The family of the late Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi is suing the makers of Call of Duty for €1 million, claiming that the video game series disingenuously portrays Savimbi as a “big halfwit who wants to kill everybody.” Doesn't that describe every character in COD?
The founder of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola makes a brief yet indiscreet cameo in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, leading an aggressive militaristic charge while screaming, "they are weak... death to the MPLA," grenade launcher in hand. Take a look below:
Three of Savimbi’s 25+ children took umbrage with this "barbaric" depiction. But the case's defendant, publisher Activision, say the game clearly paints him as a "good guy." Lawyer Etienne Kowalski stated that the portrayal is accurate and fair, showing Savimbi “for who he was… a character of Angolan history, a guerrilla chief who fought the MPLA.”
Jonas Savimbi was a vocal, not to mention erudite, anti-communist and as such earned the thanks (and financial assistance) of the US during the Cold War. President Reagan even once invited him to the White House in 1986.
You'd expect this type of suit to be thrown out of court without much ado in the US, the defendant protected by the first amendment right to free expression. However, the case has been filed in France where defamation laws are generally more vigilantly upheld.
Alex Tutty, a specialist in entertainment and media law, points out that:
A claim for defamation of a dead person is notoriously difficult and can be impossible depending on the territory. France does have laws that permit a defamation action in the case where the alleged defamation affects the deceased person’s relatives in that it causes them suffering or reflect upon their reputation.
Call of Duty's representations of real world figures have never been particularly nuanced, nor do they profess to be. It will remain for the courts to judge whether they can in fact be considered slanderous.