Last month, Activision launched Band Hero to a warm reaction from critics and critical reaction from one of the rhythm game's starring bands, No Doubt. Upset that their in-game likenesses could be made to perform songs outside the band's oeuvre, the members of No Doubt sued Activision, saying its agreement only extended to the group's three songs licensed for the game: "Just a Girl," "Don't Speak," and "Excuse Me Mr."
As spotted by The Hollywood Reporter, last week Activision answered those charges and shot back with some of its own. In its response and countersuit, Activision said it is "publicly known" that characters in previous Guitar Hero games have been "unlockable" in the same fashion, suggesting No Doubt did not exercise due diligence before entering into the agreement.
The publisher also included a copy of its deal with No Doubt, which states that "Artist's likeness other than in a 'billing block' fashion on the back of the packaging for the Game, and the b-roll and photography or other representation of the Services or of Artist, shall be subject to Artist's prior written approval." The part of the agreement detailing how much No Doubt was paid for the game was redacted in the court filing, but other terms of the deal were included, such as a five-year exclusivity clause prohibiting the band from allowing its music in any other company's rhythm games.
As for Activision's counterclaim against No Doubt, the publisher alleges that the band backed out of contractually obligated promotional services for the game. Specifically, the agreement included in the filing lists a handful of press interviews, a pair of video "shout outs" for the game, and placement of Band Hero branding on the band's official sites as the extent of its promotional obligations. Activision is asking for damages and a refund of the money it paid for No Doubt's inclusion in the game in the first place.
No Doubt's members aren't the only rock stars uncomfortable with the unlockable aspect of stars in Activison's Hero series of games. When Guitar Hero 5 allowed users to play as the late Kurt Cobain on songs by dozens of artists like Bon Jovi, Public Enemy, and even No Doubt, the Nirvana frontman's widow Courtney Love threatened to sue Activision. Cobain's bandmates in Nirvana stopped short of threatening litigation, but requested that Activision patch the game to prohibit using the singer's likeness in other band's songs.
No Doubt also asked Activision to do the same, a request that the publisher denied, saying in its suit that the band made its request only after work on Band Hero had finished and the game had already entered console makers' reviews processes.