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.
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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