Over the last decade, the Call of Duty franchise has told some very controversial stories that has lead some individuals to sue publishers Activision. Over the years, Activision has been no stranger to hectic courtroom legal battles and in this feature, we'll be looking at the top three unbelievable Call of Duty lawsuits.
Jonas Savimbi's family
In early 2016, three of Savimbi's children accused Activision Blizzard of representing Jonas Savimbi as a barbarian. The family sought $1.1 million in damages from the French branch of Activision for portraying the Angolan rebel leader in a disrespectful manner. Savimbi was a guerrilla chief who led a decade-long fight against the Angolan government and MPLA, and although Savimbi was considered a freedom fighter, he was a very controversial figure. Savimbi was killed in battle against government forces in 2002, ending the Angolan civil war which claimed over 500,000 lives.
In the first mission of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, the player must aid Savimbi in a battle against MPLA forces. Savimbi leads his troops by wielding around a grenade launcher and shouting "fight, my brothers!" The lawsuit was made possible because of France's strict laws on defamation and a person's rights of publicity, meaning they have a right to control the commercial use of themselves. Etienne Kowalski, one of Activision’s lawyers, has rejected the claim stating that the game represents Jonas Savimbi for who he was, which was a guerrilla chief who fought the MPLA.
Manuel Noriega, the former military dictator of Panama, filed a lawsuit against Activision in 2014 over the game’s depiction of himself in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The lawsuit accused Activision of "blatant misuse, unlawful exploitation, and misappropriation for economic gain."
Although US individuals have what's called the “right to publicity,” meaning they have control over how they're depicted in various methods of commerce including video games, Manuel Noriega is not a US citizen. This meant that Noriega could not use the right to publicity and his case became questionable because it's unclear on what legal basis he can bring a case against Activision.
Anti-gun groups in America have been growing over the last several years due to the rise of injuries and killings happening to innocent victims on a daily basis. One anti-gun group, alongside anti-gun parents, decided to sue Call of Duty in early 2015, stating that Call of Duty is a realistic training tool.
The group claimed that Call of Duty prominently features real-life weapons such as AR-15s and rewards players for getting "headshots" and "killstreaks" among other assaultive violent achievements. Call of Duty’s AR-15s was constantly mentioned in the lawsuit and the group claimed that several of Call of Duty's gameplay features were simulating real-life combat.
The lawsuit was almost instantly dismissed, thanks to The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005. This lawsuit has to be one of the most ridiculous lawsuits Activision has faced because (as we all know), respawning, boosting from building-to-building, and getting killstreaks is not exactly a realistic depiction of warfare.
As we continue to move forward with future Call of Duty titles, it's safe to say that the lawsuits will continue to appear. Activision is a billion dollar company and people will always try their hardest to get a least a fraction of the cash if possible.
For more informative Call of Duty here at Opshead be sure to check out Black Ops 3's first community challenge, our in-depth examination of Infinite Warfare's Zombies in Spaceland perks, and more information regarding Infinite Warfare Zombies in Spaceland's story and unique characters.