GTA 5 developer Rockstar has gained the upper hand in an ongoing legal tussle with Lindsay Lohan.
While Lohan’s lawyers continue to make a reasonable case that her likeness appears in GTA 5 and its marketing materials, without consent, the case has been thrown out of court because there’s no law against sending someone up in your video game.
Drawing on court documents, the Wall Street Journal reports the case hinged on New York’s right-of-publicity law, under which a person’s portrait, picture or voice cannot be used for advertising or trade purposes without written consent.
On Thursday, an appeals court panel in Manhattan ruled that GTA 5 “does not fall under the statutory definitions of ‘advertising’ or ‘trade’. This video game’s unique story, characters, dialogue, and environment, combined with the player’s ability to choose how to proceed in the game, render it a work of fiction and satire.”
The panel did not make any comment on whether it believed Rockstar had indeed deliberately leveraged Lohan’s likeness into a GTA 5 paparazzi mission sequence. However, it did say that the famous red bikini peace sign girl and frisking images used in promotional materials are depictions “not of Lohan herself, but merely the avatar in the game that Lohan claims is a depiction of her”.
In the same session, the panel threw out a similar case filed by Karen Gravano, the daughter of Mafia informant Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who claimed the character Andrea Bottino was based on her. Bloomberg reports Lohan’s lawyers plan to appeal, and Gravano’s team is exploring its options.
The battle between Lohan and Rockstar over GTA 5 has been simmering away for years now. The duel was first rumoured in late 2013 but broke cover in July 2014 when Lohan filed suit against Rockstar in Manhattan.
Pooh-poohing the case in August 2014, Rockstar said Lohan was just angling for attention – but Lohan’s lawyers came back with an expanded complaint in October 2014.
Although there’s a fashion for deriding Lohan’s complaints, a New York judge allowed the case to move forward as recently as March this year.
Usually these things continue to drag on with appeals and counter-appeals, so we probably haven’t seen the last of Lohan vs Rockstar yet – and probably won’t until GTA 5 falls out of the sales charts, if it ever does.