Former Panamanian Dictator Manuel Norieaga’s lawsuit against the makers of Call of Duty has been dismissed.
Norieaga had claimed Activision Blizzard violated his publicity rights by using him as a character in Call of Duty: Black Ops II without his permission. But L.A. County Superior Court Judge William H. Fahey ruled that the depiction of Noriega in the game was protected under First Amendment free speech provisions.
According to the L.A. Times, the judge agreed with Activision-Blizzard’s contention that Noriega is only a minor character in the game. He also took a snarky tone when addressing the possibility that it could be shown the murderous leader of the former Panamanian narco-keptocracy’s reputation’s was damaged by appearing in the game.
“Given the worldwide reporting of his actions in the 1980s and early 1990s, it is hard to imagine that any such evidence exists,” the judge wrote in his judgment.
Noriega, the former military dictator of Panama has been in prison since 1990, convicted of a host of crimes against the U.S., Panama, and France including money laundering, drug trafficking and murder. He once enjoyed protected status as a CIA asset, a period the game portrays, but fell from power and was captured during a U.S. invasion that ended with a humiliating standoff where Noriega hid in the Vatican Embassy and the U.S. blasted rock music to try to force him out.
The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, which means Noriega can’t file it again.
Activision Blizzard hired Rudy Giuliani, yeah, the former mayor of New York, for its high profile defense in the case. Giuliani released a statement after the judgment calling the dismissal no less than a victory for art and free speech.
“This ruling is an important victory and we thank the court for protecting free speech,” said Rudy Giuliani. “This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we’re gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn’t win. This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world.”
Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick also took the chance to comment.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the 40 million dedicated members of our Call of Duty community and global audiences who enjoy historical fiction across all works of art,” Kotick said. “I want to thank Mayor Giuliani, who has dedicated his life to the protection of citizens against terrorists like Manuel Noriega and today for defending free speech.”