An Angolan Rebel's Family Sues Activision Over Call of Duty: Black Ops II

An Angolan Rebel's Family Sues Activision Over Call of Duty: Black Ops II

The children of Jonas Savimbi have sued Activision for portraying their father as a "barbarian" in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Black Ops is a unique sub-series within Call of Duty, thanks to how it addresses historical conflicts rarely seen in modern shooters. But today, one of those portrayals is the subject of a lawsuit. The family of Jonas Savimbi, an infamous Angolan rebel leader, have sued Activision over their father's depiction in Black Ops II.

Savimbi was a military leader who led guerilla insurgencies against the Angolan colonial government and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He is represented in the Black Ops II mission "Pyrrhic Victory", where he leads an assault against the MPLA, orders his troops to kill everyone they encounters, carries a grenade launcher, and drives a machete through a soldier's chest.

Three of Savimbi's children - now based in France - have taken issue with this depiction, saying it presents their father as a "barbarian". Their lawyer, Carole Enfert, claims Activision represented Savimbi as a "big halfwit who wants to kill everybody" when he was actually the a "political leader and strategist". Savimbi's family is seeking 1 million Euros in defamation damages from Activision Blizzard's French branch.

Activision Blizzard is fighting the claim, stating that Savimbi was portrayed fairly as a "good guy ... a character of Angolan history, a guerrilla chief who fought the MPLA".

It certainly doesn't help that Savimbi was a hugely controversial figure. While he was a vetted freedom fighter supported by the Reagan presidency, his prolonged civil war ended up killing over 500,000 people and fueled a massive diamond smuggling trade. Even Savimbi's obituary published in The Guardian describes the negative impact he left on South Africa, painting him as the polar opposite of Nelson Mandela.

The question now is whether such matters will ever be dissected in court. Back in 2014, imprisoned Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega sued Activision over his own Black Ops II depiction, only for a Los Angeles judge to throw it out of court. However, France's defamation laws are quite strict, and could be applied to cases where the family makes a claim on behalf of the deceased.

Source: The Guardian, via Eurogamer

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This is hilarious, not in the least because of the sum the prosecutors are asking for.

This is why it's best that your game not depict anyone that hasn't been dead for at least three hundred years. (Except for Hitler. Nobody's suing for defamation of his character.)

Fanghawk:
Their lawyer, Carole Enfert, claims Activision represented Savimbi as a "big halfwit who wants to kill everybody" when he was actually the a "political leader and strategist".

The two aren't exclusive. Have they ever heard of Hitle[BANG] <dead>

I wonder why they are just not getting around to suing about this. Black Ops II is old. It's been out of years now. Did they just find out that he was in the game, or has this been tied up in legal matters?

In the U.S., this would be laughed out of court. No idea about France, though. International sales has its pitfalls...

While I have little interest in CoD, I have to ask, is there actually a case here? While this is an extreme example, portraying historical and sometimes, still living figures in fiction isn't unheard of, and sometimes, the portrayals are less than flattering. For instance, last year I saw the stage play "Murdoch" (which I highly reccomend BTW), which, as its name suggests, is a biographic story of Rupert Murdoch, and one that doesn't put him in a flattering light. I can imagine these kinds of work would step on people's toes, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be anything illegal about them or material considered defamatory, under the basis that it's a work of fiction.

In short, certainly sympathize with people being offended, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be legal recourse, given the game's nature as fiction rather than presenting itself as a biographic/work of non-fiction.

The Rogue Wolf:
This is why it's best that your game not depict anyone that hasn't been dead for at least three hundred years. (Except for Hitler. Nobody's suing for defamation of his character.)

By law, you actually couldn't sue for defamation of Hitler's character. He's been almost universally recognized as a monster, thus he has no reputation to defame.

This sounds like a win big, or lose big scenario.

Activision Blizzard, if this is even taken seriously by a judge, would have two prove one of two scenarios to avoid any wrongdoing.

1. Their depiction of Savimbi is a positive one.
2. The real Savimbi was WORSE than their depiction.

It would be far easier to prove the latter.

Pyrian:
In the U.S., this would be laughed out of court. No idea about France, though. International sales has its pitfalls...

I don't see that as a good thing, if the claim is true and Activation is portraying the person harshly and especially incorrectly then I think there should be some consequences. This stuff can seriously negatively effect the family of the person in question. I'm also sick of movies and games misrepresenting history to make it pro whatever the company is supporting (usually America).

Hawki:
*snip*
For instance, last year I saw the stage play "Murdoch" (which I highly reccomend BTW), which, as its name suggests, is a biographic story of Rupert Murdoch, and one that doesn't put him in a flattering light. I can imagine these kinds of work would step on people's toes, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be anything illegal about them or material considered defamatory, under the basis that it's a work of fiction.

In short, certainly sympathize with people being offended, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be legal recourse, given the game's nature as fiction rather than presenting itself as a biographic/work of non-fiction.

If the work of fiction is portraying the person falsely in a bad light then (at least here in Australia and as far as I know also the EU) the person does indeed have a defamation case. 'Fiction' is not a magical shield to protect you from defaming someone nor should it be. If it really is that fictional then make up a fictional character.

That said I am not sure how the EU leans as far as deceased people. If the person is dead then here in Australia deformation is pretty hard if not impossible, you need to prove that the work in question has/is having a negative effect on you or the family.

RicoADF:

Pyrian:
In the U.S., this would be laughed out of court. No idea about France, though. International sales has its pitfalls...

I don't see that as a good thing, if the claim is true and Activation is portraying the person harshly and especially incorrectly then I think there should be some consequences. This stuff can seriously negatively effect the family of the person in question. I'm also sick of movies and games misrepresenting history to make it pro whatever the company is supporting (usually America).

Hawki:
*snip*
For instance, last year I saw the stage play "Murdoch" (which I highly reccomend BTW), which, as its name suggests, is a biographic story of Rupert Murdoch, and one that doesn't put him in a flattering light. I can imagine these kinds of work would step on people's toes, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be anything illegal about them or material considered defamatory, under the basis that it's a work of fiction.

In short, certainly sympathize with people being offended, but I wouldn't have thought there'd be legal recourse, given the game's nature as fiction rather than presenting itself as a biographic/work of non-fiction.

If the work of fiction is portraying the person falsely in a bad light then (at least here in Australia and as far as I know also the EU) the person does indeed have a defamation case. 'Fiction' is not a magical shield to protect you from defaming someone nor should it be. If it really is that fictional then make up a fictional character.

That said I am not sure how the EU leans as far as deceased people. If the person is dead then here in Australia deformation is pretty hard if not impossible, you need to prove that the work in question has/is having a negative effect on you or the family.

However, if the work in question has done its research and can back up, with evidence, its portrayal of the person, then regardless of what the family think or the effect it has on them, the work should be protected. Since Jonas Savimbi is already known as a divisive figure and 'recognised as the polar opposite of Nelson Mandela,' I would certainly say Black Ops II has not created any slander against his character, and the worst they could be accused of is spreading awareness.

Fanghawk:
Savimbi was a military leader who led guerilla insurgencies against the Angolan colonial government and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He is represented in the Black Ops II mission "Phyrric Victory",

You mean Pyrrhic Victory.

Thyunda:
However, if the work in question has done its research and can back up, with evidence, its portrayal of the person, then regardless of what the family think or the effect it has on them, the work should be protected. Since Jonas Savimbi is already known as a divisive figure and 'recognised as the polar opposite of Nelson Mandela,' I would certainly say Black Ops II has not created any slander against his character, and the worst they could be accused of is spreading awareness.

Fanghawk:
Savimbi was a military leader who led guerilla insurgencies against the Angolan colonial government and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He is represented in the Black Ops II mission "Phyrric Victory",

You mean Pyrrhic Victory.

And that right there is where the big question mark sits. Has Activision depicted him reasonably correctly or just made a cartoon villain in their story. If the former then their fine, if however the latter then that's where they have an issue.

RicoADF:

Thyunda:
However, if the work in question has done its research and can back up, with evidence, its portrayal of the person, then regardless of what the family think or the effect it has on them, the work should be protected. Since Jonas Savimbi is already known as a divisive figure and 'recognised as the polar opposite of Nelson Mandela,' I would certainly say Black Ops II has not created any slander against his character, and the worst they could be accused of is spreading awareness.

Fanghawk:
Savimbi was a military leader who led guerilla insurgencies against the Angolan colonial government and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He is represented in the Black Ops II mission "Phyrric Victory",

You mean Pyrrhic Victory.

And that right there is where the big question mark sits. Has Activision depicted him reasonably correctly or just made a cartoon villain in their story. If the former then their fine, if however the latter then that's where they have an issue.

If he was a cartoon villain, the argument could be made that he's a caricature and therefore satirical and immune. It would be if he was realistically presented performing atrocities as though they really happened - and to be honest, in the mission the only people he kills are well-armed soldiers. He didn't come across as any worse than the Real American Heroes accompanying him.

"...Supported by the Reagan Presidency." Well that is a slight hint as to what side of the moral compass this person likely aligns to.

RicoADF:

Pyrian:
In the U.S., this would be laughed out of court.

I don't see that as a good thing, if the claim is true and Activation is portraying the person harshly and especially incorrectly then I think there should be some consequences.

I disagree. Far better to live where people can tell slanderous lies than to live where people cannot tell the truth. The end result of slander laws is that people without deep pockets are afraid to point out that the emperor has no clothes - even if it's very obviously true, they can't afford to be taken to court over it.

Pyrian:

RicoADF:

Pyrian:
In the U.S., this would be laughed out of court.

I don't see that as a good thing, if the claim is true and Activation is portraying the person harshly and especially incorrectly then I think there should be some consequences.

I disagree. Far better to live where people can tell slanderous lies than to live where people cannot tell the truth. The end result of slander laws is that people without deep pockets are afraid to point out that the emperor has no clothes - even if it's very obviously true, they can't afford to be taken to court over it.

True dat!

His depiction is cartoonish, its COD, EVERYTHINGS over the top. However when it comes to this depictions momentary portrayal and the person its portraying, all COD shows is a violent man. Its wacky and obviously "too" violent to be true (A grenade launcher and a machete are not exactly low key weapons) but he was a violent man no one can deny. The momentary portrayal is accurate towards the one character trait they showed, sure he might have had other character traits, but to try and punish for "not" portraying those other character traits is a truly ridiculous concept. Every human being is obviously a faceted and complex thing, but when it comes to a momentary glace through media at one, there is NO obligation to show all of those facets, in fact, its pretty much impossible. Good stories just try to show as many sides to people as they can

RicoADF:

Thyunda:
However, if the work in question has done its research and can back up, with evidence, its portrayal of the person, then regardless of what the family think or the effect it has on them, the work should be protected. Since Jonas Savimbi is already known as a divisive figure and 'recognised as the polar opposite of Nelson Mandela,' I would certainly say Black Ops II has not created any slander against his character, and the worst they could be accused of is spreading awareness.

Fanghawk:
Savimbi was a military leader who led guerilla insurgencies against the Angolan colonial government and the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). He is represented in the Black Ops II mission "Phyrric Victory",

You mean Pyrrhic Victory.

And that right there is where the big question mark sits. Has Activation depicted him reasonably correctly or just made a cartoon villain in their story. If the former then their fine, if however the latter then that's where they have an issue.

Hes's your ally in the mission not the villain. He leads a front line charge against the MPLA and is a bit gun-ho about. At the end of the mission he even ends up saving your ass. And that's it, the man has about 3 minutes of screen time. Historically inaccurate? probably, Defamation of character? Unlikely, at least not intentionally.

Honestly, this case is more ridiculous than the Noriega case, at least he is still alive and was portrayed as one of the villains. Savimbi has been dead for about 13 years and is one of your allies. Hope this case gets shot down, the last thing we need are the courts encouraging this kind of stuff.

Sniper Team 4:
I wonder why they are just not getting around to suing about this. Black Ops II is old. It's been out of years now. Did they just find out that he was in the game, or has this been tied up in legal matters?

I'm pretty sure we all know why it's happening now. "Hey sister, we need some money to buy a new mansion. Oh yeah, that one game that came out three years ago had our dad in it. How about we say it slanders his name and sue 'em for a bunch of money?"

I won't say their feelings for their father, but it's clear as day why their doing this. They can hide it under all the slander accusations they want.

 

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