Ex-dictator Manuel Noriega sues over Call of Duty video game

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 8:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 8:57pm

Former dictator Manuel Noriega, now languishing in a Panamanian prison for the killing of his political opponents, has taken exception to being portrayed as a murderer in a video game.

Noriega, 80, has filed a lawsuit against video game publisher Activision Blizzard, saying the company is using his image in its big-selling Call of Duty: Black Ops II game without his permission, in an effort to "increase the popularity and revenue" from the title.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

In the complaint, Noriega said he had been damaged by Activision's portrayal of him as "the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes", including kidnapping and murder, adding that Activision was using his likeness to heighten the game's realism and increase sales.

Noriega is seeking unspecified restitution as well as lost profits.

Call of Duty is one of the video game industry's biggest successes, racking up more than US$1 billion in sales just 15 days after its release in 2012.

Noriega was military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989. He was an informant for the US Central Intelligence Agency, according to historical accounts, but also worked with Colombian drug cartels and was eventually indicted in the United States on drug and racketeering charges.

A US military invasion in 1989 ended his rule and brought him to the United States.

Noriega was convicted in the United States in 1992 and served a prison sentence until 2010, when he was extradited to France to serve a sentence there. France then sent him to Panama, where he remains in jail for crimes committed during his rule.

Noriega is not the only public figure to sue video game makers for the use of their image. Earlier this month, actress Lindsay Lohan sued the makers of Grand Theft Auto V.

Lohan filed suit in New York, accusing publisher Take-Two Interactive and studio Rockstar Games of weaving her persona into the game without her permission.

Lohan's lawsuit argues that her privacy was violated by imbuing her likeness into a character and creating a "Lindsay Lohan lookalike side mission".

Electronic Arts in May reached a US$40 million settlement in a suit that said it improperly used the images of US college football and basketball players.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse