Former dictator's Call of Duty lawsuit heats up: creative freedom at stake

The alternate history genre is a popular one, and has been around for as long as humans have been making up stories. Historical figures and events are often used in fictional works that take a creative license when it comes to storylines and depictions. Abraham Lincoln, for example, was never a vampire hunter, but that didn't stop a movie about that idea from being created. This type of creative freedom could be at risk, however, if a former dictator's lawsuit against Activision over his portrayal in Call of Duty: Black Ops II succeeds.

Back in July, Activision was sued by former dictator Manuel Noriega who didn't take kindly to his depiction in the aforementioned Call of Duty game. Noriega, who is currently in prison, claims that his likeness was used without his permission, and that he was depicted as "the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes".

This resulted in damage to his reputation, he claims, and beyond that, he says Activision used his likeness for profit; as a result, he is seeking his share of the cut. Given Noriega's real-life crimes and already tarnished reputation, his claims that Activision's portrayal hurt his reputation seem absurd, and that notion is the basis upon which the legal battle has been initiated.

Last month, Activision tapped Rudy Giuliani, who has been vocal about his concerns over the precedent Noriega's lawsuit — should it succeed — could set. Said Giuliani after the case's recent hearing, "I am morally outraged that a man like Noriega is seeking to inhibit our creative rights in the United States. If creative rights have to be sacrificed, they shouldn't be sacrificed for someone like Noriega, nor should anyone have to send millions of dollars down to a Panamanian jail because this madman is making absurd claims."

A special motion to strike the case has been filed, with Activision's legal team arguing that Noriega's portrayal falls under the protection of the first amendment. He is part of history, not celebrity, it is being argued, and "as a part of history, he doesn't own his own history any more than I do mine," said Giuliani. "Should Noriega be allowed to succeed, it would virtually destroy the historical novel, the historical movies like The Butler and Zero Dark Thirty, in which historical figures are portrayed."

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter