July was a busy month in the world of claims against video game developers and publishers. American celebrities are suing many large corporations for using their likeness in video games without their permission, as abreach of their ‘personality rights’.
Rockstar’s hugely popular Grand Theft Auto V’s character ‘Lacey Jonas’ has come under scrutiny for her marked resemblance to controversial actress Lindsay Lohan. Lohan has filed a law suit against the creators of Grand Theft Auto V, claiming that there is an “unequivocal” reference to her appearance, clothing and likeness. The clothing that Lacey is seen wearing in the game is quite clearly modelled on Lohan’s style and the character even lives in one of the hotels that Lohan used to frequent – something that is not being viewed as a coincidence.
However, it is not just Lindsay Lohan who is aggrieved by a character copying her style in a video game. Political figure Manuel Noriega is suing video game hotshots Activision Blizzard for using his name and likeness without obtaining the required permission. The character features in the hugely popular ‘Black Ops II’ video game, and Noreiga claims the game developers show him as ‘a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state’. He also claims that the use of his image led to ‘profits that they would otherwise not have made’.
In the US individuals possess what is known as ‘personality rights’ and therefore reserve the right to claim against anyone they believe is using their likeness, unauthorised, to endorse their products or services.
While these sort of claims are rife in the US, here in the UK we do not have any explicit ‘personality rights’. Instead, celebrities may be able to claim that others are passing off images as relating to them or infringing their trademarks.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what the US courts make of these high profile cases.
Joel Chapman, Marketing