Back in February 2019, legendary WWE wrestler ‘Booker T.’ opened a Call of Duty lawsuit against Activision. He and his lawyers alleged that Activision had built a character – Prophet – that directly ripped off a persona created by Booker T. way back in the early 1990s. This character was known as G.I. Bro, and it saw Booker T. masquerade as a heavily-muscled, camo-wearing U.S. Army operative.
Although Booker T. retired the character relatively soon after making it big, he didn’t keep it under wraps forever. In 2020, a modernised and updated version of G.I. Bro was welcomed back to the ‘squared circle’, some may argue to support Booker T.’s lawsuit. As part of a strange coincidence, Booker T.’s revised G.I. Bro looked more like Prophet than the original G.I. Bro ever did.
However, the evidence provided by Booker T.’s lawyers does go some way to highlighting the initial concern.
The poster on the left was created to promote a comic book written around the fictional G.I. Bro character. That was in 2015, and in 2018, the poster promoting the Prophet character was revealed. There are several clear similarities, which include aspects such as facial expression, posture, and general appearance.
Regardless of that fact, a jury ruled that the Black Ops 4 character was not a copy or rip-off of the G.I. Bro character.
History Repeats Itself
In 2021, a fresh lawsuit was opened against Activision regarding the likeness of a character released for Modern Warfare and Warzone. The ‘Mara’ character was allegedly stolen from a ‘writer, videographer, and photographer’ by the name of Clayton Haugen.
Haugen had hired an actress, Alex Zedra, to pose for conceptual photographs as part of a character development process. However, Activision and Infinity Ward also hired Zedra to model for a similar character – Mara. The end result was a pair of characters that looked exactly alike, as they were both destined for a similar purpose.
As of June 2021, Activision was categorically denying any copyright infringements and fighting back against the Call of Duty lawsuit.
It’s Far Too Common
For years, celebrities have been raising copyright and likeness lawsuits against video game developers.
In 2014, Lindsay Lohan attempted to sue Rockstar for alleging stealing her likeness in the creation of a character. It was a bizarre case, as the character itself was a woman that didn’t even appear in the final game.
Also in 2014, a Panamanian ‘ex-dictator’ by the name of Manuel Noriega raised yet another case against Activision. He was claiming for defamation and for direct use of his likeness, which, to be fair, was accurate. Although there was absolutely no ambiguity behind the usage of Noriega’s likeness, the case was thrown out by a Californian court, citing the First Amendment as grounds for dismissal.
Booker T.’s lawsuit is the latest in a long line of attempts to gouge a little compensation out of these gaming organisations. It’s extremely rare that they succeed, but that fact won’t stop celebrities from trying it in the future.