It’s former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani versus former Panama dictatorManuel Noriega in the latter’s lawsuit alleging that video game developerActivision Blizzard violates his name and likeness in its best-sellinggame Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Giuliani, now a named partner atBracewell & Giuliani, is defending the game publisher, and to hear himtell it, the former dictator’s claims are an “outrageous offense to the First Amendment.”
In a press conference Thursday following a Los Angeles Superior Courthearing on the case, Giuliani went after Noriega personally for suingover his likeness in the game. “I am morally outraged that a man likeNoriega is seeking to inhibit our creative rights in the United States.If creative rights have to be sacrificed, they shouldn’t be sacrificedfor someone like Noriega, nor should anyone have to send millions ofdollars down to a Panamanian jail because this madman is making absurdclaims,” he told reporters.
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“I think a man that engaged in selling $200 million of cocaine in theUnited States, who knows how many children he killed, a man who was adictator of his country in which he tortured people for nine years, a manwho laundered money in France, a man who chopped the head off of one of his allies and then was convicted in three countries, who is sitting injail in Panama, trying to recover because he is a minor, minor figure ina very excellent game, Call of Duty by Activision, is an outrage,”Giuliani continued.
Noriega was convicted in the United States for money laundering and drugtrafficking in 1992. Then extraditions led to prison sentences in Parisand Panama, where he has been since 2011. In July, he nevertheless filedsuit against Activision Blizzard, claiming that he is given a defamatorydepiction in two Black Ops II levels set in 1980s Panama. His character is the villain, and he’s “portrayed as the victim of numerous fictionalheinous crimes,” his complaint alleges.
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The lawyers for the video game publisher, who include Kelly Klaus atMunger, Tolles & Olse alongside Giuliani, have filed a special motion tostrike on the grounds that the game’s use of the Noriega character isprotected by first amendment legislation. If Noriega wins, it will openthe gates for historical figures of all stripes to censor their inclusionin creative works or even historical documentation, they argue.
“The reason I’m involved in this case is I see the significance of the First Amendment,” Giuliani told reporters. “Should Noriega be allowed tosucceed, it would virtually destroy the historical novel, the historical movies like [Lee Daniels'] The Butler and Zero Dark Thirty, inwhich historical figures are portrayed.”
He added, “If Noriega were to succeed in this case, as I told the judge,Bin Laden’s heirs would be able to sue for Zero Dark Thirty.”
In a response to the game developer’s motion to strike the lawsuit, filed weeks ago, Noriega’s attorneys argued that regardless of the time for which the character is present, the mission that includes him is “a major if not the most key level of the game.” They included numerous snapshots of the gameplay to establish the Noriega character’s prominence, including “Noriega with a shotgun in hand,” “Noriega getting choked” and “Noriega in the first-person shooter’s crosshairs.”
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Rudy Giuliani Calls Manuel Noriega's 'Call of Duty' Lawsuit "Outrageous Offense to the First Amendment"