Thursday, July 17, 2014

Noriega to 'Black Ops II' Game Develpers: "Show Me The Money"

Deposed Panamanian strongman "General" Manuel Noriega, who ran death squads and torture operations for years in support of his dictatorship and the drug operations from which he profited, became an international headline when he holed up in the Vatican embassy while it stood besieged by American forces bent on his capture.  His villainy has been so well documented that he's been immortalized as an adversary in Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Black Ops II.  Naturally Noriega, who has languished in a Panamanian prison since his 2011 extradition, has filed suit to share the proceeds.

On the one hand, what a system: everyone gets a crack at justice, even proven murderers.

On the other hand, what a farce: he's internationally reknowned as a corrupt dictator who clung to power through a program of murder and intimidation, and whose downfall followed not his murder spree at home but his soured relations with back-room kingmakers at the CIA. The craziest part of the story is that Noriega says Activision Blizzard somehow had the power to damage his reputation.  Really? Can a reputation possibly be worse?

On the bright side, the defamation case is a sure loser.  As a public figure being lampooned for entertainment in the subject area in which he's famous – in a game – it's doubtful that it's possible to maintain a defamation case under U.S. law.  Even straight-up news sources could plausibly defend such a suit.  The more interesting question is whether using the likeness of a living person for profit might entitle him to damages under the kinds of legal principles that allow the heirs of Elvis Presley both to make fortune in photo licensing and restrict republication of Elvis' image during the fat years.  The Jaded Consumer will report back.

After all, who doesn't like a good train wreck?

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