Former Oppressive Dictator Sues Video Game Creator For Portraying Him As An Oppressive Dictator

Noriega

We recently blogged about troubled actress Lindsay Lohan’s lawsuit against a video game creator who allegedly misappropriated her likeness and used it for profit.  Apparently, she is not the only public figure who has been recently targeted by a video game company.  Reportedly, former Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega, has filed suit in California state court against video game creator Activision Blizzard for using his likeness in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.  Noriega is apparently the subject of various fictional missions within the video game that include historical footage and “real-life characters in Cold War scenarios, including Oliver North.”

Noriega, who is currently serving out a prison sentence in Panama for “drug trafficking, money laundering, and killing political opponents,” alleges in his lawsuit that, among other things, the defendant “damaged his reputation” by portraying him “as a kidnapper, murderer, and enemy of the state.”  For these alleged wrongs, Noriega seeks damages, to include a share of the profits from sales of the video game. He also demanded a jury trial!

Now, quite frankly, this is a deposition that we would like to see (assuming that the case makes it to the discovery phase and that Noriega, currently a prisoner in Panama, testifies in any way, shape, or form). We’re amused that in his Complaint, in the “Parties” section, Noriega mentions that he is “an individual residing in Gamboa, Panama,” without referencing that he is, in fact, in prison. If he is deposed, we would ask that defense counsel please question him about the punk rock and heavy metal music that was played during Operation Nifty Package back in the day. But that’s just us. Oh, and here is the complaint if you would like to read it.

An unrelated confession: The Activision game our editor played was Pitfall! for the Atari 2600.

Abnormal Interviews: James Daily of The Law and the Multiverse Blog

Today, we here at Abnormal Use once again continues our series, “Abnormal Interviews,” in which we conduct brief interviews with law professors, practitioners, and other commentators in the field. For the latest installment, we turn once more to lawyer blogger James Daily of The Law and the Multiverse blog, an incredibly fun site in which the authors apply the laws of the real world to the exploits of comic book superheroes. You might recall that we interviewed James and his co-blogger Ryan Davidson way, way back in March 2011. James was kind enough to submit to a second interview with Abnormal Use, which is as follows:

JIM DEDMAN:  We first interviewed you in March 2011, just a few months after the blog debuted in late 2010. In the years since, what is the most important lesson you have learned as a legal blogger?

JAMES DAILY: I’ve learned a few different lessons, but it’s hard to say which is the most important.  One thing I’ve learned is to change it up from time to time.  Some of my most popular posts have been about unusual topics, such as the contract from The Hobbit.  They’ve also been a nice change of pace for me.

DEDMAN: You’ve achieved an immense amount of attention as a result of the site, including interviews with national publications, a book deal, and even your own Wikipedia entry. What do you feel has been your biggest success with the site?

DAILY:  All of that attention has been a continual surprise.  I think the biggest success has been that I still get more questions from readers than I have time to fully answer.  It underscores the point that there is still tons of material to write about, and as an attorney it’s always a great feeling when someone wants to know your opinion about a legal issue, even a fictional one.

DEDMAN: As the blog approaches its fourth anniversary, what challenges do you face in continuing to find new material for the site?

DAILY:  The main challenge I have is finding the time to write, not finding new material.  I have a backlog of dozens of questions from readers, and I’ve fallen behind on Daredevil and She-Hulk, to say nothing of less law-focused comics.  The creativity and breadth of questions from readers never ceases to amaze me.  They often come up with better post ideas than I could.

DEDMAN:  Since the blog came into being in 2010, what has been your favorite reaction from a reader to the site and its mission?

DAILY:  I have received quite a few letters from law students, lawyers, and comic book fans that include some version of “I’m so glad I found the site.  I thought I was the only one that thought about this kind of stuff.”  It validates the thesis of the site, and I think it’s great that the blog has contributed to a community of sites centered around discussing the law and pop culture.

DEDMAN: As you know, there is a burgeoning movement of “real” superheroes out there making news in some jurisdictions. What have you learned from writing the site that might be of benefit to them?

DAILY: The main thing I’ve learned is that it would be very, very difficult to be a comic book-type superhero that stays within the bounds of the law and yet still does more than act as a member of the neighborhood watch.  The law has evolved to frown on “self-help”, with the possible exception of modern stand-your-ground and castle laws.  It’s a legal tightrope act without a net, and I don’t recommend it.

DEDMAN:  Is service by publication the only way to serve a superhero or villain with a lawsuit?

DAILY:  It depends on the superhero or villain.  Some superheroes have very public identities (e.g. Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk and Tony Stark/Iron Man).  Even some villains act more-or-less in the open, such as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin.  And of course even a villain such as The Joker could be served during one his many (brief) stays in Arkham Asylum.  Even more reclusive characters such as Batman and Superman have accepted process (subpoenas anyway) at the Justice League headquarters on the Moon.  A really aggressive process server might stage a crime (with a “victim” who was in on it) in order to attract a superhero’s attention.  That might make for an interesting comic book story!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

DEDMAN:  What has been your favorite post since you founded the site?

DAILY:  I have trouble picking my favorite anything, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to interview Mark Waid (writer of Daredevil, among many other things) and Daniel Reeve, the artist who created the contract for The Hobbit movies.  That was definitely something made possible by the success of the rest of the blog.  I enjoyed being able to take a peek behind the scenes and hopefully ask questions that my audience would want to know about that wouldn’t be asked elsewhere.  Since you’ve also interviewed Mark Waid (and a host of other interesting folks), I think you can understand the appeal.

DEDMAN:  What is your favorite superhero movie?

DAILY:  Another favorites question!  I’m going to punt and say the Christopher Nolan Batman movies and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  But honestly the MCU movies have been so consistently good that it’s tempting to say all of them.  I’ve generally enjoyed them more than the Spider-Man and X-Men movies, although The Wolverine and Days of Future Past were quite good.

DEDMAN:  What do you feel is the most disastrous depiction of the legal process in popular culture, and why?

DAILY:  That’s a tricky one.  Disastrously wrong or disastrous for its negative impact on society’s perception of lawyers or the legal process?  I tend to shy away from writing about stories that get the law laughably wrong, since it’s not much fun to beat up on someone’s creative work, especially when legal accuracy is rarely central to the plot.  I’ll leave that to the experts.

BIOGRAPHY:  James Daily is an attorney licensed in Missouri and a graduate of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is also registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He and Ryan Davidson started the Law and the Multiverse blog in November of 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Friday Links

alf

We here at Abnormal Use are somewhat embarrassed to admit that we were once fans of the television show, “Alf.” But, hey, we all have some mortifying secret from the 1980′s, right? Accordingly, we direct you to the above cover of Alf #33, published way, way back in 1990. Note that the cover depicts a wanted poster for Alf who is, apparently, sought by the law for “illegal entropy” and, our favorite, “impersonating a USDA inspector.” We wonder who defended our favorite alien life form at his criminal trial, but perhaps we will never, ever know (not having read this issue or mustered the energy to seek it out 24 years later). Alas, Alf.

We’ve written a bit about the products liability implications of driverless cars, but what about the criminal law? Apparently, according to Techdirt, the FBI believes that driverless cars will aide criminal enterprises. We’re thinking, perhaps, that the FBI has forgotten about all of the driverless cars that have assisted law enforcement, like KITT from “Knight Rider.”

As a law firm with three offices in the Carolinas, we were surprised to learn that part of the latest X-Men comic book takes place in Charleston, South Carolina. Apparently, aliens attack the city. For more on that, see here.

Did you hear that Duran Duran has sued the company it hired to run its fan club? If we had filed that lawsuit, we would have concluded our complaint with the phrase “(Save A) Prayer For Relief.” But we’re music nerds.

Are you following Abnormal Use on the Facebook? If not, you can do so by clicking here!

Chicago Cubs File Suit to Stop Rogue Cub

Billy Cub

Reportedly, the Chicago Cubs have filed suit against five individuals responsible for the “billy cub” mascot, which has interacted with fans around Wrigley field for the past seven years in exchange for tips.  Billy Club has no actual affiliation with the Chicago Cubs organization.  Apparently, the litigation was sparked by a bar fight between Billy Cub and a bar patron.  The incident drew extensive publicity after a video of the altercation was posted to YouTube.  According to witnesses, the video showed only a small portion of the harassment that Billy Cub had been receiving from the fan prior to the incident, and the removal of the head was the last straw.  So, why can’t the Cubs give Billy Cub a pass? According to the Cubs, this is not the first time Billy Club has acted mischievously.  The Cubs allege that Billy Cub has a history of bad behavior, including swearing and using racial slurs in connection with bad tips received from fans. So what do the Cubs want a court to do?  Among other things, they have asked that the Billy Cub mascot outfit be delivered for destruction. Delivered for destruction? How about that?

Wedding Disasters: Funny Stories Or Lawsuit Worthy?

Weddings are a big deal. Couples  spend thousands of dollars to make sure every tiny detail is perfect. Unfortunately, however, there is no guarantee the ceremony will go off without a hitch. Even when spending a small fortune, a wedding can be ruined by a rain shower or an intoxicated participant. Sometimes, the “disaster” transitions into a humorous story after time removes the scarring. Other times, the disaster is so egregious that it might just lead to a lawsuit. It is a fine line, to be sure. Recently, a South Carolina couple has alleged that they found themselves on the wrong side of that line. But let’s allow you to judge.

According to a report out of the Daily Mail, a Charleston couple claims that their 2013 wedding was ruined after a man exposed his genitalia during their ceremony in the courtyard of the Doubletree Inn. Apparently, a naked hotel guest decided that he wanted to take part in the ceremony by standing in front of an open window overlooking the courtyard in all his glory. This curious event transpired after the couple was allegedly assured by hotel management that the ceremony would not be disrupted by hotel guests not in attendance. As a result, the couple and the bride’s parents have filed suit against City Market Hotels seeking actual and punitive damages for negligence and emotional distress. The streaker is not named as a defendant.

We understand the couple’s frustration. You only get one wedding day with your partner. Now, this couple’s special day will always be marred by the actions of a creeper. The question is, however, what, if anything, is this suit worth? Certainly, like any business transaction, if you don’t get what you pay for, you should be able to ask for a refund. Our guess is that if that was all the couple wanted, then there would have been no reason to file suit.

For some, an event such as this is so unconscionable that it will forever cause anguish. For others, it leads to a heck of a funny story from an otherwise bland wedding. We imagine the jury pool will be made up of those on both side of the divide. Whether or not the couple recovers, this event will make for a story they will one day tell their grandchildren. Of course, a good laugh will ensue.

R.I.P. Buckyballs

Buckyballs, we hardly knew ye. Last week, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a formal recall of the controversial product, putting an end to the two year fight with the product manufacturer. The recall comes on the heels of a well-publicized fight between the CPSC and Buckyballs’ CEO Craig Zucker. After the company openly mocked the CPSC’s efforts to ban the spherically-shaped magnets, the CPSC, in an unprecedented move, went after Zucker personally. While Zucker fought valiantly, he eventually succumbed to the CPSC back in May, agreeing to place $375,000 in trust to facilitate the recall.

We here at Abnormal Use are in a state of mourning now that the recall has come to fruition. Not just because we question the motives of the CPSC. Not even because the Buckyballs saga has been a great source of blog fodder. But, rather, because we respected the fight in Zucker. It is one thing for us to criticize the CPSC behind the protection of our computers. It is quite another to directly challenge the CPSC’s methods.

Never again will we see the likes classic CPSC burns like:

image

or

image

Zucker and Buckyballs are the Secretariat of the product recall world. There will never be another. Like DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Buckyballs will never be forgotten. We all knew it had to end at some point, but, unfortunately, it was the CPSC that had to be Zucker’s game 57.

New Concerns About Tesla Safety After Crash of Stolen Car

In 2013, two crashes allegedly sparked fires in Tesla Model S luxury electric sedans.  Those fires spurred an investigation by federal safety regulators, but ultimately, only minor changes to the cars’ underbody were deemed necessary.  Now, concerns over the fire safety of the luxury electric-cars have been renewed following the fiery crash of a stolen Tesla Model S in Los Angeles.

The crash occurred over the July 4th weekend after a man stole a Model S from a Tesla service center and led police on a high-speed chase.  That chase ultimately ended in high impact crash;  the vehicle struck a steel pole.  The force of the impact split the vehicle in half and ignited the vehicle’s lithium ion battery.  Although he initially survived the accident, the driver ultimately died from injuries sustained in the accident. It is not, however, known at this time whether the fatal injuries were related to fire rather than the impact of the crash.

While these crashes certainly grab headlines given the high profile of Tesla Motors, it does not appear that electric vehicles are any less safe than gasoline-powered vehicles.  As the Insurance Journal has noted, in 2012, there were 172,500 vehicle fires in the United States resulting in 300 deaths, but none of the deaths involved electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.  This is likely due to the fact that battery fires have a longer induction period than gasoline fires.  In other words, a lithium battery fire takes longer to get going – so the drivers have a better chance of escaping the vehicles.

It is notable that Model S does have a 5-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Nevertheless, the fire issues certainly have had an affect on Tesla’s stock price.  Share prices took a 2.9 percent hit following the most recent accident.

Friday Links

america_vs_jsa

“I accuse the JSA of treason!” exclaims Batman on the cover of America Vs. The Justice Society #1, published not so long ago in 1985. Technically, wouldn’t the proper caption be “United States v. The Justice Society?” We here at Abnormal Use don’t practice in the federal criminal courts, but we seem to recall that it is always the “United States” listed as a party in that type of litigation. And does Batman have enough evidence as required by the U.S. Constitution? Whatever the case, here is the somewhat confusing plot summary from, of course, Wikipedia:

The series was set on Earth-Two and began with the discovery of Batman’s diary (The pre-Crisis Earth-Two Bruce Wayne had been murdered by a criminal named Bill Jensen prior to this adventure as indicated in this story) which indicated that the Justice Society was guilty of treason during World War II and conspired to cover-up their treason after the war was over. The group is put on trial and their history is reviewed. All the historical adventures involving the JSA are remembered, and details are added. It eventually reveals that the diary is a hoax created by Batman in an effort to have the JSA apprehend Per Degaton at a future time that Batman believed he would not be alive for.

Here’s what the drummer of the band Tool told Rolling Stone about the litigation his band is facing: “We’re going to trial and we want to crush them. But every time we’ve gotten close to going to trial, it gets postponed and we’ve wasted money and time and it has just drained our creative energy. We bought an insurance policy for peace of mind, but instead we would have been better off if we never had it and just dealt with the original lawsuit.”

GWB’s own Stuart Mauney has been appointed to a one year term as a member of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs Advisory Committee. The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs has the mandate to educate the legal profession concerning alcoholism, chemical dependencies, stress, depression and other mental health issues. Don’t forget:  You can follow Stuart on Twitter here. (Oh, and speaking of Stuart, you should go back in time and read his “Burned At Mediation By My Own Facebook Post!” blog entry from 2012.

Finally, there was a great turnout last night at the North Carolina Legal Geeks event at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Unknown Brewing Company. North Carolina attorney Clark Walton spoke to the group about digital and smartphone forensics. If you’re into legal technology issues, you might consider following @NCLegalGeeks on Twitter.

The Range Feud 2: The Dueling Dukes

The Range Feud 2

Famed actor John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison, but he was perhaps best known for his nickname, “The Duke.”  The Duke personified the American Wild West.  He shot and strung up bad guys, fought his way out of tight spots, and generally exhibited a level of awesome manliness that inspired generations of American men.  The Duke also enjoyed his whiskey, and his family recently launched a “Duke” brand whiskey, “inspired by bottles from John Wayne’s personal whiskey collection, preserved for over 50 years and only recently discovered.”  Sounds great, right?  Well, not to everyone.

Reportedly,  Duke University recently filed objections in the trademark office to prevent the whiskey from using the “Duke” name, alleging that doing so will ”’cause confusion and dilution’ that hurts the school’s recruiting and reputation.”  The Duke’s family, which has filed a lawsuit of its own in California, denounces Duke University’s arguments as “ludicrous,” and argues that “[Duke University] ‘has never been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing or selling alcohol,’ [but the school] ‘seems to think it owns the word ‘Duke’ for all purposes and applications.”

It will be interesting to see how this one turns out, as both sides have some interesting arguments.  While the outcome is not clear, one thing is. Duke University should count its lucky stars that it is dealing with the family and not the Duke himself, because the Duke didn’t believe in lawsuits:  “Out here a man settles his own problems.”

ABA Releases Ethics Opinion On Juror Social Media Research

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use love writing and blogging, so much so that our editor Jim Dedman is now contributing posts to other online venues.  Recently, his piece, “ABA Releases Ethics Opinion On Juror Social Media Research,” was published in the Defense Research Institute’s Trials and Tribulations Newsletter. In the piece, he surveys and comments upon the recent ABA rulings and notes its broader implications.

Here’s the first two paragraphs of the article:

In 2014, we, as practicing defense lawyers, find ourselves more than a decade into the age of social media in litigation. These days, without fail, nearly every legal publication and trade journal of note features an article about the value of social media in litigation. Over the years, we’ve learned the benefits of an online investigation of Plaintiffs (and the potential for splendid impeachment material which can arise from such queries), efforts to explore the backgrounds of Plaintiffs’ retained testifying experts , and of course, the general perils of lawyers using social media. We all know that prospective and sitting jurors use – and occasionally abuse – social media. In fact, these days, when preparing for trial, litigators rely upon social media data in determining which prospective jurors to consider or strike from the venire panel. Recently, on April 24, 2014, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 466, entitled “Lawyer Reviewing Jurors’ Internet Presence.” Generally, this comprehensive nine page ethical opinion offers guidance to litigators using social media to investigate potential and sitting jurors. Interpreting pre-Internet principles and applying them to the ever growing social media landscape, the new ABA opinion, as persuasive authority, offers guidance on these issues. The bottom line: When preparing for trial and investigating jurors, be mindful of the potential ethical issues at hand.

First and foremost, yes, litigators can investigate and review publicly available social media profiles of sitting and prospective jurors. The ABA opinion provides that “a lawyer may passively review a juror’s public presence on the Internet.” Like many, jurors have profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (and countless other sites), and lawyers can input the juror’s name into their search engine of choice and review the results without fear of ethical implications. This conclusion makes perfect sense, as there is no reason to deprive lawyers of the ability to access information that the juror has published online for the world to see. In the opinion, the ABA committee likens this “passive review” of such public information to a lawyer “driving down the street where the prospective juror lives to observe the environs in order to glean publically available information that could inform the lawyer’s jury-selection decisions.”

For the rest of the article, please click here.