As news filters in that Hollywood actress and controversial socialite Lindsay Lohan has finally made good on her threats to sue the makers of the blockbuster video game GTA V, many are beginning to wonder whether this is another attention-seeking gimmick or whether the actress has a genuine reason to feel her rights have been infringed. The Freaky Friday and Mean Girls star claims that creators of Grand Theft Auto V, Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games, used her image and likeness in portraying a minor character, Lacey Jonas, without permission. The case has opened up a lively debate about the rights and privacy of celebrity figures in contemporary culture. Is her move to sue GTA V a celebrity prank or a justified action?
Lohan, who is better known around the world for her controversial personal life rather than her acting prowess, first threatened to sue Rockstar back in December 2013. She finally filed her suit in a Manhattan court on Wednesday, claiming the character Lacey Jonas “unequivocally” resembles her and that the game has not only shamefacedly depicted her likeness but also her clothing line as well as the Chateau Marmont hotel where the tabloid favorite once lived and wrote a few chapters of her tumultuous personal life.
Many celebrity news pundits and social commentators are not disputing that the GTA V character bears at least some resemblance to Lohan, but many are keen to point out this is not the first time a celebrity figure has come out and expressed concerns about their character being represented in a video game. Last year Ellen Page, the Two Souls star, complained the character Ellie in The Last of Us, a video game by Naughty Dog, closely resembled her. The big difference is that Page did not feel aggrieved enough to take legal action. This has many asking today if Lindsay Lohan is pulling a celebrity prank by suing GTA V or if her action is justified.
Before considering whether Lohan has a case, it is important to note that since its first release, the Grand Theft Auto series has never been averse to parodying actual living people as well as businesses and television shows. However, the question remains whether the character known as Lacey Jonas is a blatant portrayal of Lindsay Lohan or just a fictional depiction of the vain, attention-seeking Hollywood star stereotype. Some feel it would take some lively imagination to classify it as the former rather than the latter.
Many people are wondering whether this latest overture by Lohan will help in her bid to turn around her much tarnished image. By filing the suit, some are asking: is she not tacitly acknowledging that she indeed does bear close resemblance to such a grotesquely vain character as Lacey Jonas? If the case is, as many experts and pundits are predicting, thrown out by the courts; will this not just further soil her reputation?
According to provisions of the Fourth Amendment, it seems clear that the creators of GTA V were well within their rights in their portrayal of Lacey Jonas. The law gives leeway for the artistic, entertaining and creative portrayal of a person’s name or character in a way that is transformative. In other words, all Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games would have to show (assuming even that Lindsay Lohan manages to prove that Lacey Jonas is a portrayal of her) is that their artistic work adds enough creativity as to make their work of art recognizably their own. Is Lindsay Lohan’s lawsuit against GTA V a celebrity prank or a justified action? Either way, the law will probably win in the end.
Opinion By: Rebecca Savastio