In 2014, singer-actress Lindsay Lohan filed suit against publisher Take-Two Interactive and developer Rockstar Games for alleged misuse of her likeness in Grand Theft Auto V. It held enough water for a state judge to allow it to go forward back in March, but as of today, the lawsuit has reached its conclusion — in Take-Two and Rockstar’s favor.
“Even if we accept plaintiffs’ contentions that the videogame depictions are close enough to be considered representations of the respective plaintiffs, plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed because this videogame does not fall under the statutory definitions of ‘advertising’ or ‘trade,'” reads the official statement from the New York Supreme Court, which handed down its verdict today, September 1st. “This videogame’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.”
Defendants Take-Two and Rockstar have long argued that Lohan’s suit was a simple publicity stunt, but a close reading of court documents reveal that it was always about way more than the fact both Lohan and her alleged Grand Theft Auto V counterpart, Lacey Jonas, are visually similar: Lohan’s suit alleged that the game uses her voice, “signature” pose, and clothing designs, at least the latter of which are copyrightable. However, even on this level, the New York Supreme Court was far from convinced.
Lohan argues that defendants purposefully used Lohan’s bikini, shoulder-length blonde hair, jewelry, cell phone, and “signature peace sign’ pose” in one image, and used Lohan’s likeness in another image by appropriating facial features, body type, physical appearance, hair, hat, sunglasses, jean shorts, and loose white top. Finally, Lohan argues that defendants used her portraits and voice impersonation in a character that is introduced to the player in a “side mission.”
[…] [However] 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 videogame, and never used a photograph of Lohan.
In short, the New York Supreme Court failed to find evidence of infringement, instead ruling that any likeness was coincidental and unintentional. Lohan’s lawyers may choose to appeal the ruling, of course, but it’s very likely that this is where the case ends. So that’s one lawsuit off Rockstar’s back, anyway! (Not that they have any shortage of those.)