Rapper Loses Suit Claiming He Was CJ in GTA: San Andreas

Greg Tito

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Sep 29, 2005
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Rapper Loses Suit Claiming He Was CJ in GTA: San Andreas



An appellate judge ruled the performer didn't have enough of a case.

Game designers draw from a lot of sources. One of the sources Michael "Shagg" Washington, part of the group Cypress Hill, claimed Rockstar used in GTA: San Andreas was his own likeness. Washington claims he had a meeting in 2003 with game designers to talk about his life as a gangster, and even gave them a photograph. He never heard from them again, but in 2010, Washington filed a suit for $250 million [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/105979-Hip-Hop-Back-Up-Sues-for-250-Million-Over-GTA-San-Andreas] against Rockstar's parent company Take Two Interacrtive saying that his story and image were used without any recompense. A California judge didn't think he had a case and this week an appeals judge upheld the ruling saying Washington's lawyers failed to prove the character of CJ was substantially based on any information Washington provided.

"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," the judge wrote.

Earlier this year, Gwen Stefani settled a lawsuit against Activision for Band Hero's [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/119952-No-Doubt-and-Activision-Settle-Lawsuit] use of her and her band No Doubt's image playing songs other than their own. In that case, the likeness was not "transformative" enough to be legally acceptable. As the judge in Washington's case writes, "The court in [No Doubt's case] concluded that the defendant's literal depictions of the plaintiffs were not transformative because the No Doubt avatars ... perform rock songs, the same activity by which the band achieved and maintains its fame. [Nothing in the video game] transform the avatars into anything other than exact depictions of No Doubt's members doing exactly what they do as celebrities."

Unfortunately for Washington, it's likely Take Two Interactive and Rockstar would have claimed their right to use his public appearance as long as it was transformative, such as putting him in the fictional world of San Andreas, and they would have likely won. The case didn't even get that far.

"Plaintiff is relying entirely on CJ's physical appearance in the game, but that appearance is so generic that it necessarily includes hundreds of other black males," the judge said.

Should Rockstar or Take-Two have thrown Washington a bone and given him a fee for providing his story in a sit-down meeting? Probably. But they were not legally obligated to pay for information they could have obtained in other ways. Having your life story used for inspiration is just part of living in the spotlight, even the small spotlight that's reserved for back-up rappers. So, in one way, it sucks that Washington won't get paid for his contribution to society in the form of CJ in GTA, but on the other hand, he gets to tell people his life story is dramatized in a videogame. How many of us can say that?

It might not be worth $250 million, but it's still pretty cool.

Source: Hollywood Reporter [http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/250m-grand-theft-auto-lawsuit-385448]

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Quaxar

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Sep 21, 2009
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So it's just about the appearance not that fact that he too has an annoying cousin and likes to wreak havoc when in a car?
Damn, that's disappointing.
 

Greg Tito

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Sep 29, 2005
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when your "talent" doesnt feed your lifestyle, sue. sue, sue ,sue..
 

Beautiful End

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Feb 15, 2011
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If you mean fat CJ, then sur-- well, not even.

Anyway, 50 Cents has his real life drama to back him up as an HCX rapper. This guy...can have his fictional drama story to back up his rep? I dunno...
 

getoffmycloud

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Jun 13, 2011
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Quaxar said:
So it's just about the appearance not that fact that he too has an annoying cousin and likes to wreak havoc when in a car?
Damn, that's disappointing.
Wrong GTA game.

I would have liked to have seen him win and then get arrested for stealing a fighter jet from an aircraft carrier as the game was based on his life :p
 

Therumancer

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Nov 28, 2007
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To be honest I'm not a huge fan of the people making most of these complaints, but I am noticing a trend that seems to have started with "Lady Miss Kier" back with "Space Channel 5", that is to say video game creators using the likeness of celebrities without consent or compensation and then getting away with it because it's not clear when depicted in animation (allegedly), or the information being collected from celebrities is not collected in good faith, with misrepresentation as to what they intend to do with it.

I'm not saying Mr. Washington has a case in paticular, but I do think we need more effort made to resolve these kinds of incidents since to me it seems like the same accusations seem to be constantly re-surfacing.
 

Doom972

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Callate said:
Should have brought that jet pack to court, man.
My thoughts exactly. He should also be on trial for hijacking a Harrier from the Navy.
 

Imperioratorex Caprae

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May 15, 2010
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IF Eazy E were alive, I could see this happening with him, as one of the character models is almost DEFINITELY his likeness.
 

RJ 17

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Nov 27, 2011
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Greg Tito said:
"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," the judge wrote.
I like how the judge used the word "purported" here...as if he's saying the defendant is only famous in his own mind.

"The court in [No Doubt's case] concluded that the defendant's literal depictions of the plaintiffs were not transformative because the No Doubt avatars ... perform rock songs, the same activity by which the band achieved and maintains its fame.
Yet in No Doubt's case, the fame is apparently clearly known and established. :3
 

mrm5561

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Apr 27, 2010
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i know this guys pain. i once wore a Hawaiian shirt over to the owner of rockstars house to watch scar face. a short time later boom vice city. our court date is next year
 

CpT_x_Killsteal

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Jun 21, 2012
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Ridiculous how this idiot has a sense of entitlement just because he spoke to a game developer about a few things. It's not like they're using his fame *cough* to make money off him. He just told them some of his stories so the devs could get a feel for the scenario.

On another note, you know that generic white guy you've run over about 50 million times? That's me. I want my money Rockstar.
 

Technocrat

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Nov 19, 2008
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I don't remember CJ being that fat...not the way *I* played, anyway.

But DAMN San Andreas was almost a decade ago. That's depressing.
 

The

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Jan 24, 2012
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So, let me get this straight... He says CJ's adventures in San Andreas were based off his life?

That means that he stole thousands of cars, killed a thousand civilians, robbed a casino, stole a fighter jet, kicked the ass of the entire police force on multiple occasions, has survived bullets, car crashes, burns, and explosive damage, stole some weird alien goo from Area 51 using a jetpack, has his own gang that dominates all of Los Angeles, AND in a final epic battle killed and chased his corrupt police officer arch-nemesis in a firetruck. And has a brother named Sweet.

I wish my life was this eventful.
 

MeChaNiZ3D

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Aug 30, 2011
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What they should have done is lost the lawsuit and accused him of mass murder, using the game as evidence.

What's that? Not proper evidence? [Present Attorney's Badge]
 

Greg Tito

PR for Dungeons & Dragons
Sep 29, 2005
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"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,"

well, if CJ's story is based on his life, I'm sure he could show us his jetpack and cassino to prove it
 

Pebkio

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Nov 9, 2009
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Bullshit that this is based on Shagg's life. Or anywhere near his life. Or within 60 miles of his life. I bet the one or two missions that were inspired by his bragging has actually less to do with his life than it does with mine.

Also: Who the hell is this guy?
 

JoesshittyOs

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Aug 10, 2011
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That guy used to text a girl I kinda dated when she was 16 asking for sex. At least, according to her,