NEWS

Rudy Giuliani joins Activision legal fight against Manuel Noriega

09/22/2014 02:58 EDT | Updated 11/22/2014 05:59 EST
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is coming to the defence of a video game company currently being sued by disgraced Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega for using his likeness in a popular video game without his consent.

Activision Blizzard Inc., the game firm behind the popular series Call of Duty, said Monday that the former mayor and his law firm will be acting on the company's behalf in the matter.

On Oct. 16, Giuliani will ask a Los Angeles judge to dismiss the case, in which the imprisoned former dictator says his likenes was used without permission in the 2012 game Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

In an interview, Giuiliani told CBC News that he is taking on the case because he doesn't want the ex-dictator to profit from his crimes at the expense of what he calls a "great American company."

Noriega was toppled in 1989 by a U.S. invasion and sentenced to 17 years in jail on drug trafficking charges. He later was convicted in France of money laundering, and that country repatriated him to Panama in December 2011 where the 80-year-old Noriega is serving a 60-year sentence for murder, embezzlement and corruption.

If Noriega's lawsuit is upheld, it would give historical figures and their heirs veto power over their depiction in books, television, movies and video games, Giuliani said.

"I took the case because I believe this is a very dangerous case in terms of free speech," Giuliani said. "If he can prevail it will extend to movies and books."

"If he wins, then bin Laden's family could sue for Zero Dark Thirty," Giuliani said, referring to the 2012 Oscar-nominated film, which in part depicts the final hours of the al-Qaeda leader's life.

Noriega sued Activision in July, claiming the company depicted him as a "kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state."

Previous versions of the game franchise have depicted historical figures such as President John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. The version with Noriega also depicts other prominent figures, such as former U.S. general David Petraeus.

"He's one of 45 characters," in the game, Giuliani said. "He's in two of 11 segments, he's in less than one per cent of the overall gameplay."

"If this was a movie, he'd be at the bottom of the credits," Giuliani said.

$1 billion in sales

The lawsuit contends Noriega's inclusion in the game increased Activision's profits from Black Ops II. The game earned more than $1 billion in sales within 15 days of its release. Noriega's attorney William T. Gibbs declined to comment on Giuliani's statements.

Though well known for his political life, in private practice Giuliani worked as a constitutional free speech lawyer, representing major news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the financial magazine Barron's on issues of free speech.

"This is an area of the law that brings me back to my youth," Giuliani said.

Noriega has had health issues in recent months and has been treated for high blood pressure, flu and bronchitis. His family has said he has a benign brain tumour and heart trouble.

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