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No Doubt Sue Activision Over Use of “Band Hero” Avatars

11/4/09, 2:29 pm EST

Photo: Winter/Getty

In September, Nirvana fans were shocked to learn that the Kurt Cobain avatar in Guitar Hero 5 could be used to sing any other song on the game’s track list, from Bon Jovi to Bush. Now No Doubt have made a similar discovery about their own avatars in Band Hero — and they’re taking swift legal action. The band filed a lawsuit against the game’s maker, Activision, today, for fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, among other complaints, in which they argue the group was turned into “a virtual karaoke circus act.”

The band’s manager, Jim Guerinot, tells Rolling Stone No Doubt were “mortified” to discover their likenesses could be used to sing songs by other artists. “They’re just like, ‘What? We didn’t sign up for this,’ ” he says.

The band also charges that each member of No Doubt can be isolated from the rest of the group and made to sing songs inappropriate for his/her gender. When the band brought their concerns to Activision, they allege the company “refused to correct its actions.” “An Activision executive asserted that [changing the game] would be ‘too expensive’ and would jeopardize their revenue,” according to the complaint. Activision has responded that the suit is without merit, adding in a statement, “Activision has a written agreement to use No Doubt in Band Hero — an agreement signed by No Doubt after extensive negotiations with its representatives, who collectively have decades of experience in the entertainment industry.”

Rock Star Avatars: Video Game Versions of Real-Life Music Heroes.

“No Doubt agreed to place avatars containing their name and likeness performing three No Doubt songs in the upcoming Band Hero,” the group said in a statement, asserting the avatars’ addition abilities were added “without the band’s knowledge or approval.”

The Kurt Cobain controversy drew criticism from Courtney Love, the surviving members of Nirvana and countless fans. Love also assumed she had granted Activision permission to use Cobain’s likeness solely for the game’s Nirvana songs. Even Bon Jovi protested Guitar Hero 5’s use of the Cobain avatar.

Band Hero also reportedly features avatars of Taylor Swift and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.

Read No Doubt and Activision’s statements below:

No Doubt statement:

“Musical artists No Doubt announced that they have filed a lawsuit against Activision Publishing today, Wednesday, November 4, 2009 and are seeking an injunction and damages.

No Doubt agreed to place avatars containing their name and likeness performing three No Doubt songs in the upcoming Band Hero game of the Guitar Hero series from Activision.

Without the band’s knowledge or approval Activision turned the group into virtual karaoke players by having them perform over 60 additional songs by other musical groups.

Additionally Activision allowed the groups character to be isolated into solo performances of these cover songs and placed randomly in countless variations contrary to the agreement between the parties.

Despite repeated requests by the band that Activision honor its contract Activision has refused claiming the necessary fix would be too expensive.”

Activision statement:

Some of the world’s most popular and iconic artists have been featured in Guitar Hero as playable characters, and we are proud to count No Doubt among them. Activision has a written agreement to use No Doubt in Band Hero — an agreement signed by No Doubt after extensive negotiations with its representatives, who collectively have decades of experience in the entertainment industry. Pursuant to that agreement, Activision worked with No Doubt and the band’s management in developing Band Hero. As a result, Activision believes it is within its legal rights with respect to the use and portrayal of the band members in the game and that this lawsuit is without merit. Activision is exploring its own legal options with respect to No Doubt’s obligations under the agreement.

Related Stories:

Rock Star Avatars: Video Game Versions of Real-Life Music Heroes
Jon Bon Jovi Joins Cobain “Guitar Hero 5″ Protest
Grohl, Novoselic Didn’t Approve Cobain’s “Guitar Hero” Avatar

Reporting by Steve Knopper

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EgyptianCowboy | 11/4/2009, 2:49 pm EST

Any band that get’s all butt hurt over this stuff is immature.

Jungleland2 | 11/4/2009, 2:52 pm EST

Too Expensive? yes

Essential to their ability to EVER get another artist to sign with them? also yes

Activision will destroy their credibility…and that will cost them more in the long run

zzzzzzzzzzz | 11/4/2009, 3:01 pm EST

I think that they are thinking too much into this. They should focus on the fact that maybe some of their fans would like to use their avatars to play the entire game because of their love for the band, not to poke fun at them or whatever they are thinking. I would think of it as a compliment if anything.

515 | 11/4/2009, 3:02 pm EST

Suck it up! They’re fucking sell-outs anyway, especially Gwen Stafani.

Feel it | 11/4/2009, 3:09 pm EST

Yeah but at the end of the day it’s because they didn’t get paid. It’s always about money you guys. Always. Band’s that make music for the sake of music usually don’t get this kind of exposure. It’s all about marketing these days.

Anonymous | 11/4/2009, 3:31 pm EST

Activision needs to go back to really good games like Pitfall!

No Doubt Blows | 11/4/2009, 4:11 pm EST

I think its funny that Kurt Cobain’s dead Avatar could sing Bon Jovi. No Doubt are a bunch of hacks who have been living off of Spider Webs for too long. God if only you could take these guys out in a Punisher sequel.

CSM | 11/4/2009, 4:13 pm EST

Though I understand that a contract is a contract and people want things done the way they are supposed to be done, who cares?! It’s a video game! As much as I love No Doubt, it’s ridiculous that any band would get this worked up over their video game character! And to sue on top of that is just fucking overboard.

Black Hole Sun | 11/4/2009, 4:25 pm EST

What, people STILL don’t know to read the fine print before signing a deal? Nobody expected Courntey Love to be smart about it, but surely the other artists who agreed to have avatars made in their likeness on the games knew exactly what was going on?

Numbers Racket | 11/4/2009, 4:53 pm EST

Anything that causes Kotick to lose money is good for the gaming industry. The man is a financial vampire and is causing irreparable harm to gaming; it’s sad that No Doubt has to be the front runners in this.

I agree with 'Feel It' | 11/4/2009, 4:59 pm EST

It’s about money! I would do the same thing as ND. Activision has been making money of those extra things which the band didn’t know about. It should have been written in the contract and if it was the band would recieve royalties for it.

How would you like it if someone was making money off you and you didn’t get a percentage?

brian | 11/4/2009, 5:06 pm EST

it can’t be any worse then who they actually are.

what the f*ck?????? | 11/4/2009, 5:29 pm EST

seriously….can we get some good music in these f*cking games???

maroon 5? taylor swift? im not gonna buy them anymore if they continue to suck!

... | 11/4/2009, 5:50 pm EST

I think this isn’t an issue about them being outraged.

Don’t these people EVER READ THE CONTRACTS BEFORE SIGNING? I mean, seriously!

The Octagon | 11/4/2009, 6:06 pm EST

I don’t think this is a question of money. The contract was misleading. ND only agreed about 3 songs not this shit. BOYCOTT BAND HERO!!! HERO TO ZERO.

Bryan | 11/4/2009, 6:48 pm EST

Its a misrepresentation. Say No Doubt despise Taylor Swift or Maroon 5 cause their pop-star bitches and don’t write their own material. If someone plays as Gwen Stefani to sing Taylor Swift songs, the person playing might get the idea that Gwen Stefani likes and endorses the music that Taylor Swift makes.

These continous debacles will at least help kill the GH/BH franchise all that much quicker, and now all the bands that are exclusive to Activion will hopefully let the exclusive rights to the music expire so they can go to Harmonix and Rock Band, which does 10X the job Activision does with music games and representing the bands properly.

spacecase | 11/4/2009, 7:32 pm EST

Is just me or does Band Hero look like it’s going to suck?

I’m giving No Doubt some credit that maybe they saw how bad the game is and want to find a way out. If Fall Out Boy and Taylor Swift are your big stars it’s looking to be a music game turd.

So yeah……..

At least we get The Who:Rock Band next year!

Agent47 | 11/4/2009, 7:36 pm EST

Wow you can use a ND avatar to “play” Culture Club and Pat Benetar songs. Big F*ucking deal. Shut your face and go back to your Bentley’s and 23 room mansion’s you whiny bitches.

Anonymous | 11/4/2009, 8:38 pm EST

It’s bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Mick Jaegger-Meister | 11/4/2009, 10:11 pm EST

Who the F**K is No Doubt? Never heard of these hacks. If a lawsuit is their only national media exposure, then they better be damned thankful for the press their getting. Now that they’ve been heard, they can go away and SHUT THE F**K UP.

antipode | 11/5/2009, 12:55 am EST

Anyone who uses the phrase “butt hurt” has no place commenting on the maturity of a band.

Anonymous | 11/5/2009, 2:30 am EST

Hey, The Octagon, did YOU read the article yourself?

“Activision has a written agreement to use No Doubt in Band Hero — an agreement signed by No Doubt after extensive negotiations with its representatives”

If the contract is ‘misleading’, then it’s No Doubt’s fault for having shitty management.


Nirvana Fan Forever | 11/5/2009, 10:13 am EST

Kurt Cobain killed himself because he didnt want to be used like this. Shame.

Jason C | 11/5/2009, 11:23 am EST

If you license yourself for use in a video game and sign a specific contract specifically outlining that use you shouldn’t claim misuse. Whatever happened to artists not being “sellouts”?

Hock Ptooey | 11/5/2009, 11:33 am EST

Bunch of Santa Monica jack asses. (Activision … not No Doubt. No Doubt are a bunch of Orange County jack asses.)

dood | 11/5/2009, 1:08 pm EST

Activision should just get Weird Al’s permission to use his likeness. I’m sure he couldn’t complain about playing other people’s songs.

Joga | 11/5/2009, 1:32 pm EST

EgyptianCowboy try creating something and having it misappropriated and then talk. Activision are the douche for letting this happen.

MB | 11/5/2009, 3:23 pm EST

I love how No Doubt is upset and embarrassed by the songs there avatars are singing but yet Gwen Stephanie sang Holla Back Girl or whatever that song was called lol ridiculous!

WIllupp | 11/5/2009, 4:16 pm EST

Hahha, rollingsotne is dead. All they report on now is taylor swift and video game avatars.

Chris | 11/5/2009, 4:46 pm EST

I wish I had their problems.

Charles Martel | 11/5/2009, 5:47 pm EST

“a virtual karaoke circus act.”

Yah well sometimes life imitates art, you friggen witch.

Nate | 11/5/2009, 7:15 pm EST

What people fail to notice, is that Taylor Swift AND Jimi Hendrix were locked to their respective songs.

So if they’re able to, ask yourselves why Kurt and No Doubt weren’t. They didn’t read the fine print and now they’re butt hurt about it.

Activision isn’t stupid enough to screw the legalese up, it’s the artists fault.

Boo Hoo, too bad!

The Truth | 11/5/2009, 9:54 pm EST

WOW, the insanely rich suing the insanely rich. Who gives a fuck.

Dubs | 11/6/2009, 2:49 am EST

I don’t know which harder to believe. No Doubt suing over something so irrelevant, or the fact that Rolling Stone found it relevant enough to report.

Dont Care | 11/6/2009, 3:24 am EST

I havent played any Guitar Heroes or Rock Bands since the begining. You know why?! Cuz the artists in the games are lame! Gimme a Pink Floyd game, or some Blues legends. Something where the guitar is the main focus and not poppy bands.

*omg* | 11/6/2009, 9:34 am EST

No doubt, that this band is more conservative then the pope…
A rolling stones song *zomg* how dirty! How distgusting! Whats next? Voting right for women? Long haired men with tatoos?

Mr. Wallingford | 11/6/2009, 11:57 am EST

Hey, my name is Tom and I’m a mouse. I totally get where No Doubt are coming from.

For years I’ve had to put up with watching that rat Mickey Mouse doing things no mouse would ever do in real life. Wearing shorts? Driving a F***ing steamboat? Talking? Are you for real–okay, stupid question, I know Mickey Mouse isn’t real, he’s a fictional version of a mouse and that a real mouse would never do any of these things in real life. But just because something is make-believe doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to get upset about it.

So yeah, I totally get that No Doubt is upset about fictional (i.e. make-believe) versions of themselves doing things they would never do in real life. Next thing you know, this video game thing will show them doing truly outlandish stuff like washing their own laundry or buying their own groceries. I mean really, who does this Activision think they are, Walt Fucking Disney? Of course they sued them, who wouldn’t? Make me sick…

Dark Seeds | 11/6/2009, 2:49 pm EST

It’s just a case of image versus audience. If my favorite singer is Gwen Stefani and I want to play all these songs as her, then I’m really going to enjoy it.
It’s really more that Nirvana and Kurt Cobain sort of struck a chord with a lot of people. My thirteen year-old nephew, who was barely alive at the time all that went on, plays as Kurt all the time and has no idea. He says he thinks, ‘he’s ugly.’
In the end I think it’s really got to come down to the gamer, despite the potential for an embarrassing moment at a party for one of those individuals whose image is truly promoted through gameplay.

huntermc | 11/6/2009, 5:31 pm EST

Funny, nobody’s upset that you could have Johnny Cash singing Iron Maiden, or Jimi Hendrix playing Korn songs in the last Guitar Hero. Don’t tell me these bands didn’t realize that their avatars could be used with other artists songs. That’s the way every one of these GH games has been since they put Slash in GH 3.

Alex Money | 11/7/2009, 6:06 am EST

Fuck Activision and fuck corporate America. The only reason No Doubt and even Courteney Love are speaking out against Guitar Hero is because they know that like everything else that is “cool” and “fascinating” makes the memory of what is or was real skewed. I am starting to believe Courteney Love has a heart and have always known that Gwen and No Doubt have as well. Guitar Hero is the perfect example of the filth of America and its preference of corporate profit over pure value. It is disghusting to see Kurt Cobain’s image unspoken for as its whored to a new generation of kids who are taught that its funner to press 5 buttons on a controller than to play the sound of real live music in its infinite scale of chords as a way of coping with life. If we as a people start turning to our own limited devices, turning our backs on what it means to create sound then we will quit evolving and we are going to turn into what we all fear, a race of innate robots with no sense of judgement or feeling and we will truly emphathize with the hopeless state of the world Kurt Cobain’s sad death.

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