Lindsay Lohan is reportedly planning to bring a lawsuit against Rockstar Games, the makers of Grand Theft Auto V, alleging that the video game co. use her likeness for the latest installment of the popular game. Turns out, the cover for the game depicts a woman in a bikini that, according to Lohan's camp, looks familiar. We think it looks more like Kate Upton that Lohan. However, details from the game, itself, suggest that the character may, in fact, be based on the troubled starlet. In the game itself, the beach blonde bears some undeniable similarities to Lohan: She is chased by paparazzi; she is holed up in a hotel likely intended to be the the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, a go-to spot of Lohan's; and last but not least, a possible mission for a player in the game is to photograph the blonde having sex in one of the hotel rooms. Based on the cover photos alone, I would take Lindsay for the blonde in a fedora getting arrested, as the star does have quite a history of run-ins with the law.
Lohan's lawsuit in the making brings to mind the White v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc. case, which was heard in the 9th Circuit in 1992. Wheel of Fortune TV personality, Vanna White, sued Samsung for using what she alleged was her likeness in an television advertisement. The likeness that White sued over is a robot that was conveniently placed on a set similar to Wheel of Fortune. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the characterization in the commercial pointed to the identity of White, and in a highly-criticized ruling held that it was an unacceptable infringement on White's right to publicity.
The takeaway from this case, aside from the arguments that this decision goes too far in protecting the right to publicity (namely, Judge Kozinski's dissent), is its discussion of the right of publicity. It is essentially a doctrine that has developed to protect the commercial interest of celebrities in their identities (think: Kim Kardashian v. Old Navy). The theory is that a celebrity’s identity is valuable on its face, and that likeness may be protected from the unauthorized commercial exploitation. In accordance with the White case, the method of how exactly the defendant has appropriated the celebrity's identity is pretty open-ended, the point of interest of whether the defendant has, in fact, appropriated that likeness.
Also worthy of note: Samsung alleged that its use of White's likeness was a parody but the court rejected that defense. holding that parodies are run for the purpose of poking fun. In this case, the ad’s primary message is: “buy Samsung VCRs.”
Be sure to tell us whether you think Grand Theft Auto is channeling Lindsay's likeness in the comments section below!