The four-year lawsuit filed by actress Lindsay Lohan against Grand Theft Auto V publisher Take-Two has finally come to an end, with a unanimous New York Court of Appeals ruling that rejects the starlet’s contention that she was the inspiration for the game character Lacey Jonas.
Although the court conceded that “an avatar (that is, a graphical representation of a person, in a video game or like media) may constitute a ‘portrait’” within the limits of the relevant statute, it also concluded that “the artistic renderings are indistinct, satirical representations of the style, look, and persona of a modern, beach-going young woman that are not reasonably identifiable as plaintiff.”
Lacey Jonas is depicted in two loading screens in the game — one in which she is flashing a V-sign while taking a selfie on the beach, and another one showing her arrest by a policewoman on Vinewood Boulevard.
Jonas also appears in the “Escape Paparazzi” random event, which can be undertaken by any character who encounters her in an alley trying to escape a horde of photographers. When being driven to her house (or, if playing as Trevor, to the Altruist cult) she’s revealed as a narcissistic anorexic former child star.
Lohan originally filed suit in 2014, and a five-judge panel tossed the case in 2016 saying it had “no merit.” Lohan appealed, but this latest ruling would seem to put an end to the matter once and for all.
Also along for the ride was former Mob Wives star Karen Gravano, who claimed in a similar lawsuit that her likeness and story were used for the GTA V character Andrea Bottino. Bottino appears in the random mission “Burial,” where she’s rescued in Paleto Bay before being buried alive by some mobsters. Gravano’s lawsuit was rejected as well.
Both lawsuits were doomed to fail from the beginning, not only because the cartoonish stereotypes depicted in GTA games are hardly identifiable as specific people, but courts have long upheld that parody is given wide latitude and is well-protected by the First Amendment.
Even if the game characters were recognizable as real-life individuals, the court noted that “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.”