$250 million suit for likeness in GTA: San Andreas fails

All of Grand Theft Auto's characters are fictional, though some are clearly more based on reality than others. Model and Cypress Hill backup singer Michael "Shagg" Washington was leaning on that fact when he sued Rockstar Games for $250 million in 2010, alleging San Andreas protagonist CJ drew heavily from his life's story and physical appearance without compensation.

The Hollywood Reporter says a California appeals court Wednesday backed up a prior decision that Washington couldn't prove CJ's creation was not covered by publisher Take-Two's transformative use defense. That is, the argument that the First Amendment permits existing materials to be used free and clear if they are altered enough for a new purpose.

Washington was not without ammunition in the case--Rockstar developers did in fact interview him about his history as former gang member in 2003, and he even appeared in San Andreas' credits as talent. But the appeals court wasn't having it, according to its unpublished written decision.

"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."

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.