Rudy Giuliani says.

240 Comments

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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.

No Caption Provided

"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

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Join the conversation
There are 240 comments about this story
240 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for HunterAlpha1
HunterAlpha1

If I saw my likeness in a video game, good guy or bad guy, with or without my permission, I'd be thrilled to death!

Avatar image for killedbyzack
killedbyzack

"Panama director"? Geez Gamespot..

Avatar image for LE5LO
LE5LO

<< LINK REMOVED >> lol, classic that nobody noticed that for over a month.

Avatar image for PfizersaurusRex
PfizersaurusRex

Really? 80s Panama dictator was evil? Did he ask the elders in the GOP if they're ok with that statement? :D

Avatar image for Keitha313
Keitha313

So what this senile old tool is telling us is that If you're deemed a bad guy by biased Western media propaganda we should be allowed to use your life like image without being granted permission and to suffer no repercussions for doing so?

What is the point of having rules, seriously you can't say what this old fool on that video is saying its wrong in every way so why should the creators of this CoD not ask for permission?

Maybe if they did they'd have got two sides to the story instead of believing everything others want them to believe.

They'd definitely would be asking for permission to put the likes of P-Diddy, Bill Gates or any big name for that matter.

Avatar image for killedbyzack
killedbyzack

<< LINK REMOVED >> What he's saying is that according to the constitution, famous, or infamous figures are fair game. The supreme court upheld that notion. You need to watch The People Vs Larry Flynt. It would be a scary world to live in where we had to live in constant fear of what we say or portray about famous/infamous figures.

Avatar image for Keitha313
Keitha313

deleted

Avatar image for SpicaAntares
SpicaAntares

Noriega was put in power with Washington's green light and kept there as a 'friend'. He could do whatever pleased him because he was one of 'ours'. He was on CIA's payroll to the end. He only got removed by his 'employer' when he stopped taking orders from his masters in Washington and align Panana with other Central American countries. The problem here is that most Americans never open any books and only educate themselves through TV's propaganda.

Funny that on one hand he is hailed as a monster for his little deeds while no one says a word about the president who invaded Panama and killed thousands in the process, to kidnap a foreign leader on false pretenses. Nor the other one and his "weapons of mass destruction" no one ever found. How many suffered, how many died, as a result of these wars on Irak?

Avatar image for killedbyzack
killedbyzack

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's not about that. It's about free speech, no matter what the backstory.

Avatar image for LE5LO
LE5LO

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Great comments. Love the irony of Guiliani saying he loves "Historical Fiction", reminds me a lot of what we were told around/after September 11th, 2001, FEMA saying it was safe for people to return to New York the next day, now so many have died from exposure to the toxins that were still in the air, so many things about that day that get me nostalgic about "Historical Fiction". Watch 'The Pentacon', look into the Shanksville no crash, etc. Damn Guiliani, the bush admin, FEMA, the FBI. So much seemingly "Historical Fiction" we've been fed as 'truths' that lack evidence.

I hope Guiliani wins this for Activision, but personally, the guy and Activision can get screwed, Activision mostly fill children's minds with the same repetitive rubbish on a yearly basis, and he basically screwed the citizens and fire-fighters of New York circa 9-11-2001.

Avatar image for dragoonmike
dragoonmike

<< LINK REMOVED >> also when they did not find any weapons of mass destruction they changed tactic's and started calling it operation Iraq freedom

Avatar image for killedbyzack
killedbyzack

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> You idiot, watch the news. It just came out that they did find them and it wasn't made public.

Avatar image for darthchronik77
darthchronik77

<< LINK REMOVED >> You mean "Iraq".

Avatar image for blindley
blindley

<< LINK REMOVED >> Well, it's a foreign word. It's been spelled both ways. Personally, I prefer Irak. q is a redundant letter that shouldn't exist anyway.

Avatar image for OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

I can't put Hollywood celebrities in my game so why shouldn't another person be able to fight having their likeness used... regardless of how evil his actions were, you shouldn't be able to use someones likeness without their premission. Why should a celebrity have their likeness protected but not someone else?

Avatar image for will_no
Will_No

And Giuiliani was asked about this because?


Doesn't he have some old ladies to whack for their pension funds, or some other type of crooked stuff to be doing?

Avatar image for LE5LO
LE5LO

<< LINK REMOVED >> lmao

Avatar image for DerdOn2008
DerdOn2008

<< LINK REMOVED >> You can read, right?

"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<< LINK REMOVED >>."

That's why he was asked...

Avatar image for will_no
Will_No

@DerdOn2008 @will_no


Can you?


You've obviously never heard of the 5 W's of journalism. This article nor the part you pasted explains the 'why', only the 'what'.

Avatar image for hordicus
hordicus

time to give this scum what he deserve: black ops style elimination

Avatar image for Keitha313
Keitha313

<< LINK REMOVED >> Oh yeah like a fictional death on a video game will bother him, I wish him all the best and I hope he succeeds with his lawsuit.

Rules are set for a reason and biased shouldn't be factored into it.

Avatar image for musalala
musalala

"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<< LINK REMOVED >> as movies and books, under the first amendment."


This is all that needs to be said really

Avatar image for MALEVOLENT312
MALEVOLENT312

Noriega was a puppet of George H.W. Bush and when Noriega got too big for his bridge, they took him down.

Avatar image for CaveManCobb
CaveManCobb

This murderer, drug lord, dictator is worried that the game would ruin his reputation. He wasn't a kidnapper, people. I can see where he is coming from. *sarcasm mode off*

Avatar image for trotz75
trotz75

What a bloated article! Some points were made 5 times! And ain't putting it in the news giving him undeserved media attention? Don't turn him into news because he will think that people give a rats ass about what he does! Guys a joke!!

Avatar image for deviltaz35
DEVILTAZ35

Still it is dangerous portraying real life people in any circumstance without their permission. I would have thought Activision would have more intelligence than this to begin with. Were the lawyers sleeping on the job that day?

Avatar image for NineteenthCross
NineteenthCross

I can't think of a single human being on this planet that wouldn't enjoy getting paid for their name and likeness in this day and age.

Maybe back then it's absurd, but hey we've turned other criminals , murderers, scalawags and other ne'er-do-wells into into millionaires. Look at Rudy . Gets off scott free with blatant ethics violations, sets up corporations with deals that damaged the state in the long run and gets to sit back and declare other people evil and getting web hits AND free publicity?


Man where do I sign up?

Avatar image for MuffintopX
MuffintopX

This has 0 chance of winning, Rudy just gets to have fun running his mouth and pulling the Bin Laden card.

Avatar image for gatsbythepig
gatsbythepig

An article that's actually interesting? On Gamespot? From Makuch?


I don't feel well

Avatar image for Anigmar
Anigmar

Criminals asking for money is just outrageous. Noriega was a cruel and ruthless dictator who had no problem torturing and killing anyone. You can't let this kind of garbage ask for money. The moment he committed those terrible acts he lost his rights.

Avatar image for NineteenthCross
NineteenthCross

<< LINK REMOVED >>


One man's dictator is another man's hero.

One man's hero is another man's victim.

One man's victim is another man's savior.

One man's savior is another man's dictator.


If you look at things without taking sides, it's all funny in the end.

Avatar image for Keitha313
Keitha313

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Great point, always two sides to the story.

Avatar image for E-Major
E-Major

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> If you are one of the people who has lost a loved one to a would be dictator/hero/victim/savior then it ceases to remain funny.

Avatar image for futureops
futureops

A criminal is seeking millions and millions of dollars from manipulators who has billions so I DONT CARE.

Avatar image for daabulls23
daabulls23

<< LINK REMOVED >> Except you should, because it would create an unpleasant precedent.

Avatar image for surferosh
surferosh

Lindsay Lohan tried her luck too.. and see where that got her..

Avatar image for Keitha313
Keitha313

<< LINK REMOVED >> She didn't have a case because Rockstar used a model who happened to look a tiny, tiny bit like her (before she became a drug addict) using someone who looks like you for a front cover?

Its not really the same thing.

CoD have admitted to using this guys likeness that is the difference they have no fall back plan, they were morons and they deserve to be punished for complete disregard to the laws we all follow.

Avatar image for futureops
futureops

<< LINK REMOVED >> Lindsay was right, she should have won't the lawsuit - << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for The_Gump
The_Gump

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> That was hilarious.

Avatar image for futureops
futureops

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Sorry for the spelling mistake :(

Avatar image for twocs
twocs

Can we use other famous or infamous people in our games. For example, maybe we should include a mayor of New York nicknamed "Rudy" who reopens business early after a terrorist attack, without respirators as required by law, an action which causes everyone in New York to be exposed to the carcinogens. And also add in a few other disparaging remarks because he is a terrible person who repeatedly worked to prevent the family of victims from recovering financial settlements. Would it be ok to put it in my video game? Just a bit of hyperbole never hurt, right?

Avatar image for twocs
twocs

All that being said, obviously Noriega will lose the case. He must prove that the game somehow injured his reputation. He must prove the game included lies about him with malice.

Yet this clown was in jail for decades for murder, drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. It's just impossible to libel him, as he has not got any quality of character to strip away. He was portrayed as “a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state” and he served jail terms for exactly those things. Even though this game sought to be as historic as possible, it was not wrong about its depiction and it didn't lie with malice.


Nothing in the results of the case could change common law for future lawsuits; that's just Rudy barking up the wrong tree. This is a convicted murderer, imprisoned in Panama for crimes against his own state, one of the most hated and despised dictators. To present a fairly accurate depiction without malice has been found not libel by the Supreme Court.

Avatar image for made_u_look
made_u_look

Not a fan of Noriega, Activision, or Rudy. But I agree on the topic that this is a frivolous lawsuit. And should be thrown out, if not it would open the floodgates for all the sensitive mental midgets out there. I mean I'm surprised Anita hasn't filed a lawsuit.

Avatar image for thunderborne
Thunderborne

This is a complicated matter, but Noriega has a weak case. The reason is that the freedom of artistic expression under free speech laws trumps over personality rights. Thus, alternative history novels, parodies, and fictional appropriations of individuals are permissible and protected under the First Amendment. For that reason you can plant Tom Cruise and Oprah impersonators in Scary Movie or have Napolean's physical appropriation in video games.

The only time you run into trouble for using somebody's physical appropriation often involves one these three examples: (1) when you give a false impression that the personality is endorsing your work or has participated in some capacity in its creation when he/she has not; (2) if the work is presented as absolutely factual and has libelous material; (3) if the work is an unauthorized copy of another work or has been acquired illegally. There are other issues like trademarked names and invasion of privacy, but none of these seem to fit Noriega's suit. Therefore, I don't think he has a case.

Avatar image for Kungfu_Kenobi
Kungfu_Kenobi

<< LINK REMOVED >>

While I agree that Noriega has the weaker case, this is not a slam dunk for the defense (not that you're saying it is). This case is being tried in California, which has much tighter protections on personality rights than any other state.

Avatar image for Mega_Skrull
Mega_Skrull

Activision was very stupid for doing that, they can't just add a real person to their game and use it and attribute actions to him. They should normally somehow lose the case but not to Noriega, he shouldn't win anything from this... This one will be tricky...