Yesterday, we noted the lawsuit brought against Activision by the band No Doubt, who appear in the just-released how-is-this-not-Guitar-Hero game Band Hero. Previously, we've discussed the legal action taken by Courtney Love based upon her late husband's much-maligned appearance in Guitar Hero 5. Both of these cases have been discussed a good deal. There's a couple of things, though, that I can't help but be struck by.
Before we continue, I should note that I am not a legal scholar. I haven't reviewed these contracts. I don't have a clue who signed what. That said, I can absolutely see where the deception comes in. No Doubt's complaint specifies that the game permits "an unauthorized performance by the Gwen Stefani avatar in a male voice boasting about having sex with prostitutes." That is the key for me. It seems entirely possible that Activision obtained authorization for the band to appear in the game and appear as playable without disclosing the rest of the songs in the game. And if that is the case, then I could understand why No Doubt would be less than thrilled with their appearance. This also could account for why Courtney Love got so angry after the fact - something that always seemed odd given the way she's had relatively little shame about licensing Kurt Cobain's music, words and likeness in the past (for example). Contrast with Lego Rock Band, which features playable versions of Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Queen, and others specifically performing their own songs. None of them are upset about it; they actually all seem to think it's an honor.
My second thought is this: do people care about this stuff? Specifically, is the appearance of No Doubt or Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix or Johnny Cash or Taylor Swift a selling point for anyone on these games? My inclination would be to think that people care more about the music than the avatars; given the increased customization of playable characters in these games, I would think you could just make your own version of Gwen Stefani if you so desired anyway. So what did Activision really get for all this?
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