Gravano v Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc.

Grand Theft Auto V was first released on September 17, 2013, and is set in “San Andreas,” a fictional state. The game is typically played in either first-person or third-person view, with the objective to complete missions that are assigned in the game. The game series itself has caused controversies for its violence, and vulgar depiction of women, but has still managed to earn $1 billion within the first three days of sales.

Not surprisingly, lawsuits were filed. In 2014, both Karen Gravano and Lindsay Lohan filed suit alleging that defendants violated their right to privacy under New York Civil Rights Law § 51 by misappropriating their likeness for use in the video game “Grand Theft Auto V.” New York Civil Rights Law § 51, outlines actions for injunction and for damages related to use of a person’s name, portrait, picture or voice which is used for advertising  or trade purposes without written consent first. Gravano alleges that the character Andrea Bottino uses her image, portrait, voice, and likeness. Lohan similarly claims that defendants, in creating the character Lacey Jonas, used a look-alike model to evoke Lohan’s persona and image.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York County dismissed the complaints since the causes of action under §51 don’t use the name, portrait, picture, or voice for advertising or trade. The judge wrote a very short and simple decision which stated “This video game’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.” Gravano v Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., 151633/14 1553 slip op. at 2, (N.Y. Sept. 1, 2016).

Read the Opinion Here

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