Rockstar Games has won a lawsuit brought against it by a Cyprus Hill backup singer who was trying to claim $250m for using him as a model for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' lead character, CJ.
According to Hollywood Reporter, Singer Michael S. Washington met with Rockstar in 2003 and claims he was tricked into sharing details of his life. Washington launched the lawsuit in 2010 after seeing the character that he felt looked like him.
Although Washington's name even appears in the credits of San Andreas as a model, it was ruled that there was no violation of publicity rights and that CJ's appearance was too generic to be specifically Washington. The judge ruled that Washington would have needed to show evidence such as similar tattoos, birthmarks or other physical features in order to prove the violation.
'Washington has presented no evidence demonstrating that the plot or characters of GTA: San Andreas have any relevance to his life or his purported fame,' reads the California court's appellate decision.
Rockstar's publisher, Take-Two, won the case using a transformative use defence, an ill defined part of fair use laws in the US that allows for commentary, criticism and parody of a copyrighted work or material.
Although in other media publicity rights has paid out large sums of damages, how far video game characters can lead to this is a source of debate in the law. Although it settled out of court earlier this year, Activision's legal spat with No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani for the use of her likeness to sing non-No Doubt songs in Band Hero was deemed to not qualify for the transformative use defence.
Rockstar Games recently announced that Grand Theft Auto 5 is aiming for a release in the first or second quarter of 2013 and will be set in Los Santos, one of the three fictional cities featured in San Andreas.