Rudy Giuliani Blasts Noriega Call of Duty Suit

by on 09/24/2014

There was already a bit of a circus atmosphere surround former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega suing Activision for portraying him in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 without his permission or compensation. Activision hiring former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani to defend the case added everything but the elephants and peanuts, as a colorful interview with Time shows.
Giuliani portrayed the suit as an attack on free speech itself.

“If Noriega can do this–since video games, movies and books are considered to be exactly the same for free speech purposes, according to the Supreme Court decision in 2011 written by Justice Scalia–then Osama bin Laden’s heirs could sue the filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty for bin Laden’s portrayal in that film,” Giuliani told Time reporter Matt Peckham. “Public figures, good ones, bad ones, who are included in books, movies and video games, all of these would have a right to sue.”

Time, however, correctly points out that the legal basis for Noriega’s suit is not a free speech issue but the “right of publicity,” which gives individuals some control over how they’re portrayed in commercial products. It points to football and basketball players who have successfully sued Electronic Arts over their use in sports games and the band No Doubts successfully settled suit against Activision for using them in Band Hero.
Giuliani agreed that that’s the legal arena where the case would be fought. However, he said the EA cases were different because Noriega is only a “bit player” in Black Ops 2, and that his portrayal is a “transformative” fictionalized account.
“Think of Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump the character is shown with Nixon, Kennedy, Bear Bryant, all kinds of famous people. None of that really happened. The more transformational the work is, the more it’s protected as free speech. And we have a complete transformation in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, because unlike these other cases, Noriega’s shown doing things that are creative, things that a creative mind made up. That’s why free speech is so important. We want to protect people’s ability to be creative,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani also said that it shouldn’t matter that Noriega is not a US citizen, because the law offers fewer protections for people like Noriega that intentionally seek the spotlight and become “public persons.”
“I can’t think of someone who has worked harder at becoming a public person than Noriega, in the most infamous ways possible. Every one of the crimes that he committed, every one of the things he did in the U.S. and France, I mean this is about as public as a person can get,” Giuliani said.
But he says he doesn’t think he’ll have to argue the case that far, because Noriega’s role wasn’t that significant.
“This is a guy that’s trying to extort money out of a decent company, and who the heck knows what he wants to do with it down in Panama, and who knows what you can accomplish in a Panamanian prison if you can get yourself a few million bucks,” Giuliani said.

Image of Noriega in Black Ops 2 from callofdutywikia.com

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