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.

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Companies: netflix

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Comments on “Pablo Escobar's Brother Demands One Billion Dollars From Netflix Over Narcos”

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30 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

I have only one question:

In his demands, did he make sure to pronounce and/or spell it as ‘One bee-leon dollars’, pinky extended as he said/typed it, with a white or bald cat in close proximity at the time? Because really, when you’re going to present a demand the likes of which you’d expect from a cartoonish super-villain, I’m pretty sure most if not all of those things are mandatory.

Anonymous Coward says:

ALso the series Narco’s IS misleading and wrong.

Pablo Escobar tortured and murdered women, children and often made sure their relatives were forced to watch.

He burned people alive in their homes, killed drug mules once they’d travelled too often and become recognizable.

He stole from poor people even though he had so much cash that rats were eating it.

Basically a terrible utter monstrosity of a human being that deserved to suffer and die alone.

Skeeter says:

Getting Netflix to Respond

Tell Pablo, ‘Good Luck!’ I’ve tried to get Netflix to respond to my letters for over 10-years, with zero luck. They promised ‘all streaming in 2-years’ (that was in 1999). They promised ‘streaming all titles by 2005 for less than $10 a month’ (again, hahaha). They promised to ‘be honest about viewer reviews’ (wow, ahahahaha). To date, they’ve only accomplished one thing – to make profit, obscenely.

They don’t get sued, they aren’t lawsuit losers, and they don’t give away ANYTHING. I hate to tell Pablo, but he should pull his hand back before something warm-and-squishy gets placed into it, instead.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Getting Netflix to Respond

“They promised ‘all streaming in 2-years’ (that was in 1999)”

Citation? That sounds rather unlikely given the level of broadband penetration in that time period, and Google shows me nothing. Wikipedia shows that 1999 was when they switched to a subscription model, but I can’t see any promises that they would include streaming. If anything, if they had made that promise, it just shows how far ahead of the curve they were compared to Blockbuster and that kind of innovation should be applauded, not attacked because they were too ambitious with a rollout date.

“They promised ‘streaming all titles by 2005 for less than $10 a month’ (again, hahaha)”

Again, citation. $9.99/month is the current subscription plan if I’m not mistaken (I can’t easily check as I’m not in the US), so I’m not sure if your objection is the fact it took them 2 years longer than that to get streaming up and running or that you got yourself the unrealistic expectation of “all titles”. Which, lets face it, is more realistically the fault of the studios and their licencing models than anything done by Netflix.

Perhaps you’d get more response to your “letters” if you were clear about what you were asking.

“They promised to ‘be honest about viewer reviews’ (wow, ahahahaha)”

How are they dishonest?

“To date, they’ve only accomplished one thing – to make profit, obscenely.”

Yep, that’s what businesses do. If you’re unhappy with them, why do you use them? If you don’t use them, why have you obsessed for a decade over what you think they’re promised, rather than reward their competitors with your business instead?

“They don’t get sued, they aren’t lawsuit losers, and they don’t give away ANYTHING.”

What, specifically, do you want them to give away?

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Hollywood has NEVER produced a film accurately portraying even well known historical figures or events. Even when a truthful portrayal would be just as interesting as the pure fiction and non existent characters they seem obligated to include. It is outrageous that a relative of a notorious murderous drug kingpin would make a complaint like this. If they were so concerned with their family’s reputation why didn’t they do everything in their power to help the authorities bring Pablo to justice?

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