Activision, Nirvana address Guitar Hero 5 controversy

Publisher stands by Kurt Cobain's inclusion as Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic join Courtney Love in decrying rhythm game's use of late frontman's likeness.

by

When Guitar Hero 5 launched, it didn't take long for gamers to realize that the game's likeness of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain could be used to sing a lot more than just "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It also didn't take long for people to get up in arms about the idea of the alternative rock icon strutting around the stage belting out Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" or Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music."

Music by Cobain. Hair by the Olsen twins.

That prompted Cobain's widow, Courtney Love, to weigh in via her Twitter account, threatening to sue Activision and claiming she never approved the avatar's use in Guitar Hero 5. Activision has since responded with its own statement, saying, "Guitar Hero secured the necessary licensing rights from the Cobain estate in a written agreement signed by Courtney Love to use Kurt Cobain's likeness as a fully playable character in Guitar Hero 5."

Quoted by The Guardian, Activision vice president Tim Riley offered a little more detail. Saying it was "great to work with" Love, Riley added that, "Courtney supplied us with photos and videos. She picked the wardrobe and hairstyle, which turned out to be the 'Teen Spirit' look, then we went back and forth over changes--some subtle, some not so subtle. ... [She wanted a] sort of athletic definition but not overly so."

While Cobain's widow is warning of legal action against the publisher, the singer's former bandmates are making a different sort of appeal to Activision. Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, in a news post on the official site of one of Grohl's current bands, The Foo Fighters, said they were "dismayed and disappointed" in the use of Cobain's likeness in the game.

"The name and likeness of Kurt Cobain are the sole property of his estate; we have no control whatsoever in that area," the pair said. "While we were aware of Kurt's image being used with two Nirvana songs, we didn't know players have the ability to unlock the character. This feature allows the character to be used with any kind of song the player wants. We urge Activision to do the right thing in 're-locking' Kurt's character so that this won't continue in the future."

As of press time, Activision hadn't responded to a request for comment on the Grohl and Novoselic statement.

Discussion

197 comments
Xaviersx
Xaviersx

The question falls into is there ever enough time for a dead celebrity to be used in a game and is there every a time for same dead celebrity to be used outside of the context of their persona and fame. The other question is, how was the contract worded, because it seems that the estate, Courtney or lawyer(s) signed in agreement on at least the 1st half (use of the person's likeness in a game doing their thing. The rest is on the public to react and teach either company or Courtney a lesson.

zombified
zombified

There's hardly anyone you could even consider to be a HERO of the guitar in this title. Who can honestly say they care about this installment. Guitar Hero 5 is merely a vehicle for record labels to get out to the masses with their latest piece crap band which hasn't even stood the test of time. The 'Classic Rock' genre is the only place where you'll find guys that knew how to play a guitar, back when new and radical things were being created on six strings.

Harerazer
Harerazer

I would use Kurt or any other star as a goof only anyway. Like if Flavor was in it I'd have him sing Ring Of Fire or something. But seriously, when you can make your own avatar why would you use anyone else? Or play Guitar Hero anyway when there's Rockband. (Harerazer looks to see how many thumbs down he gets)

CaptainHerlock
CaptainHerlock

I was always a big fan of Kurt Cobain and his songwriting. This is an absolute slap in the face to his talent, his image, and his memory. That this is the way that a younger generation will become familiar with him, as a bad cover singer, is a travesty. It shows you how badly rock n' roll and music have been CHEAPENED in the age of digital music. Activision my have acquired the rights to use his image, but they have shown complete and utter contempt for that image. Shame on you Activision. SHAME ON YOU!!

X-RS
X-RS

the good ting is that die hard Kobain admirers can have him sing "Happy Birthday... to you.." in the next expansion [Guitar Hero Classics]. Admirers of women may select Marilyn Monroe. Duet is dlc only.

markgowii
markgowii

One of the highlights of playing through the guitar career of GHWT was Ozzy singing La Bamba. To be perfectly honest, I think she's overreacting. She wants Activision to spend all that time working on the avatar, only to have it locked to a couple of songs? New box art?: New Real-Life Playable Characters, like Carlos Santana, Kurt Cobain*†, and more! * Only on select songs. † Not playable.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

All I know is that pig Courtney Love wouldn't have 1/16th the "fame" she does if she didn't marry Kurt. Honestly. The only reason she's known is because of who she married. And just like a festering sore on your ass she refuses to go way.

teknic1200
teknic1200

Nirvana was a sell-out band anyway. there is no difference in "being in the game" and "being in the game"

Autolycus
Autolycus

Nirvana is not the responsible for the grunge scene, for all your wanna be's out there. It was actually SoundGarden (from Seattle) and one of my least favorite bands Guns N' Roses. DOn't like it? Wiki it and find out for yourself. Nirvana has little to do with the Seattle Grunge scene or making alternative music.

Autolycus
Autolycus

lighten up you babies. YOu cant have lift without death.

Get_Shorty
Get_Shorty

Kurt Cobain is rolling over in his grave right now.... or after I belt a little "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" with him from his band rival Smashing Pumpkins, or maybe some Beastie Boys yo!

andalore
andalore

Courtney Love and Dave Grohl are taking this too seriously, Curt Cobain is so overrated, but he seems like the kindof guy who if he saw that video would have a sly chuckle :P

condelirios
condelirios

If they were gonna include Cobain, they should have included his truly ironic track... " I don't have a gun." :) Honestly, who cares if he can sing songs he didn't like in a video game long after his death?

Grandstream
Grandstream

If Activision got the legal rights to use his likeness in the game, then there should be no problem. I'm sure Courtney Love's going to earn something for this...she's probably complaining indirectly about not getting enough money from using her late husband's likeness. Personally, using avatars of actual music artists is 50-50. Slash and Tom Morello jamming out on GH3 was one thing...but I'm sure people seem skeptical about Kurt Cobain's likeness singing to every other song that isn't a Nirvana song...that's less believable than watching an avatar of Slash playing guitar for almost any song...

rpgisforme
rpgisforme

This is just nonesense! So Kurt can sing something other than a Nirvana song? This is some kind of tremondous evil? Is it disrespectful? NOT! He's put in the spotlight once again. Plus with the fact that album sales skyrocket once they have been on a GH or RB game Love should be thrilled at all the more money she'll have to smoke or snort or drink or whatever with.

dragonsama
dragonsama

I think used Kurt, Ozzy or any other chracter to play/sing any other song is awesome. too funny.

gameweasl
gameweasl

I always find it weird when I see Ozzy singing Beat It. The characters should be locked to their specific music...

tai_chi_rabbit
tai_chi_rabbit

I agree with Grohl and Novoselic about how it's sad and kind of painful to see someone like Kurt acting in a game a way he wouldn't act in real life, but Courtney is out of her mind. If she thinks she can win a legal case when she gave them permission to use Kurt's likeness, she's more insane than I thought she was.

Crichton76
Crichton76

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Xaviersx
Xaviersx

People can get up in arms, but in today's world, a person's likeness (artist, actor, etc etc) can be and is licensed, contracted, and looking at the UFC/EA dust-up, it can have real world impact on living people (fighters banned from playing the sport if they appear in rival EA's game with their likenesses). Taste and personal preference, some find it distasteful to even have a dead real life figure in a 'game' setting, some have offense at having someone who left this world under extreme circumstances (suicide or murder), some just along the lines of singers performing songs that were not their genre, but somewhere down the line, someone signed a contract that was vague or detailed enough for a company to do it. Maybe the company didn't have these rights, that'll be for the courts to decide. Can't speak for the dead, what they would do if alive today, but with time, each generation will be less attuned with the culture that they embodied or channeled.

nikoofus
nikoofus

What's Santana have to say about this? What about Matt Bellamy? Nothing, because it's ridiculous. It's a damn game, get over it.

AphexSpawn
AphexSpawn

@PrimeLazarus honestly your looking way to into it, and its being over hyped, if cobain was still alive hed have given in to the money making wave like any artist hes not that special aspecialy since his wive loves to sell him at every turn so why ou to to argue your pointless issue itll still be live. the man with moeny wins again.

ikcizokm
ikcizokm

The fact that a public figure or celebrity can have their likeness protected to such a degree, and "owned" by their estate, shows just how stupid this is. I'm surprised Courtney Love hasn't OD'd by now. She's an embarrassment to her husband's legacy. @A_Hayes82 - Who said Nirvana hated jocks?

A_Hayes82
A_Hayes82

I have to say, as a big Nirvana fan, that Kurt would never, ever be apart of something like singing Bon Jovi. Or be in Guitar Hero, or in Madden 10 for that matter, because Nirvana hated jocks. Kurt made a lot of bad decisions, a la the lovely Ms. Love. He lost control of his life and songs when he pumped himself full of heroin and buckshot. No need for this now.

W3En
W3En

Ok so what's the big deal? I doubt Kurt cobain would have cared

Airborne2932
Airborne2932

I agree wholeheartedly! aren't there more pressing issues? Nope. not for the Hollywood elite!

threedown
threedown

wow, people really care about this crap? i just read it for a good laugh... it was quite funny... hell, when im dead, they can dress my corspe up in a pink mini skirt, paint my face, or whatver and parade me all around the world, i wouldnt give a crap... some people take life way to seriously

Psychopimp
Psychopimp

Tell her just to wait "3 months until GH 6 comes out" and everybody will forget about it lol

timstpierre
timstpierre

King Diamond sings and dances on ''Turn The Page'' in GH:Metallica... and he never cried about it. He is still a Metal Music Icon. GH is just a game... get over it. Nobody will remember Kurt as a Bon Jovi singer... well only if you are stupid enough... Haha

jinzo9988
jinzo9988

The stupidity is astounding. Anything other than the notes and the fretboard has absolutely nothing to do with anything. You could replace everything else with My Little Pony unicorns in an open field and it wouldn't make a difference. There's no such thing as a "playable character" in Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you're not making them do anything.

jcouch2020
jcouch2020

guys kurt wouldnt have cared about this, he would have laughed....just because we always read about how he hated sell outs and was depressed all the time or whatever, he had a sense of humor....he was honored to have weird al yankovich cover smells like teen spirit....he would have laughed to seeing an avatar of himself rapping.

muhazz
muhazz

YEAH!!...c'mon its just a strategy to promote the game, activision and love.....they just making it up!

TRH4469
TRH4469

this is kind of a dumb lawsuit and issue. if you want to keep the memory of kurt cobain and nirvana alive then let people see kurt in games and in marketing. so what if he may have been anti sell out or whatever, he may not have been, we never will know considering he killed himself years ago. one thing i do know is don't ever believe or trust courtney love, its just the drugs talking anyways.

mvozzy1
mvozzy1

Why th F#&K do people give a S&%T, Why didint people care about GHWT Ozzy was sing La Bomba LOL come on sue over that lol

Leinhartx
Leinhartx

@GCwasthebestsys I listen to Nirvana....:P

joshrocks2245
joshrocks2245

I wish there was a Hannah Montana song in this game, I would love to see Kurt sing that.

fedgem
fedgem

It's all pretty ridiculous when you get down to it. Where's the outcry for Johnny Cash rappin'?

GCwasthebestsys
GCwasthebestsys

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

ArielAguayo
ArielAguayo

Whatever. so she didn't know he was a playable character? yeah, I guess Activision did a horrible job at explaining that to her. but c'mon! sue? Don't overreact now!

konradak
konradak

I don't see the big deal.

DMLSLAT
DMLSLAT

@Gamer_JasonX7: Well at least we're on the same page that they're wannabe rocker games (even though I like playing them :P). My point is that I didn't buy GHIII for Slash, I didn't buy GHIV for Ozzy, and I'm not buying GHV for Cobain. It's the music and the fun of the gameplay that sell a game, not the bands willing to put their members in it. I bought The Beatles: Rock Band for The Beatles' music, not their digital likenesses.

MajorBrian
MajorBrian

O come on boo hoo. So hes used to play others songs... get over it.

boo_dat
boo_dat

Please... why do people insist on deifying Cobain? Pretty soon we won't be able to say his name... yet nobody complains about Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bruce Lee, Tupac Shakur or James Dean (to name a few) when they are used posthumously for marketing purposes.

redcloud12345
redcloud12345

WAHHHHHHHHHH... give me a break.... and cry me a God damn river. get the hell over it Courtney and take the other idiots with you. its a friggen game. jesus.... ppl will whine and cry about anything.. and I am sick of seeing these stupid articles about kurt being in the game. shut the hell up and move on already.

Destrin
Destrin

I would only get this game BECAUSE Kurt Cobain is in it.

Gamer_JasonX7
Gamer_JasonX7

@DMLSLAT "Here's my question: why does Activision think they need to put all these real rockers in their wannabe rocker games?" Here's MY question: why WOULDN'T Activision think they need to put all these real rockers in their wannabe rocker games?

solidine
solidine

I can see the problem with this though it doesn`t bother me personally. What does bother me is the fact that people are upset because a Cobain avatar can sing a Bon Jovi song, not just because he`s in the game. Regardless, if Courtney Love singned a contract, than screw her. She`s an idiot anyway. As for Cobains former band members, they stated their piece and though it won`t have any effect on teh situation, I suppose they have some right to say that.

flisox
flisox

Who gives a S#^&, I can't stand nirvana personally, this is more in his honor than anything, what about johnny cash, you don't hear anyone complaining about him being in the game.

Supreme4dmira1
Supreme4dmira1

Woooooww thats so bad that its funny!! Seeing kurt rap like that makes me almost want to buy the game. But I wont.

Scryer999
Scryer999

how does the drummer go from the biggest grunge band in the world to a mediocre guitarist/singer in a whiny dumb band to gettin his panties all in a bunch over a dead guys LIKENESS in a video game? Axel Steel is pretty much supposed to be Dimebag Darrel but you dont see his brother or Rex Brown or the singer of Pantera suing Activision.