Harmonix files, promptly withdraws suit against Activision

Rock Band studio sues publisher over Guitar Hero III royalties, but drops suit a day later in favor of out-of-court negotiations.

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Viacom-owned Harmonix Music Systems on Monday filed a lawsuit at the California Superior Court in Los Angeles claiming that Activision owes it some $14.5 million, reports Variety. In a very quick turnaround, by Tuesday, it had withdrawn the suit and decided to discuss it all in a civilized manner outside of court instead.

The suit alleges that Activision has paid Harmonix the wrong royalty rate for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The first rate, which is half of the higher rate, should be paid if a Guitar Hero game is made from scratch and the higher rate if a game "incorporates, uses, or is derived from Harmonix property."

Harmonix created the original Guitar Hero game for RedOctane, which was bought out by Activision in 2006. Harmonix was acquired by Viacom's MTV Networks in 2006 and has recently released Rock Band, which features drums and vocals, as well as guitars.

In February, Activision touted the Guitar Hero franchise as having sold more than 14 million copies in North America alone, with Guitar Hero III alone accruing more than 5 million songs downloaded. Harmonix's maiden effort with the Rock Band franchise has been no slouch itself, going platinum in January and claiming 2.5 million songs downloaded.

However, Harmonix reckons it's owed some $14.5 million in extra royalties for Guitar Hero III and also points out that it hasn't seen any royalties from song downloads, in-game advertising, or any "ancillary products."

Activision's lawyer, general counsel George Rose countered by saying, "Activision believes it has made sufficient payments to Harmonix and the claims otherwise do not have merit."

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