Former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega is suing the Santa Monica video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. for depicting him and using his name without his permission in one of the fastest-selling video games.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Noriega alleges that “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” portrays him as “a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state.” This was done “to heighten realism in its game,” which “translates directly into heightened sales” for Activision, the lawsuit states.
Noriega, 80, is seeking lost profits as well as damages. His attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.
A U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 ended Noriega’s military dictatorship and landed him in U.S. prison for about two decades on drug-trafficking charges. For a time, he had been a close ally of the U.S. government. He has lived in Panama since 2011.
Activision Blizzard, which has a market capitalization of $16.3 billion, houses a number of video game titles. But "Call of Duty" is among the most well-known. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.
The legal action is the latest to target the video game industry and its use of characters. Actress Lindsay Lohan recently sued makers of the “Grand Theft Auto V” video game over the use of her likeness without permission. A group of college athletes recently reached a $40-million settlement with Electronic Arts for the use of their likenesses in NCAA-branded video games.
“Black Ops II" was released in November 2012 and netted more than $1 billion in sales in just two weeks. In the video game, Noriega helps the CIA capture the game’s villain before turning his allegiance, according to a "Call of Duty" fan website.
"Black Ops II" came under scrutiny when it was released because it also includes a character resembling former U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, who had just left his role as CIA director after revelations of his extramarital affair.
At the time, Activision told reporters that Petraeus hadn’t been paid, “was not involved in the creation of the game” and that “it is clear to game players that his character and others that are based on real-life figures are fantasy.”
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