A New York State appeals court has dismissed lawsuits against Take-Two Interactive in which Lindsay Lohan and Mob Wives star Karen Gravano claimed that Grand Theft Auto 5 had violated their privacy by misappropriating their images. The five-judge Appellate Division panel dismissed both cases because the company did not use their actual names, voices or photos. Since the video game is filled with satire and fiction, it is protected by the First Amendment, the court ruled.
In 2014, Lohan sued the makers of the wildly popular open-world action-adventure arguing that the company used her likeness to create the game's character Lacey Jonas without her permission. Reality TV star Gravano also filed a similar suit stating that elements of her likeness and life story were stolen to create the character Andrea Bottino and her story arc. Since both cases shared multiple similarities, the panel of five judges decided to combine the complaints.
"Even if we accept plaintiffs' contentions that the video game depictions are close enough to be considered representations of the respective plaintiffs, plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed because this video game does not fall under the statutory definitions of 'advertising' or 'trade,'" the court's ruling reads. "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."
Lohan's suit claimed that the character Jonas was an "unequivocal" reference to the Mean Girls actress, adding that it incorporated her image, likeness, clothing and her clothing line products in the form of "hats, hair style, sunglasses and jean shorts". They also cited the game's inclusion of Chateau Marmont Hotel in West Hollywood where the actress once lived as evidence of image rights violation.
The Parent Trap actress' 67-page complaint focused on two images that she alleged were Lohan look-alikes — one featuring the "red bikini girl" striking a "peace sign" pose that is shown on the GTA 5 box cover and in the game's intro and the other of a woman shown being frisked by a cop that appears on the cover of a game disc.
In GTA 5, players can help the fictional Jonas character escape from the paparazzi in downtown Vinewood and drive her home. During the ride, she reveals that she has an eating disorder and rants about the struggles of being a celebrity. She also occasionally screams: "This is a disaster," "How's my hair? Do I look good?" or "Oh my God, I'm so f---ing fat. Oh my God! They cannot get a shot of me!"
Take Two's legal team, however, argued that the two were only similar in that they were both young, blonde women, deeming the suit a "frivolous" one. They said Lohan was merely suing for "publicity purposes".
Gravano, who is the daughter of jailed mobster Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, also had similar claims regarding Bottino. She argued that Bottino used the same phrases she does and whose story included several similarities to her own real-life story.
In May, Lohan won a preliminary victory when Take-Two's motion to dismiss was denied.
However, the appellate panel in Manhattan disagreed and decided to dismiss both suits saying even if the video game images were "close enough to be considered representations", video games are considered protected works of fiction and satire. It added that "the images are not of Lohan herself, but merely the avatar in the game that Lohan claims is a depiction of her".
"As to Lohan's claim that an avatar in the video game is she and that her image is used in various images, 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 video game, and never used a photograph of Lohan," the ruling reads.
"We're clearly disappointed and are exploring our options," Gravano's lawyer Thomas Farinella told Reuters. Lohan's attorney, Robert Pritchard, had no immediate comment, Reuters reports.
According to the company's 2016 annual report, GTA 5 has sold more than 65 million units worldwide since its 2013 release. GTA 5 is available now on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.