One major and notable character in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is that of Auntie Poulet. The leader of the Haitian gang, Poulet is an elderly Haitian woman who sends the game’s protagonist Tommy Vercetti out on missions against the Cubans, who the Haitians have a turf war with. Auntie Poulet is also voiced by the late television psychic, Miss Cleo (real name Youree Harris), and it’s this fact that has led to a lawsuit against Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games.
The Psychic Readers Network, which holds the rights to the Miss Cleo persona, accuses Rockstar of unfairly making bank off of the famous character. PRN spent $100 million of its own money on building up the Miss Cleo brand and Rockstar has made $500 million by exploiting the Auntie Poulet character that is based on the television psychic and uses her voice.
As Grand Theft Auto: Vice City came out in 2002 and as Youree Harris unfortunately passed away in 2016, some may be wondering why the PRN has waited up until now to file a lawsuit against the company. However, PRN also points out that through re-releases of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Rockstar continues to make money from the game and the Auntie Poulet character. Since its original PS2 release, the game has been made available on iOS, Android, PS3 and PS4, and has also been part of sales and bundles.
In a statement, Rockstar says, “These claims are entirely meritless and completely ridiculous. We will vigorously defend ourselves with regard to this matter.” The Psychic Readers Network has yet to respond to Rockstar’s response.
With the Grand Theft Auto series being so large and taking so many influences from popular culture and current events, it’s little surprise that so many famous faces may feel that Rockstar is unfairly using their likenesses in the game franchise. For example, Lindsay Lohan sued Rockstar over a Grand Theft Auto 5 character, but that case did not prove successful. In fact, Rockstar has also sued companies for using the Grand Theft Auto brand.
The big difference between the Lohan case and the Miss Cleo lawsuit, though, is that Rockstar did actually hire Youree Harris to voice the Auntie Poulet character. Both Poulet and Harris have Caribbean heritage too, which could strengthen PRN’s claims against the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City developer.
But on the other hand, the owners of PRN were previously charged by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising and more, because of their handling of the Miss Cleo brand and the treatment of customers. Rockstar and the PRN both have ammunition to fire at the other, then, and so it’s unclear how this case might play out.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is available on PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, and Xbox.