Panama’s former dictator Manuel Noriega is suing the video game company Activision in Los Angeles County Superior Court for damage to his reputation.
The lawsuit claims that Activision’s game Call of Duty: Black Ops II harmed his reputation by depicting him as a kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state, and that the depiction was used to earn profit which he now deserves a share of. Noriega’s appearance in the game in one in which he helps the primary antagonist.
The Call of Duty series is one of the most popular brands in video game culture, with Call of Duty: Black Ops II selling more than 24 million copies. During the first few months of release in 2012, the game earned more than US$1 billion.
Noriega was military dictator of Panama from 1983–1989. Removed from power during the 1989 U.S. invasion Operation Just Cause, Noriega was convicted in the United States on charges of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering. After serving jail time in the United States, he was extradited to France in 2010, where he was tried and convicted of money laundering before again being extradited in 2011 to Panama. He is currently in jail in Panama, convicted of human rights violations related to his time in power.
Noriega isn’t the only notable real-life figure portrayed in the game, living or dead. The game’s storyline also includes David Petraeus, Fidel Castro, Oliver North, John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, and Sarah Michelle Gellar.
The legal action resembles other lawsuits aimed toward video game companies that profit from well known names lately. Actress Lindsay Lohan has laid claim against the makers of Grand Theft Auto V, and a US$40 million settlement between a group of college athletes and Electronic Arts for the use of their likeness in NCAA-branded video games.