Reversing a trial judge, a panel of the New York appellate court dismissed lawsuits filed by Lindsay Lohan and a reality TV star alleging that the makers of a video game used their likenesses without permission.
Lohan and Mob Wives star Karen Gravano claimed their right to privacy under New York law was violated by Take-Two Interactive Software, the company behind the popular video game Grand Theft Auto V. The game, which takes place in the fictional city Los Santos, features a character named Andrea Bottino who allegedly incorporates Gravano's image, portrait, voice, and likeness, and contains a backstory about a father who ratted on the mob, which forced his family to deal with the repercussions.
Lohan alleged that the defendants used a bikini-clad look-alike who flashed the sometime actress's "signature peace sign" pose to evoke her persona.
Neither argument swayed the court, which granted the defendant's motions to dismiss the suits. "Both Gravano's and Lohan's respective causes of action under Civil Rights Law Section 51 'must fail because defendants did not use [plaintiffs'] name, portrait, or picture,'" the court wrote. "Despite Gravano's contention that the video game depicts her, defendants never referred to Gravano by name or used her actual name in the video game, never used Gravano herself as an actor for the video game, and never used a photograph of her."
As for Lohan, "defendants also never referred to Lohan by name or used her actual name in the video game, never used Lohan herself as an actor for the video game, and never used a photograph of Lohan."
Even if the court accepted the plaintiffs' position that the video game depictions were close enough to be considered representations, their "claims should be dismissed because this video game does not fall under the statutory definitions of 'advertising' or 'trade,'" the panel added. "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."
To read the order in Gravano v. Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., click here.
Why it matters: The appellate panel made short work of the plaintiffs' allegations, finding that the New York statute's limited protections did not extend to the avatars and likenesses found in the video game. Since the defendants never used either plaintiff's name, portrait, or picture, the video game company was off the hook.