The former dictator of Panama, Manuel Noriega is suing Activision over the use of his likeness in the publisher’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II video game.
The ex-military ruler is seeking lost profits and damages after a character based on him featured in the release, which was the biggest selling title in the US, UK and elsewhere in 2012.
The 80-year-old, currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes committed while in power, is just one of many individuals to have filed lawsuits against video game publishers in recent times.
“In the US, individuals have what’s called the right to publicity, which gives them control over how their person is depicted in commerce including video games,” explained Jas Purewal, an interactive entertainment lawyer.
Purewal said that several college athletes have issued similar claims against Electronic Arts and the US band, No Doubt took action against Activision over the use of lead singer Gwen Stefani’s likeness in Band Hero.
However, the lawyer stated that Noriega’s case was not as clear cut as previous lawsuits.
“Noriega isn’t a US citizen or even a resident. This means that his legal claim becomes questionable, because it’s unclear on what legal basis he can actually bring a case against Activision.”
In the Call of Duty game, Noriega helps the CIA before turning on the Americans and being hunted himself, a role that he claims portrays him as a “kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state,” according to Courthouse News Service.
In reality, Noriega did work as a CIA informant, before leaving the agency. The US eventually ordered an invasion of Panama as a result of his violent rule, before capturing the dictator in 1989.
While most examples have been based on US law, there have been similar cases in the UK.
Lady Gaga recently took action against British video game firm Mind Candy over the creation of a character called Lady Goo Goo in its game Moshi Monsters.