You’re Getting Sued for What? An E & O Odyssey (Pt 11)

by Dentons

This post is part of an occasional series highlighting the type of risks which film and TV producers face and which are supposed to be covered by “errors and omissions” (E&O) insurance.  The series aims to demonstrate that what might seem to a producer to be unjustified paranoia on the part of their lawyer is, on the contrary, well-founded paranoia.  These posts will point to actual lawsuits which have been filed against producers and distributors for various alleged rights infringements (whether copyright, trade-mark, right of publicity, or otherwise) – and which inform the nit-picking approach taken by producer’s counsel.

Giving E&O “clearance” advice is usually a mix of substantive legal analysis (“does the proposed inclusion of this famous person’s image in this movie violate their publicity rights?”), practical risk assessment (“this is a film which seventeen people will see – how is the famous person going to find out about it?”) and instinct (“that famous person has a reputation for aggressively protecting their interests”). Producers, their lawyers and the lawyers of the E&O insurer often engage in a bit of hemming and hawing about how to handle a particular situation, and the final decision can come down to a frank financial judgment: the deductible on your E&O policy is $25,000 – are you willing to pay that amount if someone files a claim just because you think that including this possibly-violative image is critical to the “artistic” merit of the project?

Over time, most entertainment lawyers develop a bit of a sixth sense about what is and what isn’t advisable when it comes to E&O clearance (e.g., anything involving Disney, Coca-Cola or the Elvis Presley estate should be authorized). Sometimes, though, things just come out of a clear blue sky:

Manuel Noriega sues over ‘Call of Duty’ video game

Yup. 80-year old imprisoned former Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County against the publishers of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, one of the most successful videogames of the last few years, on the basis that one of the “missions” in the game requires players to capture an on-screen villain depicted as Noriega. Based on news reports, the lawsuit appears to allege defamation and infringement of Noriega’s right of publicity.

One can just imagine the discussions which took place about whether there was any risk in including Noriega’s image in the game (“dude, he’s 80 years old and he’s in prison in Panama - what’s he gonna do, sue us?”). For what it’s worth, I think an awful lot of entertainment lawyers I know would have counselled their client that there was risk in using Noriega’s image, but it was probably a pretty low practical risk. There are certainly defences which can (and will) be raised against the lawsuit (free speech being the most obvious; truth, lack of malice or fair comment as a defence to the defamation claim; the untenable nature of Noriega’s claim to be entitled to a share of the profits) – but it’s always best to avoid having to be dragged into court in the first place (which would certainly be the preference of the defendant’s insurer). Ultimately, just because a risk is awfully low doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m looking forward to dragging out the “Manuel Noriega sued for using his image” story in future discussions with clients.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Dentons | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Dentons on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.