Pablo Escobar's Brother Demands One Billion Dollars From Netflix Over Narcos
from the seems-reasonable dept
What is it with South American historical figures suddenly thinking they can control everything to do with their family names? You’ll hopefully recall the brief existence of a case of publicity rights violation brought against Activision by Manuel Noriega over the depiction of him in the gamemaker’s Call of Duty series. That case was quickly tossed out by the court because the First Amendment has just an tiny bit more weight when it comes to artistic expression than does any publicity rights for public historical figures from other countries that might, maybe, kinda-sorta exist, possibly. We might have struggled at the time to find a complainant less likely than Noriega to win this sort of long-shot in the American court system, but we need struggle no longer.
Roberto Escobar, brother and former accountant to drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, has sent a letter to Netflix demanding a billion dollars (not a joke) and the right to review all future episodes of the streaming company’s hit show Narcos, to make sure that he and his family are portrayed accurately. The letter, first published by TMZ (which explains the massive TMZ watermark on it) is quite a read.
“In the first season of Narcos, there were mistakes, lies and discrepancies from the real story,” the letter says. “To this date, I am one of the few survivors of the Medellin cartel, and I was Pablo’s closest ally, managing his accounting and he is my brother for life. I think nobody else in the world is alive to determine the validity of the materials, but me.”
Escobar adds that he is seeking $1 billion in compensation, and “if they decline my offer we have attorneys ready to proceed with necessary actions” over misappropriation of the Escobar name. “I don’t think there will be any more Narcos if they do not talk to me,” he says. “They are playing me without paying. I am not a monkey in a circus, I don’t work for pennies.”
Okay, so let’s unpack this a little. For starters, Roberto Escobar isn’t even in the television series. Like, at all. He’s not even mentioned. Using a handy thing called creative license, the show portrays Pablo’s accountant as someone completely different, not related to the family. Which means this is all about Roberto Escobar claiming exclusive rights over the portrayal of other Escobars, which is an interesting legal concept in that it has almost no grounding in any kind of reality.
First, Escobar makes no claim to any actual official intellectual property rights over his name. None. Instead, he touts his knowledge of the inner workings of the drug operation as the reason why he exerts this control. This novel legal theory is wholly unlikely to find any purchase within the American legal system. And, even if it were, as was the case with Noriega’s lawsuit, the First Amendment trumps any kind of publicity rights that might exist, in particular when we’re talking about historical figures such as pretty much every named real person in the Narcos series. Certainly Pablo Escobar qualifies, as would most of his notorious gang.
Instead, this is likely an attempt by Roberto to make enough noise to have Netflix hire him on to have some involvement in the show. He’s apparently sent them letters in the past requesting this, prior to his request for the paltry sum typically reserved for Dr. Evil. Though I admit it would be comical to see him actually try this tactic in court.