In September, Nirvana fans were shocked to learn that the Kurt Cobain avatar in Guitar Hero 5 could be used to sing any other song on the game’s track list, from Bon Jovi to Bush. Now No Doubt have made a similar discovery about their own avatars in Band Hero — and they’re taking swift legal action. The band filed a lawsuit against the game’s maker, Activision, today, for fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, among other complaints, in which they argue the group was turned into “a virtual karaoke circus act.”
The band’s manager, Jim Guerinot, tells Rolling Stone No Doubt were “mortified” to discover their likenesses could be used to sing songs by other artists. “They’re just like, ‘What? We didn’t sign up for this,’ ” he says.
The band also charges that each member of No Doubt can be isolated from the rest of the group and made to sing songs inappropriate for his/her gender. When the band brought their concerns to Activision, they allege the company “refused to correct its actions.” “An Activision executive asserted that [changing the game] would be ‘too expensive’ and would jeopardize their revenue,” according to the complaint. Activision has responded that the suit is without merit, adding in a statement, “Activision has a written agreement to use No Doubt in Band Hero — an agreement signed by No Doubt after extensive negotiations with its representatives, who collectively have decades of experience in the entertainment industry.”
“No Doubt agreed to place avatars containing their name and likeness performing three No Doubt songs in the upcoming Band Hero,” the group said in a statement, asserting the avatars’ addition abilities were added “without the band’s knowledge or approval.”
The Kurt Cobain controversy drew criticism from Courtney Love, the surviving members of Nirvana and countless fans. Love also assumed she had granted Activision permission to use Cobain’s likeness solely for the game’s Nirvana songs. Even Bon Jovi protested Guitar Hero 5‘s use of the Cobain avatar.
Band Hero also reportedly features avatars of Taylor Swift and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.
Read No Doubt and Activision’s statements below:
No Doubt statement:
“Musical artists No Doubt announced that they have filed a lawsuit against Activision Publishing today, Wednesday, November 4, 2009 and are seeking an injunction and damages. No Doubt agreed to place avatars containing their name and likeness performing three No Doubt songs in the upcoming Band Hero game of the Guitar Hero series from Activision. Without the band’s knowledge or approval Activision turned the group into virtual karaoke players by having them perform over 60 additional songs by other musical groups. Additionally Activision allowed the groups character to be isolated into solo performances of these cover songs and placed randomly in countless variations contrary to the agreement between the parties. Despite repeated requests by the band that Activision honor its contract Activision has refused claiming the necessary fix would be too expensive.”
Some of the world’s most popular and iconic artists have been featured in Guitar Hero as playable characters, and we are proud to count No Doubt among them. Activision has a written agreement to use No Doubt in Band Hero — an agreement signed by No Doubt after extensive negotiations with its representatives, who collectively have decades of experience in the entertainment industry. Pursuant to that agreement, Activision worked with No Doubt and the band’s management in developing Band Hero. As a result, Activision believes it is within its legal rights with respect to the use and portrayal of the band members in the game and that this lawsuit is without merit. Activision is exploring its own legal options with respect to No Doubt’s obligations under the agreement.
Related Stories: • Rock Star Avatars: Video Game Versions of Real-Life Music Heroes
• Jon Bon Jovi Joins Cobain “Guitar Hero 5” Protest
• Grohl, Novoselic Didn’t Approve Cobain’s “Guitar Hero” Avatar
Reporting by Steve Knopper