GTA: San Andreas The makers of Grand Theft Auto know a thing or two about stealing cars, but according to one musician, they also know a thing or two
about stealing ideas.
IGN reports that Michael "Shagg" Washington, a backup singer for seminal hip hop group Cypress Hill, has filed a lawsuit against developer Rockstar Games and publisher Take 2 Interactive over the unlawful use of his life and likeness in the hit PS2 game,
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Filed in a Los Angeles Superior Court on Monday, the suit
claims that the developers based the game's protagonist, Carl "CJ"
Johnson, on Washington's real life story. Court documents allege this information was gleaned during a two-hour conversation he had with Rockstar in 2003 in which he was asked about his personal experiences with gang life.
[Related: Axl Rose sues game for millions]
According to the complaint, Washington "responded to their
questions and related details of his life," which included "how the
teen-agers in his gang rode around on bicycles." (Bikes are prominently
featured in the game.)
As for why it's taken him a good six years to get around to
litigation, Washington insists that Rockstar told him they would notify him if they used him in the game, which they never did. He claims he was only made aware of his appearance in the game when his nephew showed him the title this past July.
"He recalled the meeting in or about 2003, and it began
to dawn on him that his image had been stolen for the game," the suit
reads. "Upon examination of images of 'CJ' and comparison to his photos
from that year and other evidence, it became clear that Rockstar had stolen his
image and never paid him." The suit goes on to accuse Rockstar of
fraudulently claiming that the character was based on rapper Young Malay.
Washington is seeking 25% of the game's supposed billion-dollar profits -- or a whopping
$250 million -- for fraud, misappropriation of likeness and infringement.
Rockstar and Take 2 plan on fighting the case in court.
This is hardly GTA: San Andreas' first brush with
controversy. Released in 2004, the game came under immediate fire for the
inclusion of a sexually-explicit mini-game -- better known as "Hot
Coffee" -- that led to a recall and the dreaded 'AO' rating. Not that it
mattered: eventually it was re-released with an 'M' rating and would go on to
become the best-selling video game for the Playstation 2, with sales eclipsing
17 million copies.
Washington joins a lengthy list of litigious musicians who have gone after video game publishers, including Courtney Love, No Doubt, and, most recently, Axl Rose, who lobbed a $20 million suit at Activision over the inclusion of ex-bandmate
Slash in Guitar Hero III.