Court Rejects Claim That San Andreas Hero Was Based On Cypress Hill Backup Dancer

Unless he wants to try his luck before the US Supreme Court, a backup dancer for Cypress Hill won't be getting $US250 million — or any money — from the makers of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. A California appeals court has upheld an earlier ruling against the dancer's claim that the character of Carl "CJ" Johnson, the game's protagonist, was based on him.

There was more to this than you might think, even if a $US250 million demand is, shall we say, optimistic (and likely made to cause publisher Take-Two Interactive to seek a settlement without a trial.) Michael "Shagg" Washington, the plaintiff, met with developers in 2003 and discussed details of his past as a gang member in Los Santos Angeles. His photo ended up in Rockstar's files and his name is listed as a model in the game's credits.

But connecting all that to CJ himself was a bit of a stretch, according to a district judge, who was upheld on Wednesday by the state Court of Appeals. The original judge said Washington was relying solely on J's physical appearance in the game to make the connection. "[T]hat appearance is so generic that it necessarily includes hundreds of other black males." Unless Washington also transformed himself from a 50kg rail into a 110kg destroyer with a trapezius the size of a Thanksgiving turkey, in just two weeks at the Ganton Gym, I'd be inclined to agree with the judge.

Naturally, the appeals court had to cite Gwen Stefani's successful action against Activision for its use of her likeness in a manner she didn't consent to: 

The No Doubt avatars ... perform rock songs, the same activity by which the band achieved and maintains its fame ... [Nothing in the video game] transform[s] the avatars into anything other than exact depictions of No Doubt's members doing exactly what they do as celebrities. Here, however, 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.

Singer's $250M Lawsuit Over 'Grand Theft Auto' Fails [The Hollywood Reporter]


    "To his life or his purported fame"...The fame of being a backup dancer..following in the steps of k-fed I see

    That's some good shit he be smoking!

    I can not understand Cypress Hill having back up dancers.. London Symphony Orchestra on the other hand I totally get!

    Side note, I have an autograph of the voice actor of GTA:SA Young Maylay who is also a rapper. No Idea why I just remembered that fact?

    Nah, CJ is an caricature of Warren G

    Last edited 05/11/12 12:01 pm

    Wait... Cypress Hill had backup dancers?! That ain't very gangsta!

    Wasn't this the guy who had a reasonably solid case? I could have sworn he had like missions in the game that were based on stories he'd told them (the bike one is the only one that springs to mind).
    Not $250m close to his story, but enough to show an actual link between the interviews he did with Rockstar and the character CJ.

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