Man sues Rockstar for using his image in GTA:SA

Rockstar Games are no strangers to legal action, but it doesn’t come stranger than this. An American model, Michael Washington (known as “Shagg”) is suing the publisher – as well as parent company Take Two Interactive – because they based Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on his life.

It seems that Shagg is asking for $250 million – a quarter of the game’s profits – because the lead character in the game – CJ – bears more than a passing resemblance to his own troubled youth. He’s claiming fraud, misappropriation of likeness and copyright infringement, by the way.
[img_big]center,2585,2010-11-18/appetizer_12_tif_jpgcopy.jpg,GTA: San Andreas[/img_big]

Back in the day, ya see, Shagg met up with Rockstar developers to answer questions on “his street life including how the teen-agers in his gang rode around on bicycles.” At the conclusion of the interview, he was told that if the devs chose to include him in the game, they’d let him know.

They never called – and Shagg didn’t think any more of it. Fast forward nearly six years, and Shagg’s nephew told his uncle about this great video game he’d been playing. You can imagine that Uncle Shagg was more than a little surprised when he saw GTA: San Andreas, featuring a character who looked like him, and acted like him, too.

“He then recalled the meeting in or about 2003, and it began to dawn on him that his image had been stolen for the game.

“Upon examination of images of ‘CJ’ and comparison to his photos from that year and other evidence, it became clear that Rockstar had stolen his image and never paid him.”

For those of you who haven’t played GTA:SA, the character of CJ can be pretty seriously customised to suit your personal taste. It’s difficult to say, on a character whose weight can be adjusted from skinny to morbidly obese, just what CJ’s “image” is.
[img_big]center,2585,2010-11-18/appetizer_29_tif_jpgcopy.jpg,We’re not sure if he’s protecting this image.[/img_big]

That said, a perusal of the GTA:SA credits will apparently reveal Shagg’s name, listed (along with hundreds of others) in the “Talent” section, so part of the story checks out. The other, bigger, part suggests that Rockstar based the in-game personalities on a collection of caricatures and stereotypes – Boys ‘n the Hood-style – rather than anything, or anyone specific.

When it comes to Take Two‘s side of the story, they explain that “The Company believes the lawsuit is completely without merit and will vigorously defend itself in the matter.”

This story was featured in Episode 13 of playerattack News:

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