Activision today announced that former New York City mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani will serve as co-counsel in defending the company against the lawsuit filed by former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega for the game's portrayal of him in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
"What's astonishing is that Manuel Noriega, a notorious dictator who is in prison for the heinous crimes he committed, is upset about being portrayed as a criminal and enemy of the state in the game Call of Duty. Quite simply, it's absurd," said Rudy Giuliani in a prepared statement. "I'm not interested in giving handouts to a convicted murderer and drug smuggler like Manuel Noriega who is demanding money from Activision and its popular Call of Duty franchise for simply exercising its right to free speech. Noriega's attack on the rights of Call of Duty comes as no surprise considering he's a lawless tyrant who trampled over the rights of his own people."
Noriega filed a suit against the game publisher in July, for the "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation and misappropriation for economic gain" of his image in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Noriega, who was Panama's military dictator from 1983 until 1989, when he was removed from power, was sent to prison in 1992 on drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering charges. He was later convicted on murder charges in France.
The former dictator appears in Black Ops 2 as the central character and catalyst of the "Suffer with Me" mission, in which players must track him through the wilderness outside Panama City.
Activision, in a press release sent out this morning, likens the stories in the Call of Duty franchise to what are found in movies and television, and says they are "ripped from headlines."
"From the Cold War to World War II and the advanced soldiers featured in the upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, the game is fictional, but is grounded in reality," according to the press release. "Call of Duty regularly features characters that are ruthless dictators and iconic villains, such as Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega, as well as vaunted heroes such as President John F. Kennedy."
Activision officials write that they plan to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit y the "former dictator and convicted murderer" in the Superior Court of the State of California this morning. The motion seeks to dismiss the case under California's anti-SLAPP statute, which was created to protect freedom of speech against spurious lawsuits.
If Noriega's suit were to be successful, Activision warns, it would open the door for historical and political figures and their heirs to prevent their appearances in works of art, having a "chilling effect on movies such as Forrest Gump and Zero Dark Thirty, TV shows such as Saturday Night Live and Boardwalk Empire, and beloved books such as Primary Colors and The Paris Wife, just to name a few."