Activision suffers setback in No Doubt suit

Publisher's free speech defense thrown out by judge in dispute over group's likenesses being used to sing others' songs in Band Hero.

While much of the attention surrounding Activision in recent weeks has been on the publisher's litigious falling out with Infinity Ward cofounders Jason West and Vince Zampella, the publisher's legal department has a lot more on its plate. For example, there's still the matter of last year's dispute with No Doubt, which sued the publisher after finding out players of Band Hero could make their virtual counterparts perform other artists' songs.

Using people's likenesses for commercial gain apparently isn't covered by freedom of speech.

This week the band scored a hit in the ongoing battle, as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge tentatively rejected Activision's invoking a freedom of speech defense in the case, according to the Los Angeles Times. That wasn't the only setback Activision has suffered in the case, as a previous attempt to have the matter bumped up to federal court was also rejected.

No Doubt is accusing Activision of breaching its contract with the band, saying its agreement to have its likenesses in the game extended only to the group's three songs: "Just a Girl," "Don't Speak," and "Excuse Me Mr." Activision's countersuit against the band claimed 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. As for Activision's claims against No Doubt, the publisher alleges that the band backed out of contractually obligated promotional services for the game.

No Doubt's members aren't the only rock stars uncomfortable with the unlockable aspect of stars in Activision'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 fruitlessly requested that Activision patch the game to prohibit using the singer's likeness in other bands' songs.

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Discussion

398 comments
SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

@trollkind About you checking your mail less than me, not true. I have 101 unread messages. I rarely use GS inbox. Once in a great while I will check out my mail. You like horrid music.

trollkind
trollkind

@SgtStrungOut Looks like I check my Gamespot mail even less often than you, had to scroll 3 pages back to see what I said. You don't know what music I like (No Doubt certainly not one of my favs) and you don't state what music you like and saying some music is "better" than other pieces is pretty irrelevant as it's just personal tastes and we all value different music differently. I guess you just needed some sort of comeback, maybe you should think a bit longer about it next time or just let it rest. At least no one looks at this anymore and you won't get rated down into oblivion again. Congratulations on the new Avatar.

SgtStrungOut
SgtStrungOut

@trollkind I like better music than you. Face it.

Glade_Gnarr
Glade_Gnarr

No doubt kinda overreacted but Activision deserves it.

raptures330
raptures330

@6matt6 - In an industry that is moved by image as much as by product, having artists sing and perform other artist's songs seems almost an endorsement. They fight to be "original" and different from all the other bands and this can very easily work against them.

sonicking2004
sonicking2004

No Doubt may not like it, but they should have read the fine print before selling their likenesses to Activision. They should've got it, in writing, that their likenesses were to be used with their songs ONLY and not with others. Granted, the late Kurt Corbain probably didn't foresee Activision venturing into other music genres than Rock, & he personally is unable to speak against it now, but No Doubt should've known better, & they're paying for their lack of foresight now. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that's the way it is; sign something without thoroually reading it first, you give up the right to complain you didn't agree to it later.

kvan33
kvan33

OMG, why does Gwen Stefani sound like a man??? Damn you activision!

s2i2p2i2o
s2i2p2i2o

"thingta42 @s2i2p2i2o but company's don't have to be an ass about it though. Activision reminds me of Wayland Yutani Corperation from aliens. And i know a qoute that suits Activision perfectly. And i qoute from Ripley from Aliens "I don't know which speices is worse, you don't see them ******* each other over a god damn percentage." Thats Activision for ya." hmm well i guess you're right, they don't have to be an ass about it... but honestly, i don't care about that. as long as the product the company is making is good then i don't give a rats ass about their manners (to a certain extent of course).

shivLasers
shivLasers

@wyan_ Ok I admit that that was a dumb-ass comment, other than the bit where I said osama is just as bad as Kotick. But also I think the only reason they're going for this lawsuit is because Activision has been weakened by the IW thing (sorry if anyone else posted that)

shivLasers
shivLasers

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

6matt6
6matt6

Wow are these people petty. How exactly does it matter if you play other peoples songs in a video game?

wyan_
wyan_

@shivLasers You're saying kotick is worse than bin laden? What?! Kotick didn't have thousands of innocent people killed in the name of Activision... at least not that we know of.

wyan_
wyan_

@ blakeney Let me misquote an awesome interweb meme: "Son... you are missappoint." You're way out in left field now. This isn't about being against political agendas, but it isn't about pop stars being against other music acts either. The point was that it's just a freaking game and on top of that, (literally) are giant guitar frets that cover these conceited pop stars anyway. I'm surprised they don't sue about that. The Rock Band and Guitar Hero series shouldn't even bother modeling and animating a single celeb. It's a waste of development time and it's totally useless flash for the game, but that's another subject for another day. Why don't these celebs sue for players being allowed to create their own custom characters that look nothing like the actual band members? It's not them... It's misleading isn't it? Oh wait.... yeah it's just a stupid game and everyone realizes the performances aren't real :giantrolleyes:

mattg90520
mattg90520

@mhaneline wow, you are clearly so stuck in your ways that you both fail to understand the basic point of my posts as well as understand once i explained it. furthermore, way to drag the death of civilians due to war and terrorism into a conversation regarding video games of all things. real classy.

thingta42
thingta42

@s2i2p2i2o but company's don't have to be an ass about it though. Activision reminds me of Wayland Yutani Corperation from aliens. And i know a qoute that suits Activision perfectly. And i qoute from Ripley from Aliens "I don't know which speices is worse, you don't see them ******* each other over a god damn percentage." Thats Activision for ya.

thingta42
thingta42

I personaly hate activision, yeah i know they make some good games. But still, that's like wrapping a turd in tinfoil.

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Yes, it's a stupid suit, but a blow to Activision is a good thing no matter the nature.

UrinalGoonie
UrinalGoonie

i think they r both wrong. Activision has always done that with the guitar hero series so no doubt should of known better along with courtney love who sold her husbands likeness to buy up more drugs. but activison should just patch them out of the game and never use them again THE END.

InsertWittyID
InsertWittyID

I don't know who to root for. My favorite video game publisher, or my favorite band.

wwlettsome
wwlettsome

Note to anyone doing business with Activision...you may want to get some really good legal advice before you sign that contract. In the meantime, Activision continues to shoot off their own toes one IP at a time. I wonder if Kotick spends nights wondering who he can get to sue him next?

Jonny-Two-Delta
Jonny-Two-Delta

I guess I'd be annoyed if it was my likeness being used in the same way. From a PR perspective, it does kinda look lame that the game trivialises musical genius, letting you make Cobain perform songs that would probably turn him in his grave.

Shardz7
Shardz7

Yet another case of Activision doing what they want and when they want and paying no heed to the rest of the world who actually follow rules and use common sense. Whatever is written into the contract is what Activision has to honor and the band stated exclusive stipulations that need to be followed - not what Kotex wants to do. This moronic company just has no clue about anything and it's clearly showing with every passing week. Is Kotex fired yet?? Just checking...

blakeney
blakeney

@ wyan_ you can say that but i bet you would be crying if you "likness" was used for a pro/anti war campaign, or used in a pro/anti McDonalds ad? You would be pissed if they used your likness for something you may be agaisnt. I can understand "nobodys" not understanding this though, noone would use their likness in a million years anyway so why care or even know about these matters?:P

wyan_
wyan_

@ shoelaces-4-all Awwww... these poor poor pop celebs... so hard done by. It's just a stupid game and the only reason people are giving a damn is because of Activision's wrongdoing elsewhere or because they're blind, fanatical followers who would jump off a bridge if some celeb told them too. Seriously, these pop stars need to get over themselves just as much as Bobby Kotick needs to get his head out of his ass.

SapSacPrime
SapSacPrime

Who is going to want to work with Acivision for the next Rockband then after all this contreversy? nobody hopefully :). If a big whole opened up in the ground and Activision disappeared into it I would be quite happy, their business practices and quick rip off products have shown us a new low in videogames (and we used to slate EA :? ).

Dudewrsmygame
Dudewrsmygame

I agree with no doubt, do you think the killers would like to play green day songs(example american idiot), according to what i've heard i don't think so.

StJimmy15
StJimmy15

Wow, Activision would lose so much LESS money if they just (1) Didn't sue everything that looked at them wrong, and (2) Didn't try to get away with stuff by using bull**** legal loopholes. And then they have the gall to act like they're being taken advantage of... What a garbage company.

blakeney
blakeney

People here either dont understand contracts in the ENTERTAINMENT industry, or are just being silly! 1st, The whole likeness thing IS important to any artist, or even to their label! FACT 2nd, Contracts ARE very important, and its very important that everything within it is stuck to, and that EVERYTHING is covered ( none of this "well it was public knowledge that its like this or that" bs) 3rd No Doubt will be under the contract on their end, which will involve a massive list of "things" they cant do in public or "avenues" their not allowed to take professionally all the time the contract is in play. If they have stuck to their end of the thing, meaning turned down work (for example an ad for something blacklisted in the contract) so YES they are bound to be majory pi$$ed that infact Activision have gone off track from the contract, which they HAVE!

benotts
benotts

Yep, yet another nail in Activision's coffin. In answer to an earlier poster, the reason this is news is because of the whole Infinity Ward litigation. Until that lawsuit is settled anything to do with Activision and litgation will be news.

jjdomo
jjdomo

I don't see why this is a big deal.. So what if Cobain sings Bon Jovi and vice versa?

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

This retarded. There is 1000 people who look just like "insert artist here" and it could easily be any one of their likenesses. Sounds like someone's albums aren't selling as well as they'd like. I'm gonna go make characters with Gwen's likeness in Soul Calibur and City of Heroes and then let people kick my ass. Will they sue me for defamation of character?

s2i2p2i2o
s2i2p2i2o

EA over activision? are you retarded?! you call activision greedy and yes, they are. all companies are! they all have one goal, to make a profit! EA, Activision, Microsoft, Apple, Epic, Ubisoft, they all just want to make money!!! (and it's nothing wrong with that)

SIDEFX1
SIDEFX1

@ Alkaline_DnB I don't think it is disrespectful to 'Pimp out a deceased musician as you would say it.. but hey each to there own.. It's picky bull by these music artist as far as i am concerned and it is all about the dollar.. keep on Rocking Activision!.

alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

the problem is that activision thinks they own the rights to do whatever they want with these bands. you don't think it was bad taste to pimp out a deceased musician to be a karaoke puppet? c'mon now, it's obvious what the problem is.

iucidium
iucidium

@bigmack_20_20: its because certain song contain certain lyrics that 'no doubt' don't want their avatars singing - it was a rolling stones song referencing to sleeping with prostitues. Also no doubt (and their lawyers) probably expected the same treatment as hendrix (only sing their songs) activision deserve everything that comes Their way!! And blizzard need to pull the choke chain on kotick. @trogeton: your mindless fanboyism never ceases to amaze me. Also, to all criticizing rock band. Look at this way - its all being done properly and above board. You don't see guitar hero releasing 6+ DLC a week do you?? GH6 will be the last.

Darron13
Darron13

As much as I do love seeing Activision get bitten in the ass, this lawsuit seems kinda...eeeh. It's true that they should have done research and figured out that they'd be playable for ANY song. I mean seriously, with all the controversy over the whole Kurt Kobain thing, you'd think they'd probably ask about it :/

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@bigmack In all fairness, I wouldn't want my likeness singing a recent No Doubt song. Hehehe.

bigmack_20_20
bigmack_20_20

okay a quick question why do these artist have a problem with their likenesses singing other songs. I am not on activisions side or anything i just want to know what the problem is exactly.

tastetheacidmil
tastetheacidmil

people can cry free speech all they want, but they also have too know free speech comes with consequences

forest4
forest4

I was wondering how long it would take for one of these Guitar Hero clones to breach one of the music industry's rules.

AzelKosMos
AzelKosMos

Man Activision is having it rough lately...

demonic_85
demonic_85

I knew this would come back to bite them eventually.

spOOoOOn
spOOoOOn

Activision sucks, Kotick is the devil incarnate etc. etc...

Trogeton
Trogeton

I don't care about suits.. they have no effect on game development, guitar hero is still 1 of my top 5 favorite games to play.. and suits happen for reasons that are just ignorant

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

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

hector530
hector530

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

Neogenic
Neogenic

@ Noah-Phoenix I am affraid it comes down to 1 name: Kotick. Not sure if he has anything to do with this specific case though.

marcopolo426
marcopolo426

@zeniftan, Such cheery colourful reasoning mate. Do you still believe in Santa and Fairies? IMHO what Activision has been up to damages the gaming industry as a whole. Even in cases as this, it shows that Activision would do almost anything to maximize their profits rather than do something innovative. In the last 15 years all I have seen is studios like InfinityWard, Raven, Neversoft, Pandemic etc. getting acquired by Activision after releasing a few innovative games immediately followed by years of spamming sequels. I don't specifically care about this law suite, but Activision can just go burn in hell!!!