The Battle Over Guitar Hero

Rock stars, generally speaking, tend to have fairly large egos. It's practically part of the job description, come to think of it. So perhaps it was inevitable that music games would be the stage for some good, old-fashioned, tabloid drama sooner or later.

That's what happened earlier this year, when Guitar Hero 5 came out. See, Activisio

Guitar Hero Band Set
n included the likeness of the late Kurt Cobain (of Nirvana; perhaps you've heard of them?) in the game. That would have been fine, except that players could use him in any song; so once the game came out, players started posting YouTube videos of Cobain singing enthusiastically along with songs like "Bring the Noise" and "You Give Love a Bad Name."

Unhappy Tunes

This did not sit well with Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, who fired off a series of just-barely-coherent--but clearly furious--Twitter posts on the matter. The implication appeared to be that Activision had used Cobain's likeness in a way his estate never approved, prompting Love to threaten to "sue the s*** out of Activision." Shortly thereafter, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic expressed similar (though more carefully worded) disappointment in a joint statement, saying, "We urge Activision to do the right thing in 're-locking' Kurt's character so that this won't continue in the future."

So far, Love's complaints don't appear to have evolved into actual legal action. But just a couple months later, things got ugly for Activisi

Guitar Hero Logo
on again. In early November, ska-pop band No Doubt expressed outrage about almost exactly the same issue: The band members are all unlockable characters in Band Hero, and as selectable characters they can be used to sing other artists' songs.

Only No Doubt hasn't contented themselves with venting to fans and threatening lawsuits; they actually filed one, alleging that the game "turned the group into virtual karaoke players." The suit sought unspecified damages, a restraining order, and the recall of existing copies of the game. As of this writing, Activision has just responded with a countersuit, seeking damages of their own due to No Doubt's alleged refusal to support the game with promotional interviews, appearances, and such.

It's a mess, in other words.

This sort of thing has prompted many to speculate that bands would boycott Activision's games in the future, or at the very least refuse to allow their likenesses to be used in the game--or even in any game. But I've got news for you, folks: That ain't gonna happen.

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