game controllerAccording to the BBC, the children of late Angolan rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi, are suing the makers of Call of Duty in France for €1 million in damages for his “rather unfavorable” depiction in the best-selling video game.  Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, the video game at the heart of the suit, features a virtual Savimbi yelling phrases calling for the death of his rivals and rallying his troops to brutishly terrorize civilians.  Savimbi’s children argue that this is an entirely unrealistic depiction of their father while COD’s makers argue that the game portrays the former rebel as a “good guy who comes to help the heroes.”

Prior to his death in 2002, Savimbi was the head of the Unita movement in Angola and was at the forefront of the civil war against the Angolan government.  Backed by the US and apartheid South African government, Savimbi raged a bloody war against Angola’s ruling government which was supported by the Soviets and Cuba.  The four-decade long conflict resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 people and while some hold Savimbi in high revere, others consider him a ruthless murderer.

Call of Duty’s legal department has faced similar conflicts over the game’s representation of certain political leaders.  In 2014, former Panama dictator Manuel Noriega claimed damages over his depiction in the game but a US court dismissed the charges.  Now it is up to the French justice system to decide if damages are warranted.

Loren Shokes is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2017).

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