Cypress Hill backup singer/model Michael 'Shagg' Washington recently sued Take-Two Interactive for using his likeness in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. According to Washington, he met with the San Andreas team early on in the games development to discuss details about his former street life and gang activities, in addition to providing them a photo of himself for further reference. Washington even appears in the San Andreas credits as a “model.” So it’s obvious that Washington had something to do with the game’s development.
However, “stealing his likeness” is quite the claim, and apparently not one that’s able to stick. The judge on the case ruled that CJ’s likeness is far too generic to actually be based on Washington’s appearance. While there may be similarities, probably as a result of Washington’s model work, CJ cannot be considered a direct copy of Washington himself. In fact, CJ’s appearance is generic enough that these similarities can apply to “hundreds of other black males.”
In addition, the Judge said that neither the overall plot of San Andreas, nor the individual character arc of CJ is similar enough to Washington’s life to warrant the lawsuit. "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," the judge said.
Washington’s lawsuit was for $250 million, which is no small chunk of change. Should Take-Two have lost the lawsuit, it may have affected their release schedule in some way. For now, everything continues on as planned.