Activision is trying to have a lawsuit brought by former military dictator Manuel Noriega against the Call of Duty maker thrown out of court - and it's drafted in the ex-Mayor of New York City to help.
In July former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega sued Activision over the use of his likeness in Treyarch's first-person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
In the game Alex Mason and Frank Woods track Noriega, codenamed False Profit by the CIA, to the outskirts of Panama City. You can see the scene in which they find him in the video, below, taken from the level Suffer With Me.
80-year-old Noriega, who lives in Panama, sued Activision for the "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation and misappropriation for economic gain" of his image in Black Ops 2, which came out in 2012. Noriega's lawyers claimed: "In an effort to increase the popularity and revenue generated by Black Ops 2, defendants used, without authorisation or consent, the image and likeness of plaintiff in Black Ops 2.
"Defendants' use of plaintiff's image and likeness caused damage to plaintiff. Plaintiff was portrayed as an antagonist and portrayed as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes, creating the false impression that defendants are authorised to use plaintiff's image and likeness. This caused plaintiffs to receive profits they would not have otherwise received."
Now, Activision has issued a strongly-worded response, and filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit it deemed "frivolous".
Clearly, it's taking the issue seriously, as it's drafted in former New York City Mayor and US Attorney Rudy Giuliani, partner of Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, to serve as co-counsel and defend the company on the grounds that Noriega's depiction in Call of Duty is a protected right to free speech.
"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.
"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."
Activision pointed out that Call of Duty regularly features characters that are ruthless dictators and iconic villains, such as Fidel Castro and Manuel Noriega. On the other end of the spectrum, President John F. Kennedy has been in the game as well.
The motion was filed to the Superior Court of the State of California. It seeks to dismiss Noriega's complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute, a state provision enacted to protect freedom of speech against spurious lawsuits.
"If successful, Noriega's efforts would give numerous historical and political figures - and their heirs - a veto right over 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," Activision said.