Activision declared victory this afternoon over Manuel Noriega after a judge tossed out the former Panamanian dictator's lawsuit against the publisher, which had alleged his appearance in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was an unauthorized use of his likeness.
Judge William H. Fahey of Los Angeles Superior Court granted Activision Blizzard Inc.'s motion to strike the lawsuit; the company maintained that Noriega's cameo in sequences set in the 1980s was protected free speech and a legitimate fictionalization of an historical figure.
Call of Duty: Black Ops story arc featured historical figures ranging from former secretary of defense Robert McNamara and President John F. Kennedy to Fidel Castro. The publisher noted that Noriega's claim would open other publishers of historical fiction — citing the many cameos in Forrest Gump as one example — to claims that would chill creativity and expression.
Manuel Noriega was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1989. The U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 removed him from power and returned him to the United States to be tried on counts of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering. He is currently in prison in Panama.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York (and a federal prosecutor before that) was brought aboard to represent Activision.
"Today's ruling is a victory for the 40 million dedicated members of our Call of Duty community and global audiences who enjoy historical fiction across all works of art," Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, said in a statement. "I want to thank Mayor Giuliani, who has dedicated his life to the protection of citizens against terrorists like Manuel Noriega and today for defending free speech."