I read this in the paper today. (By which I mean July 17th when I originally wrote this.)
Apparently there’s a video game company that makes this very popular video game called “Call To Duty.” And it seems that, in their latest incarnation of the “Call To Duty” series, they are depicting former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega as a “kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state.”
Noriega’s attorneys, the article reports, are suing the video game company for portraying Noriega in their “Call To Duty: Black Ops II” without his permission. The video game’s attorneys are standing on the company’s First Amendment right to free (creative) expression, which generally protects books and movies portraying current or once existing actual human beings. (I am not certain about animals.)
What Noriega’s attorneys appear primarily upset about is not the depiction of their client as “a kidnapper, a murderer, and enemy of the state.” The thing they’re objecting to is that their client, General Noriega, is receiving no compensation for being depicted as “a kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state.”
During other periods of history, the public accusation of being “a kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state” would have provoked moral outrage, a demand for an apology, and quite possibly a duel. Today, it triggers an offended outcry for a legitimate piece of the action.
The argument on Noriega’s behalf going,
“Maybe I was ‘a kidnapper, murderer, and an enemy of the state’, and maybe I wasn’t. It was a long time ago, I don’t remember anymore. Anyway, we all did crazy things when we were young.
“The real question is, why should a video game company cash in on my reputation as ‘a kidnapper, murderer, and an enemy of the state’, while the person who earned that reputation as ‘a kidnapper, murderer, and an enemy of the state’ gets nothing?
Noriega’s position is bolstered by a recent court decision (upheld on appeal) in which a 40 million dollar settlement was arrived at between another video game company, which, according to the decision, had inappropriately made use of the likenesses of college athletes and the particular college athletes they had inappropriately misused.
Noriega’s attorneys would unquestionably argue against the distinguishing specifics in the two cases – in one situation, we are talking about young college athletes (who, we should remember, are paid nothing at all for their services), and in the other situation, an acknowledged, possibly convicted – I am ignorant on the specifics – “kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state.”
Noriega’s attorneys would assert that, front and center – to the exclusion of extraneous circumstances such as crimes against humanity – there is a principle involved here.
The truth, however, is: There are two conflicting principles involved.
Maybe – your personal likeness being your property – nobody’s likeness should be depicted in video games without permission (and the financial compensation that permission would almost certainly entail.)
On the other hand, maybe, pursuant to the First Amendment – enacted to protect unpopular speech rather than the issue under dispute, as the “Founding Fathers” were unlikely to have had video games in mind – the unfettered appropriation of our likenesses is perfectly okay.
Like him or not, it is hard to deny that the mentioning of the petitioner’s being is “a kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state” would be prejudicial to the proceedings.
Whatever his questionable personal history, they are still using the former dictator’s likeness without his permission.
Or, as the former dictator himself might contend,
“I deserve a slice of the multi-billion dollar video game pie, notwithstanding the fact that I am ‘a kidnapper, a murderer, and enemy of the state.’ I mean, what has that got to do with getting what I deserve?”
It seems to me, if the courts are to be consistent in their adjudication, having awarded 40 mil to a group of fresh-faced college athletes for the inappropriate employment of their likenesses, they would have to rule similarly in favor of the eighty year-old, pockmarked “kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state.”
To decide otherwise would be simply unfair. (And arguably prejudicial to Panamanians.)
At the risk of losing public approval and support, I am unequivocally siding with Noriega.
I hope he takes them to the cleaners.
And by the way, you guys? Don’t even think about using my likeness in a video game about blog writers!
Unless we are talking “elephant bucks” compensation.