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Giuliani ‘Outraged’ Over ‘Call of Duty’ Claim

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega's lawsuit over "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" can't trample free-speech rights, Rudy Giuliani told a Superior Court judge Thursday.

Speaking outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, the former mayor of New York said he had taken the case to protect the rights of artists who want to portray public figures in novels, movies and other works.

Giuliani called Noriega's lawsuit an "outrage."

"I'm morally outraged that a man like Noriega is seeking to inhibit our creative rights in the United States," Giuliani said. "They shouldn't be sacrificed for a person like Noriega. Nor should anyone have to send millions of dollars to a Panamanian jail.

"Maybe the next thing that will happen is that Bin Laden's heirs start suing," Giuliani said.

Giuliani is a partner in Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani, which moved to dismiss Noriega's lawsuit on Sept 22.

"Call of Duty: Black Ops II" sold more than 24.2 million copies worldwide. It was written by Hollywood screenwriter David Goyer, with music by Trent Reznor. Activision maintains that the game's ripped-from-the-headlines plots often include public figures. The franchise has featured depictions of Fidel Castro and President John F. Kennedy.

But that didn't stop Noriega from filing one of the most bizarre suits of the year against Activision on July 15.

He seeks damages for violations of common-law right of publicity, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices, and asked for a cut of the game's profits, claiming that Activision traded on his name based on the game's inclusion of his likeness in a minor role. He also sued games developer Treyarch.

The former Panamanian military dictator, ousted by a U.S. invasion in 1989, claims the game portrays him as a "kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state," and "as the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes."

Noriega says that Activision misappropriated his likeness to increase profits and royalties.

In an Oct. 1 declaration, Noriega, 80, said he had learned of his inclusion in "Call of Duty" after his grandchildren played the game and "asked why, in the video game the target was to capture my character."

Noriega signed the declaration: "MOU!"

Noriega's attorney, Bill Gibbs of Chicago firm Corboy and Demetrio, told the court Thursday that his client met the minimum standard for the case to go to trial. Noriega has shown that Activision clearly used his image "to the teeth" without getting his consent, Gibbs said.

"If Mayor Giuliani is satirized on 'Saturday Night Live,' there is a certain element of transformation that has happened," he added. "However, if his computer image and likeness is used in a game, whether he's the protagonist or antagonist or whatever, in order to do that, they must get consent."

During the hearing, Giuliani urged Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Fahey to strike Noriega's lawsuit under California's anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law. The law protects defendants against frivolous lawsuits that attempt to censor free expression.

"There have been three or four books written about me, one movie in which James Woods plays my part," Giuliani said. "I have no right to bring an action for right of publicity because as mayor of New York and then because of Sept. 11, I became a public person and to some extent an historical figure."

"Perhaps you should have hired plaintiff's counsel," Judge Fahey said, prompting laughter from the audience in the courtroom.

"If we lose, I have about 50 lawsuits, your honor," Giuliani said.

After the 1989 U.S. invasion, Noriega, who had ruled the country since 1983 as a military dictatorship, was captured and flown to the United States. He was convicted three years later of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.

Noriega was later extradited to France, where he was found guilty of murder. He was granted a conditional release on Sept. 23, 2011, and was extradited to Panama later that year, where he is serving 20 years in El Renacer (Rebirth) prison.

Speaking outside the Grand Avenue Entrance of the Mosk courthouse after the hearing, Giuliani called the lawsuit an "abomination."

"I think a man who engaged in selling $200 million worth of cocaine in America, a dictator of country in which he tortured people for nine years, a man who laundered money in France, a man who chopped the head of one of his allies off - Hugo Spadafora - and a man who has been convicted in three countries, and is sitting in jail in Panama, is trying to recover [profits] because he is a minor, minor, minor figure in 'Call of Duty' ... is an absolute outrage," Giuliani said.

"As a part of history, he doesn't own his own history," the former Republican presidential candidate added.

Judge Fahey did not specify when he would rule on the motion to dismiss.

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