Skip to main content

Manuel Noriega's Black Ops 2 lawsuit is tossed out of court


To the surprise of pretty much no-one at all, a judge has tossed out Manuel Noriega's lawsuit against Activision over his appearance in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Noriega filed the lawsuit in July, making the mind-boggling claim that his appearance in the game "caused damage" by portraying him as a bad guy, but the judge on the case found that Black Ops 2 is a transformative work and thus dismissed the complaint outright.

The full ruling can be read here, but the condensed version is that after examining the agreed-upon facts of the case, Judge William H. Fahey ruled that Noriega's appearance in Black Ops 2 is the result of Activision's creative efforts, based on publicly available "raw materials."

"The complex and multi-faceted game is a product of [Activision's] own expression, with de minimis use of Noriega's likeness. Because the videogame is transformative, economic considerations are not relevant," the ruling states. "Regardless, the Court concludes that the marketability and economic value of the challenged work in this case comes not from Noriega, but from the creativity, skill and reputation of defendants."

"This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we're gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn't win," Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who served as Activision co-counsel on the case, said in a statement. "This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world."

Manuel Noriega was the dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989, but was removed from power by the United States, which then tried and convicted him on various charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering. He was released from US prison in 2007 but was extradited to France, where he was charged and convicted again; in 2011 he was given a conditional release so he could be extradited to Panama, where he is now serving out another 20 year sentence.

Noriega's complaint was dismissed with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be re-filed at some future date.

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.