Did you realize Manuel Noriega was still kicking? I thought sure the former Panamanian dictator was dead, but apparently he’s still around, albeit old, in prison, and apparently possessed of a litigious streak.
Eugene Volokh brings the news that Noriega has filed a publicity rights lawsuit against Activision, claiming that a character in a recent “Call of Duty” video game is based on Noriega. Volokh then goes on to show how the troubling state of publicity rights law creates all sorts of potential threats to culture. If people have broad control over how their “images” are used – even when those “images” are composites, or used for parody – there will be a massive chilling effect.
And this isn’t only a concern for culture and the arts. It also applies to news reporting and criticism. I’ve seen firsthand how people who don’t want to be talked about online try to use publicity rights claims to shut discussion down. Until and unless this increasingly-popular claim gets reined in – and the appropriate level is to limit it to commercial advertising – this danger is going to persist.