Skip to main content

Activision sued by former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega over unauthorized Black Ops 2 appearance

Manuel Noriega was the dictator of Panama for most of the 1980s, until he was removed from power by way of a U.S. invasion. His villainous exploits landed him a small role in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 , but his image was used without permission, and that has led to what has to be today's most bizarre lawsuit.

The Courthouse News Service reports that Noriega has filed a lawsuit against Activision over the "blatant misuse" of his image in Black Ops 2. Amazingly, the suit claims his appearance "caused damage" to Noriega by portraying him "as an antagonist and... as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes." He's depicted "as a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state," it adds, noting that at one point in the game the goal is "solely to capture plaintiff."

"Defendants' video game, 'Black Ops 2,' features several nonfiction characters, including plaintiff, for one purpose: to heighten realism in its video game, 'Black Ops 2.' This translates directly into heightened sales for defendants," the suit states. "Defendants deliberately and systematically misappropriated plaintiff's likeness to increase revenues and royalties, at the expense of plaintiff and without the consent of plaintiff."

Of course, Noriega was a pretty bad dude, which is what makes the lawsuit so laughable, but according to lawyer Jas Purewall he may also lack standing to bring the suit in the first place. "In the U.S., individuals have what's called the right to publicity, which gives them control over how their person is depicted in commerce including videogames," he told the BBC . "But Noriega isn't a U.S. 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."

Noriega, who is now 80, is currently serving out a 20-year prison sentence in Panama.

Andy Chalk
Andy covers the day-to-day happenings in the big, wide world of PC gaming—the stuff we call "news." In his off hours, he wishes he had time to play the 80-hour RPGs and immersive sims he used to love so much.