Arguments made in ex-dictator's suit against game

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani cited his own experience as a public figure while arguing Thursday that a lawsuit by disgraced Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega against video game maker Activision should be dismissed.

Noriega sued the gaming giant in July claiming his likeness was used without permission in the company's 2012 "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" game and that he was portrayed as a murderer and enemy of the state.

In court, Giuliani noted that he could not sue for the numerous portrayals of himself in books and film and argued that Noriega should not able to sue Activision Blizzard Inc. for his portrayal.

"This has vast implications for the ability of a creative artist to use historical figures," Giuliani told Superior Court Judge William F. Fahey, who did not immediately rule on Activision's motion to dismiss the suit.

The game features a story line in which players capture Noriega.

Activision's lawyers noted that Noriega was featured in less than seven minutes of gameplay, could not be controlled by players, and was not featured in marketing.

Noriega's lawyer, however, countered that Noriega's likeness was painstakingly replicated for the game and the case should be allowed to proceed.

"This is exactly Noriega, in exactly the setting where he gained his fame," attorney William T. Gibbs argued.

Noriega contends his appearance in the game boosted Activision's profits from "Black Ops II." The game posted more than $1 billion in sales within 15 days of its release.

In a sworn declaration, Noriega wrote that he learned his likeness had been used in the game after his grandchildren played it and asked why one of the missions focused on capturing the ex-dictator.

Giuliani, the tough-talking politician who guided New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, countered that Noriega's grandchildren would be shocked to learn of his crimes.

"Noriega is a part of history," said Giuliani, who cited Noriega's criminal convictions during the hearing and at a later press conference. "We didn't make him a part of history. As a part of history, he doesn't own his own history."

Judge Fahey questioned whether companies such as Activision should obtain the permission of prominent figures, including former presidents, before including them in creative works.

Giuliani responded that would be giving historical figures the right of censorship that is "totally offensive to the First Amendment."

Noriega was toppled in 1989 by a U.S. invasion and served a 17-year drug trafficking sentence in the United States. He later was convicted in France of money laundering, and that country repatriated him to Panama in December 2011. Noriega, 80, is serving a 60-year sentence for murder, embezzlement and corruption.

His family has said he has a benign brain tumor and heart trouble.

Previous "Call of Duty" games have featured historical figures such as President John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro.


Anthony McCartney can be reached at