The Florida “Joker,” Lawrence Sullivan, whose distinctive face tattoos gained him notoriety when his mugshot went viral in 2017, has accused Rockstar Games, the creator of the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) video game series, of using his likeness in the latest GTA 6 trailer. The trailer, released on Monday, set a new record for the most views of a non-music video in its first 24 hours on YouTube, garnering over 93 million views.
Viewers quickly noticed scenes in the trailer that seemed to mirror viral incidents from Florida, where the game is based. One scene features an alligator entering a convenience store, while another depicts a police chase involving a naked man. Sullivan, recognizing what he believes to be a resemblance between himself and a tattooed character in the trailer, took to TikTok to voice his claim.
In the TikTok video, Sullivan points to a photo of his mugshot alongside a screenshot from the trailer, emphasizing the similarities and asserting that Rockstar Games used his likeness without permission. He demands a conversation with the game developer and suggests compensation in the range of “a mil or two.”
Sullivan, known as the “Florida Joker,” links his tattoos to personal significance, seeing himself as a character who has overcome life’s tragedies, similar to the Joker. However, based on past legal precedents, Sullivan’s attempt to extract financial compensation from Rockstar may face significant challenges.
In 2014, actress Lindsay Lohan filed a lawsuit against Rockstar Games, claiming that a character in GTA 5 resembled her in appearance, voice, and clothing. The New York Supreme Court dismissed Lohan’s suit in 2016, ruling that Rockstar had not referred to her by name, used her actual name, or employed her as an actor for the game. The court deemed the game a work of fiction, not subject to laws governing advertising, and rejected Lohan’s claim that her image was used in promotional materials.
Drawing parallels to the Lohan case, it appears Sullivan may encounter difficulties in proving that Rockstar used his likeness in a manner that violates legal standards. The court’s emphasis on the fictional nature of video games as a form of expression further diminishes the likelihood of a successful claim for financial compensation based on alleged unauthorized use of likeness.