It's been 15 years since the release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. But in spite of all those years gone by, Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive were slapped with a lawsuit over the game just last week—by the Psychic Readers Network, no less. According to a report by The Wrap, the group claims that Vice City character Auntie Poulet violates its copyright on the once-famed television psychic Miss Cleo.
The similarities are obvious—Auntie Poulet looks and sounds like Miss Cleo—and they are definitely not coincidental: As the lawsuit notes, Miss Cleo performer Youree Dell Harris actually provided the character's voice, her one and only videogame credit.
"The Defendants’ Auntie Poulet’s similarities to Miss Cleo and her copyrighted attributes are of such a breadth and extraordinary nature that they can only be explained by copying—which is unsurprising given that Defendants hired the actress who performed as Miss Cleo to provide voiceovers, using the same accent as Miss Cleo, for the infringing videogame." the suit says.
Psychic Readers Network claims to have invested more than $100 million creating and developing the Miss Cleo character, and says that Rockstar and Take Two have earned more than $500 million on the game—and, of course, its exploitation of the familiar character. The network is seeking unspecified damages, but it's fair to say that the number will be high.
Take Two dismissed the suit as "entirely meritless and completely ridiculous" in a statement, adding, "We will vigorously defend ourselves with regard to this matter." As for the chances that the Psychic Readers Network will prevail, I have no idea (although maybe they do, if you know what I mean) but I will point out that similar suits filed by Lindsay Lohan and "Mob Wife" Karen Gravano were tossed out of court.
Harris, who died of cancer last year, talked about her time with the Psychic Readers Network with Vice in 2014. She claims, among other things, that the network ripped her off almost as badly as it did the people she helped victimize.