Skip to main content

Backup Singer Sues Rockstar for $250M

A backup singer for Cypress Hill has filed a complaint against Rockstar Games in the Los Angeles Superior Court (pdf) alleging that the developer used his likeness in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas without his consent. The lawsuit seeks 25-percent of the game's total profits ($250M) for fraud, misappropriation of likeness and infringement.

Filed Monday, Michael "Shagg" Washington claims that the character Carl "CJ" Johnson uses his image and life story. Washington said that he actually met with Rockstar back in 2003 to talk about his life on the street for the then-upcoming game. However he had no clue that his "likeness" was actually used until six years later when his nephew pointed out the character.

"The plaintiff had never seen the game," the complaint states. "He did not own or play video games, but it seemed possible that he had been included in the game. He then recalled the meeting in or about 2003, and it began to dawn on him that his image had been stolen for the game."

"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 complaint adds.

Take-Two responded to the complaint, calling it "completely without merit." The publisher said that it planned to "vigorously" defend itself in the matter. Washington's attorney however doesn't seem threatened, indicating that Rockstar and Take-Two are similar to typical GTA characters by cheating his client out of the money he's owed.

"It's hard to believe that the makers of a game that allows you to shoot at cops, pick up prostitutes, and run over pedestrians at will, would actually cheat somebody out of money, but this seems to be the case," Jeff Grotke, Washington's attorney told IGN.

The complaint states that, back in 2003, the plaintiff (Washington) responded to Rockstar's questions and related details of his troubled youth. "The plaintiff told them about details of his street life including how the teen-agers in his gang rode around on bicycles," the complaint states. "After almost two hours of questioning which covered many topics of gang and street life, the meeting ended and the plaintiff was allowed to leave."

Washington claims that Rockstar said he would be notified if his likeness would actually be used in the game, however he never heard from the developer again.